While B2B brands may observe the success of Broad City Emojis and see how Red Bull can dominate on Snapchat, they struggle to see the takeaways that can help them communicate their own brand value to the new class of millennial business decision makers.
One place to start taking cues is by looking at employer branding and recruitment. Unsurprisingly, the first line of research into the way millennials make decisions in the workplace comes from those who are in charge of attracting and retaining them. Firms like PWC have identified the attributes that motivate millennials at work – and some of those same motivations drive their business decision making.
Here are six key learnings B2B brands can apply when looking to attract (and retain) millennials:
1. Share your values and what you stand for, not just your product capabilities. Millennials like to connect their actions to social impact. As a result, in the consumer space, brands that share their sustainable practices, implement one-for-one strategies, or publicly give back to their communities are more likely to attract millennials’ cash. 37% say they’re willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause they believe in. The same applies to employers and their business partners. 60% of business decision makers prefer a partner who’s intent on doing what’s right, even if it doesn’t maximize revenue.
2. Your customers are your best weapon. Millennials highly value peer input and regard honest, unfiltered endorsements more highly than traditional advertising. It’s what’s at the root of the influencer marketing trend. And guess what that looks suspiciously similar to? The B2B marketer’s old friend: the case study. For millennials, the old saying that your product is your best advertising is truer than ever – and your brand is whom you associate with. Make sure you have a mechanism in place to enable prospective buyers to get as up close and personal to your product as possible before buying. Focus heavily on collecting and amplifying existing customers’ success stories in their own words.
3. Put it all out there. Transparency. Live it. Buyers in general are doing more research on their own and millennials are no exception. A generation that’s grown up with Google expects to be able to get an answer online to any question they may have about your product – or else they’ll turn to a competitor. Resist the temptation to hold back product details until a sales rep can “explain them more eloquently.”
4. Be responsive on the platforms they prefer. This is a generation that prefers text and email over a phone call; whose preference is for visual media. Instead of sending them to a call center, consider using live chat tools, email, or messaging apps to interact with customers and prospective buyers the way they prefer. Whatever you do, always respond in a timely manner.
5. Message for consensus. Millennials value harmony and want to build consensus. On the road to finding solutions, they don’t want feelings to get hurt. While the ramifications for this in the social and political sphere are yet to be determined, the application for business marketing is clear: even when you personalize and target your message, make sure you’re helping everyone in the core buying group get on the same page.
6. Make sure your marketing provides utility. If your product is your advertising, your advertising might also be your product. Whether it’s GE’s podcasting or Kim Kardashian’s KIMOJI, successful advertisers recognize that millennials want their marketing to give them something. Entertain them, solve a problem for them, educate them – otherwise, why bother listening at all? Consider approaching your marketing strategy from the point of view of “how does this help solve a customer need?”
Armed with these guidelines, B2B marketers should ultimately do what millennials value most – experiment. Throw away your old customer personas and start taking a look at the younger, female and diverse demographics. After all, these groups are playing a far larger role in business decisions and this is only going to accelerate.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to loosen up.