A 2019 TrustRadius study found that Millennials are the largest B2B tech buyer group, make up 59% of B2B buyers, and 30% of them are lead buyers for their B2B brand.
However, with the oldest members of that generation turning 40 this year, it’s important that the industry shifts part of its focus to the new kids on the block, Gen Z.
Gen Z is now entering the B2B workforce, and a recent Inc. article revealed that those born between 1997 and 2015 now make up around 25% of workers today.
The Covid Effect
Covid 19 has also had its part to play in the growing proportion of B2B buyers these generations represent. Pew Research found the pace of retirement for Baby Boomers has increased dramatically over the past year.
And the shift to working from home has also changed the purchasing process itself.
Forrester’s 2021 B2B Buying Study found that because more people are working from home, business purchases are being discussed and decided by bigger groups, rather than individual decision-makers.
Businesses with buying committees are far more likely to include new hires, and even if they don’t have the final say on future business purchases, their opinion will certainly be considered.
6 Ways B2B Marketers Can Appeal to Gen Z and Millennial Buyers
In short, B2B businesses cannot afford to ignore the influence these two generations have in the workplace. You need to learn how to market your brand to these audiences as old sales pitches are increasingly ineffective.
1. Move Away from Traditional Approaches
Avoid traditional marketing or advertising techniques at all costs - they will not get you far.
Millennials and, in particular, Gen Z are much harder to reach through old-school advertising channels, and this can be seen in Smart Insight’s most recent report.
In 2020, advertising net sentiment has dropped dramatically, while targeted advertising CTRs have decreased by 44% year over year since Q1 2019.
So, why are Millennials and Gen Z so hard to reach?
Well, Gen Z is difficult to reach because the classic AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action – model doesn’t work for them.
The AIDA model worked in the pre-digital age, where advertising was shown on TV or in print. Today, Gen Z have iPads, tablets and smartphones at their disposal. And this technology may have altered the way their brains process information.
It’s argued that the rise of online social media has eradicated the need for attention and increased our desire for instant gratification. This means that Gen Z will actively avoid irrelevant data if it gets in the way of what they’re looking for.
Even if you think paying for an advert on YouTube or Facebook could work, think again! 51% of this cohort use ad-blocking software, so nothing gets in the way of the content they want to see.
Gen X and Boomers remain potentially receptive to traditional B2B pitches, but Gen Z lives in a world where they want to be marketed to in a much more covert and personalised way.
2. Tap Into The Power of Influencer Marketing
One approach these generations are responding to is influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is now a mainstream form of digital marketing. In short, influencer marketing takes the concept of celebrity endorsement and places it, ideally, in the hands of trusted, authentic “influencers” who needn’t be considered a celebrity in the traditional sense.
Today, B2B marketers use LinkedIn - for instance - to showcase who they are and position themselves as leading experts in their chosen field.
Often, these influencers have spent years honing their craft and building a community of followers that respect and trust what they endorse.
Influencer marketing works particularly well for B2B brands because of the level of trust that these influencers have accumulated with their followers. We’ve written extensively about the power of brand trust for B2B brands here >>>
Therefore, recommendations from them about your brand and what you have to offer can add a great deal of marketability and value for potential customers. So, it’s worth reaching out to them and thinking of ways you could collaborate on future projects.
3. Be Transparent and Trustworthy
Entering the market by shouting about how amazing you are is not going to work. Millennials and Gen Z are not going to listen to this form of egotistical language.
These generations value the opinions of their peers over your own branded content or your colleague’s glowing testimonials. Instead of looking at your website or channels directly, they will first conduct their own research into your brand.
You need to think about where they will be looking for information about your brand and services. And they will most likely look at other websites to see what is being said about your brand.
It’s worth asking your customers to leave reviews on your website or creating case studies that include quotes from your happy clients. Or, even better, you could encourage clients to leave reviews on third-party websites as this aids the greater transparency of your brand.
