Whether it’s scouring Instagram for the right influencer or exploring Snapchat takeovers, B2C marketers are no strangers to finding innovative approaches to “the Millennial problem.”
But new research from SnapApp and Heinz marketing shows that Millennials are now also a force to be reckoned with in the B2B universe. In fact, 13 percent of Millennials are now the key decision-makers on B2B buying committees, and an additional 28 percent are influencing those decisions.
And guess what? Just like in the B2C world, Millennials have distinctly different buying preferences from their counterparts in other generations.
Here’s what you need to know about this rising generation of B2B buyers:
Millennials solve their problems first
That old “entitled Millennial” trope? Research shows there may be some truth to it: Millennials prioritize looking for solutions to problems they are personally experiencing. This is different than Gen X and Baby Boomer buyers, who are more likely to solve for team issues. But more than entitled, Millennial buyers are proactive. They are more likely to sidestep organizational processes to find a solution that meets their needs because they don’t “go-along to get along.”
Smart marketers will focus on addressing the individual pain points that drive these up-and-coming decision-makers to search for solutions.
Millennials are “sales avoiders”
Gone are the days of a salesperson leading prospects through the buying journey. While Baby Boomers and Gen Xers prefer to engage with sales early in the buying process, Millennial buyers are far more sales avoidant. Eighty-six percent of Millennials prefer not to engage with sales until the middle of their buying process or even later. What’s more, early sales interaction can be off-putting for Millennials who prefer to conduct the initial phase of their research independently.
All of this means marketing needs to work overtime. Content needs to pique Millennial buyers’ interest and allow them to move through their buying journey without the support of sales intervention.
Millennials buy for who you are, not what you’re selling
Millennial buyers want more than just a faceless vendor. They look for authenticity and human connection in their buying decisions. Millennials prioritize personal relationships with vendors over traditional resources like case studies when buying. They also find community engagement and company values to be top priorities, far more so than specific product details.
Authentic, human marketing messages matter. Getting beyond proclaiming company values in the “About” section of the company website and infusing what the company stands for into everything it does is essential for engaging Millennial buyers.
Millennials are the canary in the coal mine for a new B2B buying journey
Millennials’ buying preferences are an important leading indicator of a rapidly evolving B2B buying journey. While there are key differences between the way Millennials and previous generations make buying decisions, research makes it clear that the old marketing and sales playbook is increasingly ineffective for all generations of buyers. For example, research revealed that buyers of all generations now prefer to start their research on social media, a channel often overlooked for connecting with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
Buyers surveyed also ranked the “old reliable” lead-gated white paper as among the least useful content types in the early stages of their research process. This buying behavior change means marketers must set the non-leads captured from white papers free and instead offer a variety of ungated content types for buyers to consume at their own pace.
All of this points to a more personal and interactive customer journey across generations driven by the rise of Millennial buyers. B2B marketers need to meet the demands of today’s buyers with engaging experiences and authentic interaction.
Understanding Millennial buyers’ distinct preferences will only become more important as this rising generation takes their seats at the head of buying committees. Savvy marketers will offer varied content to pique and hold Millennials’ interest, speak to their specific needs, let them engage on their own terms, and lead with company values. And the good news is that what works to engage Millennial buyers is also an important step in supporting the needs of other generations of buyers on the new customer journey.
Learn more about best practices for marketing to different generations of buyers here.
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