It’s official! Millennials are changing everything about how business is done. A multitude of studies have been reporting how millennials are different than – or in some cases, the same as – earlier generations. And as millennials begin to make up a larger part of the workforce, their preferred ways of working, conducting business, and living their lives will become more and more obvious.
This is especially true in the area of business-to-business (B2B) procurement. According to the IBM study, To Buy or Not to Buy? How Millennials Are Reshaping B2B Marketing, millennials are increasingly accepting opportunities to influence purchasing decisions at work. In fact, recent Google/Millward Brown Digital research states that approximately 50% of all B2B researchers are millennials.
The emergence of millennials calls for changes in B2B marketing
If you’re caught off-guard by this finding, you’re not alone. Millennials are famously changing attitudes and approaches to consumer shopping. How will those same habits impact their approach to B2B procurement? Better yet, how will you change your marketing strategy to gain their attention, confidence, and budget dollars?
Here is a three-step road map that can help you get engage millennials and convince them that you are the vendor of choice before your competitors do.
1. Learn about millennial purchasing behaviors
In addition to forecasting and transaction data, greater insight into millennials purchasing practices can be found in behavioral data. It is with this information you can determine what your customers really want – not just in terms of products and services, but also when it comes to the overall customer experience.
While reviewing online sources for research seems like an obvious and routine approach, millennials are concerned about the overall experience with a particular vendor. Rather than sitting in a big room listening to a sales pitch, real value is place on authentic, personalized interactions that explore possibilities and get questions answered. The IBM study advises, “Providing relevant experiences, both virtually and in person, will go a long way with Millennials, who will share their excitement with their co-workers.”
But once the sales cycle gets started, the story changes. After they have the information they need, millennials prefer to distance themselves from vendors with quick, easy, and virtual interactions while making their final decision. During this time, millennials prefer to review their organization’s data analysis and reach out for recommendations from friends and family.
2. Redefine your most valuable customers
Think your best customers are your biggest revenue generators? You need to rethink that notion. Yes, these customers are great to have and deserve your attention. But these customers are not the source of innovation and business transformation. Instead, they are happy with your offerings and would rather you stay the same. That’s why you have their business in the first place!
However, it’s your smallest customers that cannot be ignored. By having open and honest conversations with them, your sales team can identify opportunities to create more value on both sides of the deal. For example, the IBM study notes that vendors who worked primarily with baby boomer and Gen X buyers should be mindful that millennial buyers place a higher priority on a convenient, collaborative, and insightful client experience than their older colleagues do. And this same expectation is not just in the product or service itself, but throughout the buying journey at every touch point.
3. Increase visibility across the supply chain
Millennials love transparency. But more important, this information needs to be relevant, accessible, and real-time – any hint of a barrier to the information they want is a turn-off.
To accommodate this demand, the IBM study advises that marketers should ways to give easy access the data and information millennial buyers want. The content should be authentic to the brand while delivering the answers customers care about most 24×7 through a variety of multiple devices. The key is making sure that every interaction is as simple as possible as well as informative and collaborative.
4. Keep going until you hear from your millennial buyer
In the past, baby boomer and Gen X buyers were not shy about voicing their dissatisfaction with a vendor and staying quiet if all is going well.
However, in the case of millennial buyers, no news is indeed bad news. The IBM study reveals that millennials tend to be far-more discreet than their older counterparts. Although 59% freely share their positive and negative experiences as consumers, millennials are well-aware of the ramifications of posting anything negative when it comes to work – especially in the case of B2B vendors.
In this case, B2B vendors should be concerned with millennial buyers if they do not receive positive feedback – and find creative ways to continue engaging with them whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Provide an engaging customer experience for your B2B buyer
Take a look at how some of today’s industry leaders are gaining significant advantage in the Center for Business Insight brief “B2B Buyers Are Customers Too: How Wholesalers Can Improve the Customer Experience.”