In a sector where sales are king, many B2B businesses are making a key mistake by approaching the same ‘buyer’ from 10 or 20 years ago. The reality is that ‘digital native’ millennials are changing the nature of B2B purchasing. According to research by Merit, up to 73% of B2B buyers are now millennials.
This is an important distinction because the millennial generation of buyers will expect the same kind of intimacy, immediacy and coherency as their favorite B2C brands. Ignoring this reality can hurt B2B companies’ bottom line, while more forward-thinking businesses have gained a competitive advantage by adapting the processes that underpin their sales and marketing strategy.
How can B2B companies be efficient when adapting their brand marketing for a millennial audience? And what does this mean for the future of B2B marketing? Let’s take a closer look by answering three key questions.
1. What Does The New Buyer Look Like?
Digital technology has mostly consigned the old stereotypes of B2B buyers to history.
Millennials, who grew up with home Internet access, smartphones, social media and online shopping, have stepped in. For starters, the way they use technology to research purchases, qualify vendors and make purchases has changed the game for marketers and product managers. They will primarily use digital channels in the initial phase of any new procurement for products or services, putting important areas such as SEO, social media, content strategy and sustainability under the spotlight.
Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn are particularly important channels for this new generation. Meanwhile, user-generated reviews through channels like Glassdoor will also be used to assess and engage with vendors.
All of that new information puts B2B sellers under more scrutiny. But it’s important to remember that social media and digital technology can be a two-way street. In return, businesses can use their online channels to gather important hard data and anecdotal knowledge about their target audience. This should be used to build new ‘archetypes’ of the company’s target audience.
2. How Can You Capture Their Attention?
With a rapid increase in the number of brands jostling for position over a growing number of digital channels, capturing the attention of a B2B target audience is hard enough – and this is more complicated if the business is targeting a relatively niche demographic.
Value-adding content strategy is a key growth area. With detailed profiles of the target audience, you can start to tailor specific pieces of content for each buyer and each phase of the sales cycle.
This content doesn’t need to exclude older buyers – for ‘baby boomers’ you might provide white papers (with a registration form for data capture) alongside video content for millennials.
Speed of response is also vital, particularly on social media. Buyers expect a rapid response – and in the near future consumers of all kinds will expect a near-instantaneous response to their inquiries.
Likewise, easy access to key information is a priority. Some organizations also need to consider improving the design they use to communicate detailed product information. Space is at a premium – not just the small space afforded by a smartphone screen, but also the mental and emotional space that your brand requires from buyers to engage effectively.
Simple changes can quickly improve online engagement levels, for example user journey adaptations for the website, improving accessibility of content, changing color schemes to be easier on the eye, removing any unnecessary registration forms and introducing central hubs for key information like data sheets.
3. How Can You Keep This New Buyer Loyal?
The potential commercial value of a millennial B2B buyer can be vast because they’re just starting out in their career and therefore carry a high lifetime value.
This underscores the importance of brand loyalty, which has continued to evolve in our digital first economy. In the B2B sector, that means technical support, customer service and long-term service support are more important than ever before. These services also need to carry the same level of brand coherency that the buyer experienced before their purchase. B2B buyers now think far beyond the actual purchase – they want to feel confident that your business will be there for them after the sale.
In that sense, the brand should play an integral role by communicating the values and principles that will bring reassurance to the buyer about the availability and effectiveness of long-term support. This includes the introduction of service design thinking throughout the customer journey and user experience.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Michael Gentle, VIM Group.
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