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How Millennial Business Buyers Are Changing B2B Sales & Marketing

thumb-millennial-business-buyersMillennials are swarming the U.S. workforce in large percentages, and that changes business as we know it. If you’re a B2B marketer, what do you need to know as you approach millennials who demand more relevancy, engagement, and transparency than ever before? What are they looking for, where are they looking, and how can you ultimately deliver the value they’re after? Data proves that millennial business buyers are indeed changing B2B sales and marketing—let’s discuss that data and, more importantly, what you can do with it to be most effective.

All About Millennials

Millennials would love that headline, wouldn’t they? After all, aren’t millennials pegged as being the “me” generation? While that’s usually said in jest, I don’t see anything so incredibly wrong with promoting your agenda and believing in your ability to accomplish it. It’s that attitude that’s infiltrating the market, as Pew reports that Millennials have surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.

That means a hoard of tech-savvy, video-loving, social go-getters are players in the business world, and that population will continue to grow. If you’re in B2B sales and marketing, then, you’d best be paying attention because your audience has changed. How? Sacunas recently released a report outlining just that. They surveyed 2,000 millennials (i.e., those born between 1979 and 1995) about what causes and social channels they cared about when it came to making B2B purchasing decisions. They learned a lot, including that many millennials are the new purchasing decision makers. In fact, approximately two-thirds of respondents said they were involved in the overall decision making for their respective companies—a number too large to ignore. Here are some high level takeaways from the research before we dive in:

  • Digital is the most important sales and marketing channel for millennial B2B buyers. As a marketer, that means your company’s online presence must be optimized for mobile, user-friendly regardless of device, and chock-full of valuable content to help unify the customer experience.
  • Video is king when it comes to content marketing. Many B2Bers have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, and with great success. It turns out millennials prefer video to deliver that content, allowing them to feel more of a connection with brands and their messaging.
  • Millennials are looking for meaning, whether it’s in a vendor’s message or social conscience. Marketers should pay attention to the emotional attributes they want their business to reflect and work on creating humanized content and humanized brand experiences around them.

The Importance of Social

According to Sacunas’ research, 85 percent of millennials use social media as they’re researching products or services for their companies. That’s really not too surprising, especially if you consider that most everyone has an internet-capable device on hand at all times these days. In fact, about half of respondents from every demographic reported mobile devices as “very” or “somewhat” important when it comes time to do B2B buying research.

What is the millennial social channel of choice? My mind jumped to LinkedIn, as that seems the most business-driven platform—at least from a surface perspective, anyway. Interestingly, LinkedIn—while certainly a force on the list of results—wasn’t first. It wasn’t even second. Facebook, in fact, turned out to be millennials’ primary choice, encompassing 40 percent of their social channel preferences. See Figure 1 below for a thorough breakdown.

Why Facebook? We’ve learned from this study that millennials want to work with brands they can connect with, ones that are humanized. What’s more humanizing than a Facebook page? One source quoted in the study was Maria, a 30-year-old working in the entertainment and recreation industry in Arizona.

“I actually use Facebook the most. Sometimes to check in and see what my friends think and sometimes I look for reviews or what people write on companies’ pages,” she said.

See? Human.

To that end, what’s more human than an actual human writing human thoughts? I’m talking about influencers. I believe millennials put just as much stock—if not more—in the opinions of thought leaders in their respective industries because they don’t just repeat industry trends, they connect them to real life business scenarios.

The Glassdoor Factor

Some millennials use Glassdoor—a jobs and recruiting site that’s basically a smorgasbord of company information, including reviews—to check for feedback before engaging with a brand. In the study, 58 percent of millennials had heard of Glassdoor, and 37 percent felt it was important when researching new B2B services or products. Also interesting is that younger millennials—i.e., those ages 20-24—were more apt to use the platform than their “older” counterparts. See Figure 2 below for the full data.

Glassdoor may not be a grand-scheme-game-changer for millennial B2B buyers just yet, but it could very well still be on the starting block. Millennials have proven they like to connect, they listen to reviews/feedback, and prefer digital platforms—so all the ingredients are certainly there, but only time will tell. It’s important for marketers to monitor their brand presence on not only Glassdoor but all sites to see what types of content is being posted about your business.

Key Takeaways

Those in B2B sales and marketing must adapt their content and their big-picture brand presence to accommodate their audience—that’s just marketing 101. Now that millennials are taking over that audience, though, it’s no longer business as usual. Millennial buyers are digital, mobile, visual, and connection-driven, and winning brands will rise to meet those demands. Will yours? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Eric Vidal
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