How to: Market B2B technology to millennials
The Arketi Group’s Mike Neumeier shares 7 tips for marketing tech products and services to millennial buyers
Millennials are now the largest generational group in America’s workforce. This got us thinking about how this much-hyped group was impacting B2B enterprise tech buying. We wanted to know the role of millennials in B2B technology purchases – specifically enterprise tech costing $10,000 or more. No one had studied this, so we struck out and conducted our own generational survey, putting together a report of our findings.
Arketi Group surveyed 262 business technology buyers across the three major generations in the workforce today: baby boomers, gen xers and millennials. We found that in B2B tech-buying, millennials are taking the lead in researching vendors and in making final decisions.
Our national survey found 61 percent of millennials describe their role in technology purchases as decision makers, and 34 percent report having budgetary or final sign-off authority on enterprise technology purchases of $10,000 or more. By comparison, 23 percent of baby boomers and 27 percent of gen xers report the same budget and sign-off authority.
The survey also explored the go-to sources of information for each generation across the three stages of the buyer’s journey, from evaluating a problem in the awareness stage to researching technology options in the consideration stage and creating a short list in the decision stage.
When evaluating tech purchases of $10,000 or more, millennials most frequently used sources of information such as industry analysts, vendor face-to-face meetings and vendor websites.
When examining streams of information consumed at different stages of the buying cycle, the reliance on interpersonal interactions is even more pronounced among millennials.
At the start of a typical B2B buying cycle, millennials most often seek information from analysts and colleagues in their organization.
As a buyer moves from identifying the problem to researching available technology solutions, millennials increasingly seek more interpersonal interactions, turning to colleagues and vendor face-to-face meetings for information.
During the final phase of a B2B buying process, millennials rely on face-to-face vendor meetings, colleagues and live or in-person demos.
With this and other data from the survey in hand, our team of B2B tech marketing pros assembled seven need-to-know tips for marketing B2B tech to millennials.
1. Get touchy feely
Millennials are hands on learners. They want to do, not just see, hear or read. Consider incorporating micro-applications like ROI calculators and solution finders in your marketing mix. Make a sandbox version of your technology available, or offer free demos for this inquisitive group to test out as they evaluate options. In your marketing efforts, ensure this group knows they can touch, use and learn first-hand to spark early interest during the buyer’s journey.
2. Embrace sensory overload
This is a true omni-channel group, more so than any other generational cohort, which means marketing messages and content need to be delivered in multiple forms. That means you need to expand the sources of information and tools you use to reach Millennials. While the older cohorts prefer fewer sources of information, this group has wider preferences across more sources of information.
You need not produce more content — just take your content and repurpose it. For example, a whitepaper can be retooled into a blog post, tweets, bylined articles, a podcast, sales collateral, a trade show presentation, sales email blasts, online community posts, direct mail and a PPC campaign.
3. Face off, fast
These digital natives embrace, even seek out, face-to-face interactions early in the buying cycle and throughout their entire buyer’s journey. Your marketing should make one-on-one, face-to-face interaction easy.
Include calls-to-action such as “speak to an expert today” or “schedule an evaluation now” in your marketing touches. Consider constructing face-to-face opportunities like events, meetings and meet-ups, all designed to get sales folks mixing with the millennial buyer.
4. A picture is worth 1,000 words
We already know this; we often just forget it. Show prospects a reflection of themselves in your marketing. Yes, our research shows 32-year-old customers are buying ERP systems, 23-year-old customers are making cloud service recommendations and 28-year-olds are shortlisting cybersecurity solutions.
With this in mind, ensure your marketing imagery includes millennials – and not just smiling stock photos of young professionals. Seek to use photos of your real customers. For example, showcase a 30-year-old DevOps professional who selected your mobile application testing tool. Use her photo on your site, ask her to pen a blog post for you and write a case study on why she chose your tool over the competitors.
5. Sharing is caring
According to our data, colleagues carry significant weight with this group, so make it easy for colleagues to push that weight around. It might seem so 2010, but include “share with a friend” functionality in emails, on websites and even in digital documents to prompt sharing.
While millennials are less reliant on social media than conventional wisdom might predict in a B2B tech buying cycle, that does not mean brands should turn their backs on making social sharing easy too.
6. Showcase sages
Embrace and use industry analysts. Once the kings of thought-leadership, over the past decade analysts have been relegated to the backseat in some technology sectors. Pay-to-play models and consolidation may have given this group some hard knocks, but millennials don’t seem to care.
The fact is, analysts are the most important information source at the top of the funnel, so use them there. Engage them in your marketing to help younger prospects understand and explore their business problem. Consider using analysts for webinars, at key events or in videos to help advance your message and spark deeper interest.
7. Get a facelift
If 1999 is calling and wants its website back from your organization, you are in trouble. Millennials use vendor websites and if you want to be compelling, you need to be contemporary. Flash-driven websites are bad. Deep menu structures are evil. Gating every piece of content on your site blocks lead flow.
Vendor websites need to be easy and breezy. Punchy copy, snackable content and scrolling mobile-friendly pages are the baseline for today’s modern website. Intuitive navigation, even navigation that presents dynamic content based on click-streams or past site visits, engages the millennial buyer and helps them get to what they need to know. Design your site to drive sales and consider ongoing heat mapping of your site to study and improve the visitor experience.
Millennials are fickle – but truthfully so were gen x and baby boomers when they were in their 20s and early 30s. And as with baby boomers, because of their sheer size, this group is already having a huge impact on today’s business world, which has only been accelerated by business’ dependence on technology and the rapidly growing start-up scene predominantly led by millennials.
Savvy marketers need to take notice of this group. We must understand how heavily involved they are in the B2B tech buying cycle. We must know what sources of information they are turning to during their buyers’ journeys. And we must adjust our marketing to fit their needs.
Executing on these seven tips will give you a solid start – ensuring you are not accidently turning your back on what is the largest group of business buyers we have ever seen.
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