Marketing to Millennials – Their B2B Buying Influence

Get any two marketers together and the subject of selling to millennials is sure to come up. Those conversations usually happen in the context of business to consumer (B2C) marketing. However, the younger generation is becoming very influential in business to business (B2B) purchasing. Technology companies need to understand how their buying behavior is different than both Gen X and the Baby Boomers who came before them. In this two-part series we will look at the overall buying behaviors and characteristics that define millennial B2B buyers, and how tech marketers should respond and engage with this new type of influencer.

According to Pew Research millennials have surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. In 2015, there were approximately 55.2 million millennials in the U.S. workforce. The Department of Labor predicts that will grow to include 74 million by 2025, or 44% of the workforce.

Two recent studies have been released on this topic: To Buy or Not to Buy? from IBM and the Next Generation of B2B by Sacunas.

Below are summary of the finding from these studies to frame this sought after demographic.

The Involvement of Digital Natives
Millennials are much more involved in influencing the purchase of B2B products than you may think. As digital natives they are often the ones researching and evaluating vendors and solutions for senior executives.  And, they are making recommendations that get green lighted.  According to the Sacunas study nearly three-quarters are involved in purchase decisions for B2B products. That covers a wide range of products and services and tech is only a subset of the B2B purchase universe.

To get a better idea of tech specific buying we turn to the 2015 IDG Enterprise Role & Influence of the IT Decision-Maker research which shows respondents age 18-35 are most likely to be involved in the evaluate products/services and then determine technical requirements stages of the tech purchase process. That is consistent with other findings that millennials are often on the front lines of searching for and evaluating products for senior management.

Not surprisingly this group thinks digital first when it comes to researching products. Search engines like Google are the first choice to find out new information. Vendor web sites are also very important as are peers and colleagues. Millennials are greatly influenced by their peers whether it be their choice of a new movie or restaurant or a major investment for their company.  Social media is very important, especially for younger millennials in their evaluations and searches for understanding how new solutions can help their company.

Social/Mobile – First and Foremost
Mobile is extremely important as there is at near saturation among the age group when it comes to smartphone ownership, additionally 50% have tablets. Millennials always have their phone by their side – at work, home and everywhere in between. And they like to watch videos on their phone rather than reading written material.

On the social front, Facebook was the most used platform for researching B2B products and services. YouTube is also well used, especially among men. LinkedIn is not used nearly as much as Facebook when it comes to reading and interacting with content about new products. However, LinkedIn is used by nearly two-third of this cohort for networking.

Content Consumption
In terms of content formats, video is king along with case studies. Millennials would prefer to see how something works rather than read longer papers about it. Along that theme they want to see demos, training and product news when doing their evaluations. Classic industry/company news and thought leadership content is less popular.

One key buying criteria that sets this generation apart is their desire to do business with companies who share their values and sensibilities. The vast majority of millennials say social, environmental or philanthropic efforts of companies are important to their purchase decisions. This is a true carry over from the way they view consumer products and companies.

According to the IBM study, millennials value “a hassle free, Omni-channel, client experience personalized to their needs” They also crave censuses and collaborate decision making.

In Part 2, we will discuss how tech marketers should approach and engage this growing market segment.







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