B2B marketers should quit treating millennials like previous generations

It’s time to catch up with B2C players and speak their language.

In recent years, business-to-consumer marketers have been rightly obsessed with millennials because they are increasingly becoming household decision-makers. At the same time, they are becoming decision-makers for corporations and small businesses as well. In fact, 73 percent of millennials who work in business are involved in the technology-purchasing process for their companies.

It’s time for B2B players to wake up to that reality and start appealing to this generation in a new way. Millennials, who are between 22 and 37 years old, have different mindsets and different media consumption patterns than Generation X or Baby Boomers. What’s particularly important to know: 84 percent of millennials simply don’t trust traditional advertising.

Digital media – particularly social media and video – is a great way to reach them. With that in mind, here are three ways B2B brands can gain new customers from millennial decision-makers.

Lean into video and values

These young adults are visually minded, and most of them have grown up with mobile video as part of their daily lives. In fact, 29 percent of millennial B2B buyers prefer video content over text or voice-based messaging, besting case studies (19 percent), white papers (16 percent), brochures (15 percent), webinars (11 percent) and infographics (11 percent). Like with B2C efforts, it’s important to make your videos rich, informative and shareable.

IBM offers inspiration with a goodwill-minded effort that ran through last year. Dubbed “IBM Helps Protect Endangered African Rhinos with IoT Technology,” the brand launched the video on World Rhino Day and utilized the hashtag #WorldRhinoDay across social platforms. The four-minute film was shared thousands of times online while getting media pickup from major publications like The Atlantic and Quartz.

This campaign hits the right notes with millennials, who greatly prefer to support brands that display positive values. For instance, only 25 percent of the generation will purchase from a company that uses questionable labor practices. So B2B marketers, take note of IBM’s employment of humaneness and empathy.

In addition, video just plain works: 52 percent of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the content with the best ROI. More generally speaking, online video is to millennials what TV was to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

Be active across social channels

With linear TV being increasingly unpopular with young adults, digital platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn and Vox are becoming more and more crucial for all brands. Millennials prefer new media. Here is a telling stat: 89 percent of millennials will watch online video in the next couple of years.

B2B marketers can learn from Hootsuite, which gets hundreds of engagement signals (likes, shares, views, etc.) with its posts. On Instagram and Snapchat, Hootsuite is playful and shows off its company culture by giving inside peeks about what it’s like to work there. On LinkedIn (my employer), it stays creative while also focusing on helpful workplace topics like how to design a content calendar or create an infographic. B2B brands should aim for the right balance of appealing to millennials by appealing to their desire for fun content while giving them information that can help them succeed at their jobs.

Use data and be interactive

Millennials have a ton of information at their fingertips about products, brands, potential employers, etc., which means if you’re a B2B company, you need to cater your message to stand out from the noise. It’s worth noting for young B2B buyers that using personalization tools can help you speak their language.

All told, there are a few easy tips to apply: use those data-driven tools to appeal to their values; avoid seeming transactional in your approach by fostering the relationship naturally; and, don’t be afraid to wittily drop in a GIF every once in a while. It’s important to be visual with millennials beyond video, including with your comments, direct messages, case studies and webinars. If you want to appeal to these young adults, have fun and turn your relationship with them into an interactive whiteboard in which they see you as a trusted partner.

In the end, older buyers will have fun, too. It’s a win-win for B2B marketers to think young, show humanity and use digital tools and data for all their abilities.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Keith Richey is Senior Director of Marketing for LinkedIn Marketing and Sales Solutions. In his role, Keith leads a team that looks after regional marketing, demand generation, and marketing communications. Prior to LinkedIn, Keith worked in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two sons.

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