Digital MarketingSocial Media MarketingThree ways B2B brands can win over millennials

Three ways B2B brands can win over millennials

LinkedIn B2B Institute's Director, Market Engagement, Tyrona Heath helps marketers innovate on digital platforms, elevate their brand, and win more accounts

30-second summary:

  • Millennials are increasingly B2B buyers who make purchase decisions for their organizations, and marketers have the chance to reach this important demographic via social media, live video, and social audio
  • While millennials place a premium on experimentation and innovation, it’s best described as “safe” innovation more than any other cohort
  • They want to be reassured before making B2B purchase decisions
  • B2B marketers need to lean into educational content and values such as diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Brands like Salesforce, Automation Anywhere, Detroit Labs, and GE offer inspiration for B2B marketers that want to win with millennial decision-makers

Millennials are the first cohort of digital natives to assume positions of seniority in business. Born between 1980 to the early 2000s and totaling 85 million in the U.S., they now makeup three-quarters of companies’ decision-makers and are the dominant audience for B2B marketers.

Pre-pandemic, a lot of thought went into how to approach this generation of digital natives, but the industry was still on a learning curve. Now, B2B marketers — who honed their virtual chops doing business nearly 100 percent online in 2020 — are getting a fresh start at addressing this audience. With that in mind, here are three keys to elevating your B2B brand with millennials and winning their accounts.

1. Explore emerging media

Multiple digital channels are incredibly important to millennials. We surveyed 17,000 knowledge workers in this demographic (21-to-41-years-old) that hold an increasing hold on B2B buying decisions. What we learned was that millennials prefer a clear brand voice, and invest heavily in social media. For instance, 66 percent use social media to communicate at work and 36 percent use social media to keep up with industry news.

On LinkedIn, from March 2019 to March 2020, this group generated a 60 percent increase in content. We also found that 38 percent of young millennials and 31 percent of older millennials follow their professional heroes on social media, versus just 12 percent of our 51-plus aged group.

While social media is their activity hub, live video, and audio are now part of their daily habits. Therefore, B2B marketers should explore such channels and find inspiration in cutting-edge brands. For live video, Salesforce, Automation Anywhere, and Detroit Labs represent B2B players that have already leaned into the medium and drove excellent engagement. Each company has created episodic, live series to engage their target audiences and then followed up with personalized messaging, which is what millennials expect out of brands.

Further, while most marketers are probably aware of the rise of digital audio formats, they should know how important they are to millennials in particular. 35 percent of this generation listens to at least one podcast a week. B2B brands can utilize the opportunity to improve their marketing. And they should look at GE, which seized on audio to reach its audience, making something genuinely entertaining — with content from climate science and engineering to sci-fi—in the process. The B2B brand’s efforts have paid off. Its 18-month-old Cutting Carbon podcast is reaching 10,000 listeners thanks to regular promotions across social channels.

2. Lean into mobile channels to educate

Millennial careers began when digital work, social media, big data, disruptive business models, and smartphone culture were the norm. Millennials spend 3.7 hours a day on their phones, and B2B marketers would be wise to capture their attention and win their loyalty on mobile apps and platforms. The keys to appealing to them on mobile are to strategically mesh text, live video, and, increasingly, audio communications like podcasts and Clubhouse.

No matter what medium, data-driven platforms exist for marketers to engage with their preferred audience. And while digital platforms can identify the right prospects, B2B players still need to offer text, live video, and audio messaging that resonates with millennials. Your challenge as a marketer is to hold the attention of this group as the latest notification or message pings across their device.

With that in mind, B2B marketers should know that millennials value knowledge and love to learn, and all generations appreciate being helped—consider that 74 percent of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value and insight. So, B2B players should emphasize education in messaging across channels. And in my team’s research, we found that 92 percent of these young B2B buyers said they’re more likely to consider a brand when a sales rep “shares content applicable to my role in the buying process.”

Additionally, the message must be delivered in a real way: Millennials want authenticity from brands. Fortunately, text, live video, and audio do not come across as “slick productions,” so they feel inherently authentic to the viewer or listener. Accordingly, these emerging media platforms are natural fits for establishing a connection with millennial B2B professionals.

3. Show your brand values

Last but not least, B2B brands need to stand for something. As consumers, millennials demand brands take action on social justice issues. In the B2C realm, 73 percent of millennials are willing to pay extra for products from companies dedicated to social and environmental change, compared to just 51 percent of other adults. The same holds true for the millennials in business. To be clear, when it comes to activism, however, it’s not that millennials “care” more than other professionals, it’s that they have higher expectations about the action that should be taken in response to the values and issues that they deem to be important.

Further, it’s important for B2B brands to go beyond the performative with concrete action. Our millennials study found that 45 percent of our 21-to-30-year-old professional group, versus 34 percent of our 51-year-old group, felt that their companies should audit the diversity in their mix of suppliers. They expect brands and employers to reflect their values, and they have even started to look to B2B vendors for the same pillars. This shift is likely to have been accelerated by the pandemic, and by the social justice reckoning sweeping the U.S. and world, as brands face 360-degree accountability.

Conclusion

In closing, with marketing departments filled with multigenerational teams that have serious post-pandemic digital skills, B2B brands are now getting a renewed opportunity at this digitally native age group that’s calling the shots. And B2B marketers can succeed in a big way with millennials by focusing on social/emerging media, useful mobile content, and brand values.


Tyrona Heath is Director, Market Engagement, The B2B Institute at LinkedIn. She can found on Twitter @tyrona.

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