4. Start Creating Human Connections
Millennials and Gen Z are not going to want to work with you if you simply focus on facts, figures, and ROI. Human connection is the most valuable attribute you can offer.
Despite a high level of digital literacy, Millennial and Gen Z audiences desire human interaction and need to form an emotional connection with you before they can even contemplate working with you.
And this is more difficult than ever in a world where most business meetings are being held online. But it’s not impossible.
Today, there are plenty of free video communication software options available like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and FaceTime, which allow you to meet face-to-face, even when you’re in different time zones.
Holding a meeting in this format, rather than an old-fashioned conference call, tends to be seen as less formal and more intimate, which will shape the way you deliver your proposals for the better.
It encourages engagement with your clients in a friendlier manner. Your clients might feel more comfortable talking about their problems more freely, and this gives you the opportunity to empathise with their needs and connect with them on a deeper level.
Video messaging before or after a meeting is another great way to add a personal touch to your marketing pitches. It’s a subtle way of letting them know you are there and keeps your brand at the forefront of their mind.
5. Acknowledge and Encourage Diversity
Gen Z, in particular, is more tolerant, open-minded, and environmentally conscious than any other generation.
Thanks to the 24/7 news cycle and endless social media channels, Gen Z is exposed to worldwide topics. Having such easy access to world news at the touch of a button means that they have developed their own strong views and sets of values from a young age.
For Millennials and Gen Z, the desire to change outdated and oppressive societal norms for marginalised communities is the new norm, and these generations want to work with brands that promote a diverse workforce.
You need to show these generations that you’re aligned with their values and aren’t afraid to recognise and openly discuss global issues. You can do this by creating original content around the impact of these issues and posting your honest thoughts on your social channels.
Ensuring you have a diverse workforce is paramount. And even if the creation of your diverse workforce is in the process stage, it’s worth talking about what you are doing as a company to create a more inclusive business culture.
It’s these open and honest discussions that will be a huge deciding factor for these generations.
6. Deliver a Seamless Tech-Driven Experience
Both Millennials and Gen Z are well versed in the world of technology. Millennials have grown up learning new technology as it is released, while Gen Z is the first fully digitally-native generation.
So, it should come as no surprise that these generations expect a seamless omnichannel experience that’s personalised and relevant to them.
You need to think about creating a B2C-like experience for your B2B customers. Make it possible for your buyers to connect with your business in a way that suits them.
To create this, you need to determine every possible touchpoint within the customer journey and optimise it for your audience…
Touchpoint 1: Site Visit
Your buyers need to see value from the very first web visit.
To stand out, include content that will show your prospects that you have the tools to solve their problems. According to CMO Council, 9 out of 10 B2B buyers say that online content has a major impact on their purchasing decisions.
Touchpoint 2: Evaluation
Customers should have the opportunity to evaluate your solutions before they purchase. Chatbots, reviews, and FAQs are effective channels for this stage of the buyer’s journey.
Touchpoint 3: Sales Support
A good sales representative is a vital touchpoint for large-scale or high-value purchases, as sales-nurtured leads will make 47% larger purchases. However, your sales reps must remain focused on your pre-existing leads, as 98% of cold calls fail to convert.
Touchpoint 4: Account Service
90% of B2B revenue will come from repeat purchases, so it’s important to create a personalised account for each buyer.
Automated discounts, flexibility, product recommendations, filter options, and saved preferences are simple ways to entice customers to return.
Touchpoint 5: Relationship
Once your customer has passed the first four touchpoints, you will have created a strong relationship with them. To maintain this new relationship, you need to nurture and strengthen this new bond by encouraging open and honest communication on a regular basis.
As Gen X and the Boomer generation begin to leave the workforce, Millennials and Gen Z rise through the ranks, and marketers need to respond to their combined and growing buying power.
B2B marketers who engage with these buyers sooner rather than later will benefit long-term.
Failure to meet these generations’ needs head-on means the future of your B2B brand will be a little uncertain.