This was the feature topic I was talking to a journalist about this week.

It’s about the idea that big shifts are under way in B2B marketing because ‘digital natives’ in their 20s and early 30s are being promoted into purchase decision positions.

Here’s what I think about it – and some interesting facts I’ve picked up in recent months.

1. Yes, so-called ‘millennials’ are now a vital part of the B2B purchase process.

Research tells us 73% of 25-34 year olds are involved in B2B purchase decisions in some way — often being asked to do the research and make a recommendation to be signed off by a senior colleague. And 30% are the sole decision makers. This makes them the biggest single decision-making demographic (defined by 10-year age brackets).

This clearly means they’re a vital audience for B2B companies’ sales and marketing – and increasingly so as they make their way up the corporate ladder, signing off ever-higher value purchases on the way.

2. There’s a striking figure that’s often bandied around: that 67% of a B2B purchaser’s decision process is now made online, without talking to the supplier.

I don’t know why this figure is a surprise to anyone – it’s what I would expect – but I often find it is. Some companies seem to deprioritise their marketing, thinking ‘It’s OK, our sales team are great, they’ll be able to talk any potential customers round.’ They don’t realise that, if the customer doesn’t shortlist them in the 67% part of their research process, they’ll never get the chance.

I’m sure millennials are only driving this 67% figure up over time as they progress in their careers — because research shows that they, more so than others, want to do their own research and put less weight on what vendors’ sales teams tell them.

3. Millennials are heavily focused on online information. They use social media extensively: 92% turn to it for B2B research. They live off mobile devices. They like video content. They want customer case studies, reviews and testimonials. They want honest, factual information and baulk at salesy gloss.

They prefer an informal, human tone to old-world corporate speak. They expect information to be always available and answers – when they do pose a question – to come thick and fast.

Companies need to take all this on board in their marketing.

4. That said, I think the differences between millennials and other decision makers are often overstated. Everyone is moving firmly in this direction – towards fast, digital, self-directed, human, mobile decisions. It’s just that millennials, perhaps, are ahead of the curve.

I’ve been struck by going into some very traditional big organisations recently and seeing senior executives in their 60s using mobiles and tablets to undertake swift research themselves instead of asking their junior colleagues to research the market and compile a report.

5. One of my consultancy roles is advising a high-level business services provider. We’ve set up a marketing team of six, two who are millennials. They’ve rightly suggested ideas such as more use of social media and videos. But the team was focused on these anyway. There’s not the gaping generational gulf some make out.

So marketing is ever-changing – and fast. You can’t keep churning out the same old stuff in the same old ways and doing the same things you did two years ago. You need to keep a firm eye on your customers. And here, millennials are increasingly important – and do things differently.

But so does everybody else.

So don’t do fresh, inspired B2B marketing for millennials. Do it for everyone!


Image by Austin Distel via unsplash