Is your B2B marketing up to speed with new buyers?
Is your B2B marketing up to speed with the new generation of buyers?
By Clive Reddihough FCIM, Vice Chair CIM SE Regional Board and MD of marketing agency FMS.
B2B marketing has changed a lot over the past few years to address a different generation of B2B decision makers, with different views and different ways of doing things. A study by The B2B Institute which analysed 17,000 knowledge workers aged 21-40 years old across ten markets, found changing behaviours and attitudes of the first cohort of digital natives to assume positions of seniority in business.1
The conclusion? Millennials have officially grown up! They are moving through the ranks and taking on leadership roles in the workplace. A generation who have always used cloud-based services and collaboration tools, and whose professional experience doesn’t pre-date: search, e-commerce or readily available professional communities like LinkedIn.
According to B2B International, millennials will make up 44% of the workforce by 2025. 74% of 21-40-year-olds are involved in making buying decisions for their companies and are already driving a digital approach to B2B selling. For example, 51% of them (compared to 33% of other professionals) perceive digital products to be more personalised than analogue.
B2B buyers have become digital-first, carrying out their research remotely and making decisions across distributed teams. This has completely changed the traditional B2B buyer-seller relationship and therefore B2B marketing.
What does this mean for your B2B marketing strategy?
Traditionally, most B2B companies operate based on internal goals and processes. Marketing campaigns are driven by product launch dates or industry-scheduled events. Marketing teams are organised around internal programmes, processes and functions. This introspective approach doesn’t take into account the buyer, their buying process(es) or timeline. Considering that the buyer is all important this can be a mistake!
To be successful, businesses need to focus on the buyer and put buyer-driven marketing strategies in place which recognise there is a new generation of ‘digital natives’ in senior buying roles.
Appealing to a different generation of B2B buyers
Behaviours and attitudes that we’ve all adopted in recent years, due to our daily exposure to smartphones, social media, and other ‘digital’ advancements, have blended into our business lives. This is particularly the case for the new generation of B2B buyers where the boundaries between the personal and professional are blurred, if not indistinguishable.
B2C marketing trends are influencing B2B. They are still different audiences, but consumers’ expectations of companies are very similar for both B2B and B2C buyers. According to Salesforce’s 2020 annual State of the Connected Customer research 80% of B2B buyers want a B2C experience.
So, what can businesses do to appeal to a new generation of B2B buyers?
- Build trust and authenticity
Reduce risk, and improve your status with buyers, by investing in your brand. The B2B Institute study identified that the new generation of B2B buyers were ‘status-seeking but risk averse’. Build trust with them by:
- Developing a clear brand voice and brand purpose. Communicate boldly and tap into the feelings of buyers. Have a clear vision and focus on how you interact with and support your community.
- Creating and sharing thought leadership - provide the best and deepest answers to your customers’ biggest questions, in the formats your audience likes to consume them.
- Engaging with, and commenting on, thought leadership from your buyers and their organisations.
- Demonstrating social proof. Share positive comments about you, your company or products on your website and social media.
- Acting in the buyer’s interest throughout your dealings with them. Think in the long term, even if that does mean making short term sacrifices.
Don’t underestimate the importance of building trust. 35% of decision makers rank trust as the top contributor in closing a deal - above ROI or price.
- Act like a digital native
For the new generation of B2B buyers, technology has more influence than anything else. They expect a B2C buying experience:
- Create a simple, seamless (mainly digital) customer experience. Make the buyer journey and ‘shopping’ experience as frictionless and integrated as possible. Think ecommerce - make finding out information on, and buying your services, easy.
- Innovate with ways to reach out, to and engage with, customers where they are. Taking a mobile first, ‘video-heavy’ approach using channels like LinkedIn Stories will pay dividends.
- Review your communications and targeting strategy
As digital natives, the new generation of B2B buyers have a natural affinity with digital communication channels:
- Prioritise using easy to consume digital formats and channels. Create useful, easy to access mobile friendly content and distribute it through social media or other readily accessible channels.
- Engage with, and engage in, thought leadership. Deliver thought leadership as online learning. Share expertise, best practice, advice and guidance. 92% of buyers say they’re more likely to consider a brand when a sales rep “shares content applicable to my role in the buying process.” Comment on and engage with thought leadership and posts of others in your industry – particularly those of clients.
- Tap into the power of LinkedIn. Use tools like LinkedIn Sale Navigator to collect intelligence on potential customers and build relationships. Take the opportunity to use LinkedIn to establish expertise and authority and broaden your appeal to the new generation of B2B buyers.
- Communicate clearly and confidently. Stand out and cut through the noise and recognise that you need to appeal to the emotions of B2B buyers, not just their functional needs.
- Remember that social media is important to this group. 40% of the new generation of B2B buyers now follow work contacts on social media. 37.6% of the younger members of this group, and 31.3% of older members, follow their professional heroes on social media, versus just 12.1% of the 51+ aged group.
A new generation of B2B buyers are rising up the ranks. A generation that:
- Perceive themselves as being ‘always connected’ and short on time
- Have a strong focus on professional self-development and self-improvement
- Are smartphone first, clocking up 68 more working days per year on mobile than other professionals
- Prefer brands to be bold, socially responsible and support community initiatives
B2B companies and their marketers, who are quick to recognise this new generation, their attitudes and their behaviours will reap the most benefits. The values, perspective and mindset of this new wave of B2B decision makers will have an increasing influence in companies, especially where they hold senior positions. B2B marketing strategies need to 'keep pace' with their growing influence to be truly successful.
1 B2B Institute - Work in BETA: The Rising B2B Decision Makers
For all press enquiries, please contact the media team:
An overview of CIM our history and services.
To receive sector specific news: