From a Marketing Expert: The Millennial Impact on B2B Buying Committees Is Real
October 10, 2017 | Guest Post
Guest post by Joe Cordo, Chief Marketing Officer at WegoWise. Joe has over 30 years in marketing experience, has led five SaaS teams, and has worked extensively in demand gen and content strategy, as well as sales and marketing alignment.
SnapApp recently published a study on generational differences that drive B2B buying decisions. Generational buying behavior differences between boomers, Gen X, and millennials were not surprising (full disclosure – I am a boomer).
What was surprising? Millennials influence a purchase in ways that align perfectly with modern B2B marketing practices involving trust, discoverable content, peer influence, and digital pervasiveness.
While boomers are clearly the decision makers in the B2B world, millennials exert the strongest influence where the probabilities of selling successfully are the highest – the research and influence stage.
According to the Conference Board, the first vendor that is engaged in the sale wins more than 50% of the time. However, that doesn’t mean you should get your inside and field sales teams to cold call millennials, or nurture them incessantly with this week’s white paper. No, instead you need to think like them and be sensitive to the way millennials want to buy.
They may not make the final decision, but millennials are creating the short list and deciding when to bring in your sales people.
For the highly independent millennial, it’s about discovery on their terms. Their terms revolve around social media – your company’s social presence, i.e. does it feel right, and the social business conversation between them and their peers.
Getting on the Right Level
In the SnappApp study, social media, at more than 33%, represented, far and away, the most popular form of B2B product research by millennials. The operative concept here is marketing to millennials on their terms – based on trust and social interaction among their peers. The recently most popular forms of content, white papers and demos, speak from a company’s voice, and their nature is viewed as authoritative. The authoritative style, frequently associated with baby boomers, runs contrary to a millennial’s own buyer journey of self-discovery.
Is it a surprise that white papers and demos were the least popular ways to engage millennials?
B2B marketers need to create discoverable content. Discoverable content influences and relies on independent third party sources to help shape thinking and meet the needs of its audience. It’s also not pushed to its audience.
That’s why creating shareable social media content is so critical, and tracking the buyer’s journey among those who share it.
While it may be a challenge to always track what led a visitor to visit your site (and the associated demographic data), it should be no surprise to teams successfully doing it that they are seeing genuine results.
Discoverable content is shared, pervasive, and available in places on the web where there’s credibility. Those modern B2B practices of personalization, memorable experiences, and communicating an informed message at the right time are all critical to engaging the millennial buyer.
How’s Your Content Tech Stack?
Technologies involving dynamic personalization, account-based marketing, and targeting/retargeting make it far more effective to serve millennial buyers the right content at the right time in their buyer’s journeys.
It’s why 86% of all millennials don’t want to meet with sales until after they’ve done their research.
The challenge isn’t just making the content discoverable, it’s making it unique. In the SnappApp study, interactive content was cited by 45% of respondents as one of their three most preferred content types.
Millennial buyers are social, interactive, and inclusive – all the characteristics of very good interactive content. Mirror your interactive content to the needs of your millennial audience.
The best way to do so is through usability testing, among millennials, of that interactive content. Go one step further, and treat your interactive content like a product. Create personas, use cases, and test it. Refine and improve it over time with the help of your millennial customers.
B2B marketers, particularly baby boomers and generation x, need to turn their generational biases the other way.
Inviting millennials into an interactive conversation that enables them to exploit their favorite medium, the web, best enables B2B marketers to accomplish their goals. However, accomplishing those marketing goals in the millennial buyer journey is not the final destination in the B2B world.
The sale is.
And that’s where B2B marketing and sales must become truly aligned to meet the needs of millennial influencers, while closing the sale with baby boomer and generation x decision makers. The common thread to win over all generations is communicating and delivering on credible, tangible business value.