Millennials:  Reaching Out To The Youngest B2B Buyers

By Seth Jacobsen Posted on 12/13/16 9:30 AM

Millennials are no longer just “the kids these days.”   They are already the largest generational group in America - by 2020, they'll represent about 50% of the workforce - and with each passing year, more and more are entering positions of responsibility in businesses. After all, the oldest Millennials are now in their mid-30s, which is prime age to enter management roles even in larger organizations.

Millennials - sometimes also known as Generation Y - are particularly important for small-to-medium sized businesses, which often have a large percentage of younger employees.  Plus, according to Forbes and other sources, Millennials are one of the most entrepreneurial of all recorded generations.  They are already launching more businesses, at a younger age, while employing more people, than the Boomers ever did.

In short, Millennials absolutely should not be overlooked in B2B sales simply due to their relatively young age.  Their value as customers within your sales ecosystem will only grow, year by year, potentially for decades to come. There is a catch, however:  Millennials are also radically unlike any previous generation in terms of their tastes, preferences, ideals, and buying behavior.

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If your channel partners are primarily accustomed to dealing with Boomers or Xers, they may need to look into changing their methods and outreach styles to match.  Trying to reach Millennials using the same techniques one would use with a Boomer does not work. 

While far from an inclusive guide (which could easily be book-length) we wanted to take a look at some of the key aspects distinguishing Millennial habits and offer advice on reaching them.

Understanding The Millennial Mind:  Good Practices For B2B Outreach

1 – Never Lie To A Millennial

Now, “lie” may be a strong word, but this is a point which cannot be emphasized enough.  Perhaps more than any other single trait, Millennials despise feeling deceived or lied-to.  They have very little patience for excessive hyperbole, deceptive claims, misleading charts, or anything else along those lines.  Honesty is always the best policy when dealing with Millennials.

Why?

2 – Millennials Do Their Own Research

One of the defining traits of Millennials is that they grew up on\with the Internet.  They aren’t merely comfortable doing self-research through sources like Google, they prefer it.  Studies of Millennials have shown that less than 20% consider salespeople, alone, to be a reliable source of information. Further, according to The McCarthy Group, a whopping 84% do not trust traditional advertising.

In other words, you can safely assume that any substantial claim made about your product, service, or company will be vetted independently by a large portion of your Gen-Y leads.  This is why it’s so important to be honest and transparent in marketing and outreach materials.

Who do they trust? 

READ MORE: A CSOs Guide to Increasing Channel Sales

3 – Millennials Place Great Trust In Social Recommendations

According to a Kissmetrics study, nearly 9 out of 10 Millennials trust personal recommendations from friends or family above claims made by companies themselves.  They are also strongly influenced by user-created content, such as online reviews.  Additionally, they are more likely to trust recommendations and ideas from actual expert sources (like peer-reviewed science) than previous generations.

Really, Millennials basically mistrust traditional advertising.  There’s just no way to sugarcoat that conclusion.   Having grown up bombarded by advertising non-stop, they want it to go away.  This means a strong social media strategy built on peer reviews and created content is basically a necessity.  

Now, there is a silver lining here.  

4 – Millennials Reward Loyalty

For business that prove themselves to be legitimate, honest, and overall trustworthy, their Millennial buyers will often become some of their most enthusiastic brand ambassadors.  In the same way they highly trust peer recommendations, they are also glad to offer recommendations to their own peers when they believe they’ve found a valid cause.

Although that recommendation may be in the form of a meme image on Facebook…

5 – Millennials Are Multi-Taskers With A Short Attention Span

It’s easy to mock Millennials for their infamously short attention span.  But, again, it’s a byproduct of growing up on the Internet.  They are accustomed to receiving information in small doses, via a huge variety of media, and very often in disconnected simultaneous streams thanks to the ever-growing trend of second-screen device use.

Any B2B Millennial content strategy should mirror this.  Favor visual and video content over forms that require more dedicated concentration.  Try to create content which is easily-shared over social media services.  Mix up the types of media used as much as possible.

And perhaps as a tradeoff to their short attention spans...

6 – Millennials Are Globally-Minded Big-Picture Thinkers

Millennials think big and dream big.  After all, they’ve grown up playing video games online with people around the world with little concern for geography. They see the world as a connected place, and humanity as one race.  Likewise, their business dreams are often just as big and inclusive, full of progressive or paradigm-shifting ideas.  

Play to this.  Emphasize the big picture.  Talk in terms of mutual benefit rather than one-sided arguments.  Show off your own global-mindedness or ecologically-friendly ideas.  Be a thought leader:  Millennials love new ideas.

Basically, Millennials are complicated and must be talked to “in their own language” to get anywhere.  This blog can only scratch the surface.  If you’ve had success dealing with Millennials in your own B2B outreach efforts, please share what you’ve learned below.  It’s a wild new world of marketing, and new techniques are being discovered every day.

Filed Under:

channel sales, b2b

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