Marketing to a new generation of B2B decision makers

B2B buyers are changing . . .  but is your B2B marketing strategy?

A study by The B2B Institute (Work in BETA: The Rising B2B Decision Makers) reports that millennials are moving through the ranks and taking on leadership roles in the workplace.

According to B2B International, by 2025 millennials will make up 44% of the workforce. Their study showed that 74% of 21 to 40 year olds were involved in making buying decisions for their companies and that they’re already driving a digital approach to B2B selling.

This 1st cohort of 'digital natives' have always used cloud-based services and collaboration tools. Their professional experience does not pre-date search, e-commerce and professional communities and tools like LinkedIn.

B2B buyers have become digital-first, carrying out their research remotely and making decisions across distributed teams. This has totally changed the traditional B2B buyer-seller relationship and B2B marketing.

What are the implications for your B2B marketing strategy?

Most B2B companies have traditionally operated based on internal processe and goals. Product launch dates or industry-scheduled events drive marketing campaigns. internal programs, processes and functions determine how marketing teams are organised. This inward facing perspective doesn’t take into account the buyer, their buying process(es) or timeline.

Businesses need to focus on the buyer and put buyer-driven marketing strategies in place which take into account the new generation of ‘digital natives’ now in senior buying roles.

How do businesses appeal to a new generation of B2B buyers?

Our use of smartphones, social media, and other ‘digital’ advancements have blended into our business lives. This is especially the case for the new generation of B2B buyers where the boundaries between the personal and professional are particularly blurred.

According to recent research by Salesforce, 80% of B2B buyers want a B2C experience. B2C marketing trends are influencing B2B. They are still different audiences, but consumers’ expectations of companies are very much alike for both B2B and B2C buyers.

So, what can businesses do to help appeal to a new wave of B2B buyers?

1) Build trust, be authentic

The B2B Institute's study identified that the new generation of B2B buyers were ‘status-seeking but risk averse’. Build their trust by:

  • Having a clear brand voice and brand purpose.
    Communicate boldly and tap into the feelings of buyers. Deliver a clear vision and focus on how you interact with and support your community.
     
  • Creating, and engaging with, thought leadership.
    Provide the best, detailed answers to your customers’ biggest questions, in the formats they prefers them in. Engage with, and comment on, thought leadership from your buyers and their organisations.
     
  • Giving social proof.
    Share positive comments about you, your company or products on your website and social media.
     
  • Acting in the buyer’s interest.
    Think in the long term, even if that does mean making short term sacrifices.

2) Be more like a digital native

For the new wave of B2B buyers, technology has more influence than anything else. They expect a B2C buying experience:

  • Deliver a seamless (mainly digital) customer experience.
    Think ecommerce - make finding out information on, and buying your services, easy.
     
  • Be innovative with your communications.
    Taking a distinctive mobile first, ‘video-heavy’ approach using channels like LinkedIn Stories will pay dividends.

3) Overhaul your communications and targeting strategy

The new generation of B2B buyers have a natural affinity with digital communication channels:

  • Give easy to consume digital formats and channels priority.
    Create easy to access mobile friendly content and distribute it through social media or other readily accessible channels.
     
  • Establish credibility and authority through thought leadership.
    Share expertise, best practice, advice and guidance.Comment on and engage with thought leadership and posts of others in your industry – particularly those of clients.
     
  • Harness the power of LinkedIn.
    Use LinkedIn to collect intelligence on potential customers and build relationships. Establish expertise and authority to broaden your appeal to the new generation of B2B buyers by publishing, and commenting on, content.
     
  • Communicate confidently.
    Cut through the noise and appeal to the emotions of B2B buyers, not just their functional needs.
     
  • Understand the role of social media.
    40% of the new wave of B2B buyers follow work contacts on social media and are much more likely to follow their professional heroes on social media than their older counterparts.

Summary

There's a new generation of B2B buyers rising up the ranks. Their values, perspective and mindset have an increasing influence and, where they work in senior positions, they have a direct impact on buying decisions.

To be really successful B2B companies and marketers need to adapt their marketing strategies to 'keep pace' with their growing influence.

 


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