Rise Of Millennial Buyers Pushes Marketers To Reevaluate Traditional Tactics

Published: May 2, 2018

Millennials have long been disparaged and dismissed as “lazy and self-centered.” But marketers can no longer afford to overlook Millennials, who now comprise the largest generation in the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center, and are positioned to influence B2B purchasing decisions, according to insight from Forrester and LinkedIn. Progressive B2B companies, such as Oracle + Bronto and The Pedowitz Group, are rethinking their marketing strategies to include mobile-friendly, highly-visual content that caters to Millennial preferences.

“There are a lot of Millennials who are actually holding massive multi-million-dollar budgets, making decisions and signing contracts themselves,” said Mary Shea, Principal Analyst of B2B Marketing Professionals at Forrester, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “I don’t think B2B marketers are prepared for that and have come to terms with the fact that has shifted.”

Research from Forrester shows that there is a clear disconnect between the number of Millennials making purchase decisions in B2B and how often B2B executives believe they are interacting with Millennials.

An overwhelming 73% of Millennials are involved in purchase decisions. Yet, 46% of marketers polled by Forrester said their sellers were encountering Millennials less than 20% of the time, and 23% had no idea how often they encountered Millennials.

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By and large, marketers are underestimating the power and presence of Millennials in the B2B space and, as a result, could be jeopardizing the future success of their companies.

“If you want to be a successfully operating business in five years, you need to learn about Millennials and how to market to them,” said Alexandra Rynne, Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn and a Millennial herself, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “You might need to take your brand out of its comfort zone to attract Millennial buyers.”

A 2017 report from SnappApp and Heinz Marketing shows 82% of buying committees include at least one Millennial, while 38% have Millennials working as researchers and 17% have Millennials in a project manager role.

“A majority of Millennials say they’re involved in purchasing decisions for their firm,” said Shea. “They may not be the economic buyer or the person who is signing the deals, but they may be doing the initial research, compiling a list of criteria and doing the first round or two of demos. So, if marketing and sales aren’t tuning their approach to this type of buyer, they may not make it far in the buying process and will be cut out of the decision.”

B2B Businesses Turn To Podcasts To Engage Millennials

Podcasts have been steadily growing in popularity, and it’s the Millennial generation that most often listens in. According to Edison Research, Millennials made up 44% of all monthly podcast listeners in 2017.

But Millennials are just listening to podcasts in their personal lives, they are also using them for product research. Demand Gen Report’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey revealed that 64% of B2B buyers believe podcasts are a valuable resource at the beginning of the buyer journey.

When Oracle + Bronto noticed a decline in attendance and engagement at their marketing events among younger generations, the company turned to podcasts as a new way to connect with Millennials and offer quality content over a preferred channel.

In October 2017, Oracle + Bronto launched its own podcast, “The Commerce Marketer Podcast: Talking eCommerce, Email Marketing, Retail and More.” The bi-monthly podcast series was started by a Millennial employee. Since then, the company has also started to advertise its products and service on other podcasts.

“How we got into podcasts originally was by, not surprisingly, a young, male Millennial who said, ‘This is one of my primary mechanisms for getting content these days, and so I’d like to do it for us,’” said Susan Wall, VP of Marketing at Oracle + Bronto, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Podcasts have become a fairly interesting place for marketing. It’s not a channel that many people are using, and so there’s plenty of opportunity there.”

The Pedowitz Group is another B2B company that has gravitated towards podcasts. Debbie Qaqish, Chief Strategy Officer, started the podcast, “Revenue Marketing Radio,” in 2009. The podcast is released on a seasonal schedule with over 100 episodes to date. The podcast was first launched on Blog Talk Radio and migrated to iTunes in 2015.

Pamela Muldoon, Revenue Marketing Coach of The Pedowitz Group, said that when it comes to podcasts, quality is just as important as quantity. The information must be valuable, the host has to be entertaining and the introduction should be kept short and sweet.

“One of the biggest mistakes we make when we talk about video or audio is our intro is 15 to 30 seconds long,” said Muldoon in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “No one is going to sit through that when they’re bingeing episodes. I like to say, ‘don’t be “Game of Thrones.” Don’t give me two-minute intros.’ Get in, get out. Be very succinct but be sure to offer quality information.”

Visual Content Is Vital For Reaching Millennials

When it comes to marketing content, traditional tactics, such as sales presentations and lengthy reports, won’t get far with the Millennial generation, who prefer short-form, visual content.

In fact, an online marketing and social video study from Animoto revealed that 60% of Millennials would prefer to watch a video than read a newsletter, and 80% find company videos helpful when doing product research.

Oracle + Bronto makes video production a focus of its content and creative teams. In addition to creating product and training demos in house, the company also shares customer success stories on its websites as both articles and videos. According to Wall, there is a generational divide when it comes to format preferences.

“We’ve been doing video for a long time,” said Wall. “It was one of the earlier things that we did for Millennials. When it comes to customer success stories, we think the video version is more popular with Millennials, who are doing their own research and want to hear the story in a person’s own words and see the person. Even though the video is edited by us, it feels a little bit more authentic to them.”

One company, Zuant, has even gone so far as to start building an in-office studio for video production. Peter Gillett, CEO of Zuant, plans to use the studio to film company introduction videos, as well as webinars, and expects other companies will follow suit.

“I think more companies will start to have mini studios in their offices and that will mean training people on presentations because they’re like TV people now,” said Gillett. “With the studios, you can record an introduction prior to a meeting and send that video to the people you’ve invited. Video lets you connect with people all over the world, so they can put a face to your name and your mannerisms.”

In addition to video, infographics are another visual way that marketers are trying to reach Millennials. The Pedowitz Group started creating infographics in 2017 but has ramped up its efforts in the new year and has plans to create an entire infographic series.

“My initiative for 2018 is no more white papers,” said Muldoon. “Pretty much every campaign that we do will have some sort of visual representation, including infographics and video.”

According to Wall, some companies are even adapting the traditional, single-page infographic to be more Millennial-friendly.

“We used to see these full-page infographics,” said Oracle + Bronto’s Wall. “But now, people are breaking them up into tinier, more consumable pieces so it’s much easier to digest over the phone and consume over different channels.”

Millennial Marketers Demand More Consumer-Like Experiences

In many ways, the best B2B marketing tactics take a note from B2C companies and focus on a consumer-like experience. They prioritize mobile consumption and offer bite-sized content in engaging, visual or audio formats.

B2B companies, such as Oracle + Bronto, Zuant and The Pedowitz Group, are tuned into Millennial preferences and are creating mobile-friendly content, such as video and podcasts, that skillfully target and engage this new generation of B2B buyers.

Rethinking traditional marketing strategies may seem risky, but it’s table stakes for future success. Millennial buyers have taken a seat at the B2B table. They are researchers, project managers and sometimes even company executives. They are influencing and making purchase decisions and in order to gain their business, B2B companies must provide a modern, consumer buying experience and create content that caters to Millennial preferences.

“Marketers are not in control,” said Wall. “The buyer is in control and we have to be in a position to deliver the experience that they want, not necessarily the ideal experience from our standpoint.”

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