b2b buying decisions

What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Millennials

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For years people have been talking about millennials entering the workforce and becoming more powerful consumers. That talk has focused on what’s new about them — which has left a lot of people thinking of millennials as kids who don’t need to be taken seriously outside the world of trendy consumer products. But while Gen Y remains the youngest generation in today’s workforce, they’re not all so young anymore, and it’s past time to start taking them seriously.

The oldest millennials are now in their mid-30s. They’ve moved beyond entry-level roles and into positions with decision-making power, which means B2B companies need to start including them and their preferences in their marketing strategies.

Millennials Are Making B2B Buying Decisions

Google and Millward Brown Digital published a study that busted the myth that millennials aren’t making B2B buying decisions. The study found millennials make up 46 percent of buyers researching B2B purchases. And only 13 percent of those buyers are 55 and older. So if you’re spending most of your marketing resources targeting older buyers, there’s a good chance you’re failing to connect with the right people.

But millennials aren’t in the C-suite yet, you may be thinking. And don’t we have to connect with the executives there to make B2B sales?

Nope.

The study also found that while 64 percent of B2B buying decisions still require C-suite sign-off, executives aren’t driving many of those buying decisions — 81 percent of B2B purchase researchers who aren’t in the C-suite report having a say in those decisions.

For marketers, that means it’s important to reach people outside of the C-suite and help them advocate for your products and services.

How Should I Change My Marketing Strategy?

In short: You should be focusing your B2B marketing efforts on a younger audience at lower levels of company leadership — think department heads and middle managers, as well as other knowledgeable influencers who may not hold an official leadership role.

To do this, start by taking another look at your company’s buyer personas — which should be at the heart of your marketing strategy. Update them to reflect today’s B2B buying reality, and then adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

What Today’s B2B Decision Makers Want

Part of all that millennial talk we’ve been hearing for years includes how the generation does everything differently, which can be intimidating to marketers. Millennial expert Lindsey Pollak writes a lot about how millennials are different, but she’s also quick to point out that a lot of what millennials want is the same as what people of all generations want.

Another survey by BuzzStream and Fractl backs up that assertion with its finding that millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers have a lot in common when it comes to the content they consume. It found all three demographic groups most frequently consume blog posts followed by images, comments and e-books.

You have to get down to the fifth-most-frequently-consumed content to find differences between the three generations. At that level, millennials prefer audiobooks, Gen Xers prefer case studies and boomers like reviews.

The takeaway: To connect with today’s B2B decision makers, you should use content that appeals to all generations.

Or as Pollak advises the companies she works with: “Of course they should consider millennials in their workplace or product design, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Segmenting by generation shouldn’t be the ultimate criteria used in hiring or marketing. It is one factor among many to consider.”

Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO of Rep Cap. Before creating her own content marketing firm, she served as director of content development and a senior general business and finance editor at SmartBrief, a leading publisher of e-mail newsletters. Before joining SmartBrief, she spent 8 years at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column and worked as an editor in the business news department. You can find Mary Ellen on Twitter @MESlayter.

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