Veterans of B2B marketing are finding it increasingly difficult to connect with the younger millennial generation, which consists of adults who were born between 1979 and 1995. Many millennials are now directly influencing B2B buying, in fact, 73% of millennials are involved in product or service decision making positions. A full third of millennials surveyed said they were the sole decision maker at their company.
This development is understandable, given that in 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the US workforce, with 5.3 million workers. Workplace veterans must adapt to the rapid changes that are happening in the workforce and learn how to effectively connect with the younger generation.
The key here is acclimation – here are some simply wants to connect with the millennials, without needing to completely change your approach.
Learn and Respect
Traditionally speaking, baby boomers and generation X achieved milestones much earlier in life than millennials, such as graduating college, choosing a stable career, buying a home, starting a family, raising children, and so on.
This difference in life experience could explain one of the major disconnects between baby boomers and millennials. Most millennials don’t face the same restrictions and responsibilities that their previous generation did, and often this leaves them to be perceived as lazy or lacking ambition. This stigma is understandable given that more than a third of Americans aged 18-34 were still living at home in 2015, a prospect that most baby boomers can’t relate to.
The fact is, market conditions are different than they were in the past. Many millennials are very intelligent, hardworking individuals, just as baby boomers were early in their career, millennials have simply had to adapt differently. There are actually many similarities between baby boomers and millennials that would be discovered if the two generations took the time to learn from one another. Both generations have great life experience and knowledge to offer, so equal respect is needed in order to move forward in a healthy work environment.
Now this disconnect might be frustrating at first, simply because there might be things that one generation doesn’t understand the other such as vocabulary, a difference in work ethic, and ways of communicating. Instead of having these differences irritate you, take the time to get to know the generation you are marketing to or working with and try to understand their background and why they act the way they do.
These interactions will also be of value to you in learning how to market to millennials. Expanding one’s vocabulary and outlook based on the interactions of working with someone else is what true relationship building is all about, and the sales process is no different. This will improve your marketing strategy leaps and bounds and will make millennials want to interact with your brand if they feel equally respected.
The first step to relating to a younger decision maker is to show respect, as you both worked hard to get where you are, and at the end, you can both influence one another’s future in the workplace.
Millennials grew up knowing how to use technology at a very young age, and feel very at home navigating and doing research with a device in hand. In fact, 74% of millennials say that technology makes their lives significantly easier on a daily basis, so it’s no surprise that they are carrying it over to the workplace.
Communicating with a smartphone, learning new technology and research methods are a few ways that veterans of the game can keep up. An impressive 86% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 83% of 30 to 49-year-olds use smartphones, which includes the millennial generation, and 82% of millennials said that mobile devices are critical when researching new products and services.
Furthermore, 85% of millennials use social media to research products and services for their companies, and nearly half use Facebook as their primary B2B research tool.
The lesson is to use digital channels and a smartphone to communicate if you hope to reach out to a younger decision maker. Leverage the benefits of technology when presenting anything to a millennial decision maker, and you will be speaking their language.
Easily Digestible Content
In the past, a long-form whitepaper would suffice to teach a prospect about a product or service and very well could start the sales process, however, these are no longer the preferred tools, especially for younger decision makers. Millennials would rather watch a video than read any type of long-form content. In fact, 35% of younger millennials prefer video-based content compared to older millennials.
Read up and study the methods that these younger decision makers prefer to use and adapt your strategy accordingly. If you are still only using long-form content, you may be losing business to a competitor that complements its content with more mobile-friendly video formats that millennials prefer. Consider adding more interactive content to reach this younger audience.
Get to the Point
Millennials have a low tolerance for industry and long-form content news. In fact, the average attention span now is nine seconds, so the younger generation has learned to filter out what’s not as necessary to hone in on exactly what interests them. However, there is no need to eliminate your long-form content altogether—it’s still very useful to have for credibility and educational purposes. Find ways to repurpose the content that already exists in formats that millennials will find interesting.
Your marketing content should be filled with practical and relevant information that goes right to the heart of the matter and isn’t too wordy. Millennials will quickly discard any messaging chocked-full of extra fancy wording and see right through the fluff, so short, straightforward, but still engaging messaging is golden.
Content to Bond the Generations
Your content must be visually appealing in general, which is a basic marketing rule. However, what is considered visually appealing to millennials is going to vary from other generations, simply because of differences in interests. However, smart B2B marketers will understand that this gap in interest needs to be bridged by content that connects millennials to other generations.
General Electric did a phenomenal job creating a post that millennials can easily connect with as well as providing a common ground for both generations to bond over.
Take note that they don’t mention their services in this post, but instead, they took a character that all millennials are familiar with, Dr. Suess, to offer targeted and relevant information in a fun and engaging way. This little “Throwback Thursday” (TBT) speaks the millennials language, and effectively engages and hooks users to want to know more. Now they’ll look forward to GE’s subsequent posts, which is the whole idea.
Support a Worthy Cause
In addition to getting to the point, the older generations can learn to connect with young buyers by getting rid of any salesy messages and instead of having a strong moral compass that will essentially do the selling for them. If you can show that your organization puts forth effort to save the environment, gives to a worthy cause, or supports the local community, these efforts go a long way in the eyes of millennials; as 80% of younger decision makers agree that a company’s social and philanthropic efforts become a key factor in their purchase decisions to sweeten the deal.
Be human by finding a cause to stand behind that will connect to the hearts of millennials, after all relatability is the name of the millennial game. Don’t be a sales robot that just wants to push out product in any way possible. Millennials will be more likely to do business with you if they can see you are doing something to contribute to making the world, or even just your small community, a better place.
Keep millennials in mind when forming content for email, social media, website copy, and even video creation to convert younger leads into loyal buyers. With so many digital channels and platforms out there that millennials are on daily, the sky’s the limit as far as how to connect. As long as the fluff is removed, the content is engaging and relevant, and you as an organization realize that millennials are here to stay. Learning to speak the younger generations’ language is one of the key secrets of success as we move into the New Year.
Vice President of Strategic Marketing Services
An expert search, social and content marketer, Ryan leads Elevation Marketing’s digital strategy department, helping brands achieve their business goals, such as improving sales and market share, by developing integrated marketing strategies distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement and conversion. With a proven track record of energizing brands, engaging audiences and managing multidisciplinary marketing teams, Ryan is a respected expert in achieving consistent results through creative design, thought-provoking narratives and innovative problem-solving.