The Millennials Are Here: Your Move, B2B Marketers
September 19, 2017 | Kirsten Lyons
As a Millennial who actively works to buck the lazy and entitled stereotype (specifically at my job in marketing at SnapApp), I was nervous when I heard our new research with Heinz Marketing was focused on Millennials, assuming it would be added to the growing stack of content on the internet blaming us for the ills of the world.
(Seriously, people are keeping lists of things we’ve killed).
As it turns out, our research unearthed big changes in the old B2B buying journey – and the blame can’t be placed exclusively at the feet of Millennials. Rather, what we learned makes a convincing argument for the importance of the routinely overlooked role Millennials play in B2B buying.
Millennial B2B Buyers: Who Are They?
When you think “Millennial buyer,” you might conjure up an image of someone purchasing a new sweater they saw carefully placed on an influencer’s Instagram, or immediately making plans to check out a new restaurant they saw on SnapChat. But the Millennial buyer is not just a B2C force to be reckoned with – we’re having real impact on B2B buying too. Just check out some of the stats:
13% of Millennials surveyed indicated they are the final decision-maker on B2B buying decisions
Another 28% are influencing purchase decisions
That’s over 40% of Millennials having pull in B2B buying!
Millennials’ typical role on buying committees is the researcher, working on the front lines to find and compile possible solutions. This means that if you’re not getting in front of the Millennials buyer, you’re probably never making it in front of the rest of buying committee.
In their research Millennials are more likely than other generations to rely on their personal networks for recommendations than the expert advice of a company representative like other generations.
Millennial buyers also deeply value authenticity in a company they will purchase a solution from. We found that Millennials prioritize company values and community engagement over specific product details or features.
“Millennials are far more likely to give voice to a problem rather than simply making do and “going a long to get along” as previous generations did, especially when the problem is one they are personally experiencing” noted VP of Marketing at SnapApp Aaron Dun. “This motivation to resolve their problems means millennials will be a powerful motivator for new B2B marketing and sales tactics as more move into the key decision-maker seats – marketers simply don’t have an option but to take notice and adapt – now.”
The defining characteristic of Millennial buyers that emerged from our research is their clear sales aversion. Millennials hate being engaged by sales teams, especially early in their buying process.
After growing up inundated by internet and television advertising, just 9% of Millennials want to be contacted by sales early in their buying process, which is in direct contrast with other generations who prefer to engage with sales at the start.
So the Millennials are here.
How do you create a marketing and sales plan that works for these new B2B buyers?
Well here’s the good news: what works best for Millennials largely fits the changing preferences of all the generations we surveyed.
Stop cold calling the top of your funnel.
Our research was clear: Millennial sales avoiders are off-put by the kind of early sales action that traditionally follows the first engagement action a prospect takes – they really want you to stop cold calling them after they download a white paper.
In fact, calling every lead that comes across your sales team’s radar doesn’t work for any generation of buyer. As a part of our research we asked respondents what they hate about marketing and sales, and responses were all along the lines of this frustrated respondent: “Just because I download something doesn’t mean I want a call. I will reach out if I need a solution from you.”
Marketing teams need to qualify better leads to send to sales, and sales teams need to better understand the buyers that they are calling. The bottom line here is that successful marketing and sales teams need to provide lots of content for folks to do the early stages of their research without you, and then engage with them on their terms.
Social media can’t be an afterthought.
Across all generations, B2B buyers reported starting their research for a possible solution on social media. In fact, if you thought social media was more popular among youngsters you’d be wrong – social media ranked particularly high for Baby Boomers who overwhelmingly begin their search for solutions on the provider’s social media.
Fostering a personal tone and sharing engaging content are important first steps in building a relationship with prospects of all generations. Social media is also a great way to highlight the company values and personality that is appealing to Millennial buyers.
Rethink your white papers.
Across the board, white papers were not a fan favorite of buyers across all generations, with 30% ranking them as the least useful type of content early in the buying journey. The classic model of a gated white paper download followed immediately by a sales call or email is off-putting for all generations – especially Millennials.
Opt instead for more engaging, interactive content (why not try making all of your static white papers interactive? Start for free with LeadREV) that allows buyers to get the personalized information they need regardless of where they are in the buying journey – and the people love it: 45% ranked interactive content as within the top three most useful types of content.
Allow buyers to engage with you on their terms.
Within and between generations, buyers have different preferences for the buying process. Expecting one buying journey to work well for all of your prospects is simply unrealistic. Create tons of ungated content to allow Millennial buyers to research to their heart’s content before getting in touch with them.
Serve product demos and recorded webinars with company experts to Generation X and Baby Boomers, focusing on the impact your solution can have for their whole team. By making it possible for buyers to follow their own path in navigating your funnel you will retain more of them.
Start Rewriting Your B2B Marketing and Sales Playbook
Get first hand insight from the report’s authors, SnapApp’s VP of Marketing Aaron Dun and Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing.