B2B (business-to-business) marketing is not a new concept. Businesses have been advertising their products to other businesses heavily since the ad boom of the 1920s. In the 1870s, farmers made up over half of the population in the US and Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Catalog allowed those with limited access to dry goods and clothing the opportunity to have these products shipped to remote areas via the railroads. Talk about snail-mail! In our current society, organizations have become reliant upon each other to provide products and services needed to complete tasks and ultimately grow. The generation that comprises the modern-day “millennial” has become more and more important to the operation and success of organizations.
Millennials in Business
Depending on who you ask, a millennial is defined as someone born between 1980 and the mid-1990s. This puts them between the ages of 26-41 with the average age of 34. Studies have shown that about two-thirds of millennials are decision-makers when making large purchases for their organization. This is a group that B2B marketers cannot afford to disregard or to assume that the type of marketing tactics successful with the previous generation will continue its success with millennial decision-makers. In the ever-evolving modern business world, marketers must constantly adapt their strategies in order to reach and engage their target audience. In order for B2B marketers to successfully market to millennials, it’s important to understand this group, what’s important to them, and their common values, as well as how they access their information.
Where to Reach Millennials
Millennials are very tech-savvy and tend to gather information through omnichannel resources. For example, 33-year-old Suzie is a department manager for a financial institution. She’s listening to a podcast episode on her iPhone about financial advice for people in their 30s and hears an ad for some financial software that could solve her company’s need for improved reporting analytics. The next day, she’s at work and does a Google Search on her desktop to learn more about this software. She gets served an ad for the software and watches a 4-minute video on the landing page that shows a demo of the software, all of the data that it provides, and how easy it is to use. She then posts on her LinkedIn page asking if any of her peers have used this particular software and learns that her college classmate, John, highly recommends this solution as it has worked wonders for his company’s finance department. Suzie presents all of the information she has gathered to the head of her department, and they decide to purchase the software.
In this example, the marketing department for the software company was able to reach Suzie on multiple devices (mobile and desktop) via a podcast, search ad, and a video. This omnichannel marketing approach successfully leads to a purchase. If the software company decided to only invest in a search ad, Suzie might never have known there was a solution to the reporting issue her department was facing.
Millennials Want to Learn at Ease
In our example above, Suzie is looking for a solution. When she visits the software company’s landing page, the video she watches is very informative and shows actual screenshots of the software functioning. The video provides added value for Suzie because she is able to learn how it works. Watching a video with great visuals and a well-written script makes learning easy. It’s also a very efficient way to provide more information about their product. The ability to learn about a business solution in an efficient and easy-to-understand manner is very appealing to millennials. This approach not only provides added value, but it also avoids the “hard sell”. Most millennials feel bombarded by ads on all media platforms they use. This bombardment has caused this generation to distrust many of the brands that use the hard sell approach. If a business can’t show added value through its marketing efforts, they may as well just set fire to their ad dollars.
Suzie also looked to her peers to see if anyone she was acquainted with had experience with using the software she was looking into for her company. Social media was invented right around the time the oldest millennials were in their early 20s. Those that went to college were either finishing up or had just graduated. Social media made it easier to stay in contact with friends, especially those that had moved on to other cities. It continues to be a way for millennials to keep in touch with friends, obtain information, and ask for recommendations.
Millennials and Values
Corporate responsibility, transparency, and authenticity are values millennials look for when making purchasing decisions. In the consumer world, about 75% of millennials are willing to pay more for a product if it is sustainable. Cruelty-free, Fair Trade, and environmentally friendly are all buzz words that are appealing when buying a product. The same can be said in the B2B model. If Suzie learns that the data software company gives 5% of its profits for research into solar energy, this might help sway her decision over competitors with similar data solutions.
Transparency and authenticity speak to millennials in a B2B environment as well. Similar to the concept of avoiding the hard sell, a company that can pitch their products based on transparent and authentic practices will be more appealing to the millennial generation. The corporate millennial buyer doesn’t want to feel taken advantage of and can tell when they are being sold. A direct and authentic approach will ultimately result in a more comfortable situation relieving any stress or ambiguity to the purchasing process.
B2B marketing will continue to evolve and the millennial buyer is likely to adapt to changes in advertising technology. It will be important for businesses to follow suit and deliver relevant marketing strategies that speak to and are effective with this generational group.
Need help with devising an omnichannel marketing campaign to reach the decision-makers for your B2B needs? Brand Ranch Media can help with a winning strategy! Give us a call at 713-309-6380 or reach out through our contact form on the website.