News

Millennials are disrupting traditional B2B marketing and sales

10/12/2018

The B2B buyer is changing.  34% of today’s B2B decision makers are millennials and 73% of millennial workers are now involved in the B2B purchasing decision making process.  With this significant increase, we must understand what makes this new breed of decision makers tick. Do you truly understand your customer?

The line between B2B and B2C is becoming increasingly blurred.  The reason?  B2B customers are B2C consumers in everyday life and we are witnessing B2C marketing tactics infiltrating the market every day.

Instant gratification, automated and customised orders, real time customer data, personalised treatment from favoured brands and recommendations from peers on social media are all the norm nowadays.  Expectations are high - really high. 

Today’s B2B customer has professional expectations that are in line with their daily B2C expectations.  They want to be approached with relevant, well thought through messages, not the generic sales pitches of old.  It is why long-term contracts and relationships are in steady decline.  So, how do we adapt? 

As marketers it is our job to understand our customers, develop a strategy that adheres to the core principles of marketing and pick the right tactics.  Yet all too often, many marketers are focusing just on the continually evolving channels and tactics and failing to adjust their strategy.  Whilst tactics are of course an important part of B2B marketing, they are simply the execution of your strategy – so it is paramount that you get your strategy right and understand your customer first.  Otherwise, you are simply wasting time, effort and resources whilst annoying and disengaging your customer in the process.

One of the core principles of marketing is relevance.  As Tim Hazelhurst, one of the founders of B2B marketing, describes “successful brands are those that know their prospects and customers better than anyone else.  For complex decision making units this requires careful planning.”

Do you really know your customer? Let’s take a look at today’s B2B buyer.

 

Today's B2B buyer

 

Digital savvy, with a preference to communicate via text and social media, this is the B2B buyer that we need to be marketing to.

Digital dominates

Millennials have grown up in a digital time where information is instantly available, thanks to the internet of increasingly everything.  Finding information at the touch of a button, one-click ordering, seamless delivery, these are all things that the millennial buyer expects as standard.  More and more we are seeing this infiltrate into the B2B marketplace, so now is the time to adapt and position your products and services in the right way.

The internet actually optimises the B2B supply chain.  Real time data, live tracking, search history, are all something that will become a competitive advantage and can improve performance and help define a brand.

When completing your customer profiling and adapting you strategy, consider the amount of time millennials spend online.  62% of their time is spent on smartphone apps, 25% on desktop, 8% on mobile web and 5% on tablets.  This has to form a crucial part of your strategy and strongly influence your choice of channels.

Keep it personal

To truly connect and engage with the new B2B buyer, personalised contact on what a B2B buyer needs is absolutely paramount.  Gone are the days of a generic email or call focusing on what a B2B product and service does.  The expectation is a personalised and authentic sales experience about how your product or service can benefit them as an individual and unique business.

Marketing how your product or service meets their individual needs is key.  Traditional ads, generic emails and cold calling are not appealing and will completely switch off the millennial B2B buyer.  Show you have a true understanding of them through ultra-targeted advertising and engage with them as a person, as well as ensuring you adhere to the relationship timeline.  There is nothing more annoying or disengaging as receiving an email from a seller addressing you as a prospect when you are actually a long-term customer.

Be social

Millennials place huge value on peer feedback and recommendations, showing that influencer marketing has a key role to play in the B2B decision making process.  To capitalise on this, marketers must make their brand social and shareable to allow these recommendations to take place.

Another surprising reality is that 74.4% of millennials interact with each other digitally more than in the real world.  Just let that sink in.  They interact more in a digital world than they do in the real world.  This digital addiction is only set to grow, with 64% of people admitting they take their phone to the bathroom with them and 52% checking it when they wake briefly in the night.  These astounding facts have a massive impact on our job as marketers and clearly illustrate that digital has to be a factor of any successful B2B marketing strategy.

Customer profiling has never been more important.  As marketers we must shed any assumptions we have and invest in detailed customer intelligence to truly understand the millennial buying profile.  Adapt your strategy accordingly and anchor all marketing and sales efforts around these profile as then, and only then, will you be able to successfully market your business.  After all, the success of your brand is in their hands.

 

With the changing buyer, comes a change in the sales and buying cycles

With such a shift in our buyer’s profile, it is not surprising to see that the sales and buying cycles are changing too.

Millennials prefer to meet the B2B seller in person at the start of the sales cycle and then are happy to communicate by email/text in the decision making phase of the cycle.  Quite a change from tradition, but one worth noting.

This has a knock on effect on the buying cycle too.  Studies show that more research and RPO analysis is needed before decision making, with 89% of B2B buyers stating that winning vendors provide content that makes it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for purchase.

 

Going from push to pull

Now we understand today’s B2B market and buyer, how do we adapt our marketing to ensure we are successful?

The biggest change that we as B2B marketers must make, is to convert from an outbound to inbound strategy – going from push to pull.  Outbound strategies reliant on traditional advertising, generic messaging and mass marketing just don’t cut it anymore.  Personalised, push messaging with exciting creative to shorten the relationship timeline is what’s needed.  We can learn a lot from the B2C world and invest in the approach and platforms that B2C businesses have utilised to drive their success, to help shape our approach and strategy as the B2C and B2B worlds continue to overlap.

 

Be available and interact

Whether in person or virtual, interaction with your customers is a necessity.

B2B buyers report a significant need and demand for improved engagement with seller companies, especially an easy way to connect and interact with a knowledgeable resource prior to making a purchase.  Today’s B2B buyers seek engagement and knowledge at every step of the buying process, hence the rise in live chat and messenger services, allowing buyers to get instant answers at a time and place to suit them.  It’s a worthwhile investment which works – 94% of buyers agree they tend to buy more from a company when they have live interactions from a knowledgeable employee.

At the end of the day, people buy from people, albeit it in a virtual reality.  You have to be available to your customers at all times.  It eases the buying process and improves relationships and when you consider that 88% of B2B buyers say it is important to have live meetings or appointments with a company they buy from, and 95% prefer to work.

 

Integrate social media into your marketing strategy

Love it or loathe it, social media marketing is a key part of the buying process. 

73% of B2B buyers use social media in their buying process, whether connecting directly or browsing existing discussions and recommendations, and it is something that we as marketers should not underestimate.

We are already seeing an increase in spend on social media and the use of outside social media agencies and in order to succeed, it must be adopted as part of your B2B marketing strategy.  Especially when it is now classed as the second most effective channel after content marketing, surpassing email marketing.

The B2B customer is changing.  Marketers must be aware of this shift in behaviours and preferences and undertake detailed customer profiling.  It is the only way to truly understand your individual customers in your specific marketplace.  Failure to do so, will result in wasted budget, time and effort.  As no matter how good your strategy and your tactics, if you are not directing any of this at your customer, it will just get lost.

For effective B2B marketing you need to know your customer, your industry, build the right strategy and pick the right tactics.  Are you targeting correctly?  Let’s talk customer profiling.