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Three Ways to Embrace the Transformative B2B Buyer

As an older workforce begins to transition out of the workplace, it has elevated Millennial audiences to the largest generation to be targeted by consumer brands and business-to-business (B2B) companies. For B2B marketers, it’s a revelation, requiring them to rethink and, in some cases, reinvent the traditional B2B customer journey, which is now being taken by a digital native audience that researches, chooses to engage and makes their purchasing decisions in much different ways than their Baby Boomer predecessors.

What’s influencing your purchasing decision? Online reviews? A recommendation from a friend or relative? Or perhaps detailed information displayed on the company’s website? Call me, or wait for me to call you? Depending on who you are, either some or all of these purchasing decisions will apply. A combination of age and your personal digital communication preferences will greatly influence how receptive you are to one of the choices above when it comes to the consumer and B2B sales journey and how it sways your purchasing decision.

“As more Millennials move into decision-making roles at work, or start their own companies where they are in charge, the influence they wield over B2B purchasing will only continue to grow.”

Defined by their high level of education, digital savviness and inherent nature of being highly connected and social, this IBM study has reclassified Millennials as the new decision makers for B2B vendors and purchasing.“Whether they are subject matter experts supporting a team decision or singularly responsible for selecting a vendor, Millennials are having a profound impact on their organizations and the B2B vendors who want to do business with them. As more Millennials move into decision-making roles at work, or start their own companies where they are in charge, the influence they wield over B2B purchasing will only continue to grow.” In fact, in 2021, 60% of all B2B tech purchases were made by Millennials. Additional B2B buying statistics about Millennials that you should be aware of include:

How to Sell to Millennial B2B Buyers

Embracing the Transformative B2B Buyer

With their smart phone in hand, these new purchasing decision makers will begin their due diligence through online research, visiting the vendor’s website, reading online reviews and using social media as way to round out their online research. From here, they rely on their personal network by reaching out to peers and colleagues for their opinions and to learn more about a product or service. According to this article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), it appears that the salesperson may be obsolete. “Contacting a salesperson occurs later in the typical purchase process, and sometimes not at all. By the time a sales rep gets involved, buyers already have a wealth of information about company reputation, product specifications and reviews of successes or failures.”

Here are three ways B2B products and services organizations can embrace the transformative B2B buyer:

How Actionable Is Your Product’s or Service’s B2B Digital Footprint?

This statement from the author of the previously cited HBR article embodies the importance of positive brand perception, informative content and product validation: “First impressions matter as much as ever in B2B markets. Today, though, that first look comes through websites, user forums and quick case studies, not flesh-and-blood sales pitches. The key question for a vendor: Does your online footprint communicate your chosen elements of value?”

Too many B2B websites get bogged down with so much jargon that it completely obscures the organization’s or product’s “Elements of Value” and how the product or service benefits the customer. The website should allow the prospect multiple entry points to discover, learn and validate how the product or service reduces costs, saves time, and integrates across and connects the purchaser’s organization.

“Too many B2B websites get bogged down with so much jargon that it completely obscures the organization’s or product’s “Elements of Value” and how the product or service benefits the customer.”

To increase category discoverability and relevance, an SEO/SEM and content strategy should be devised that increases awareness, further educates prospects and drives a lower cost of acquisition across search, digital media, and retargeting and social.

What Can You Learn from Consumer Brands?

As Millennials migrate their consumers’ habits over to B2B, B2B will need to intertwine their products or services with an emotional side that connects to their customers in ways that are authentic and transparent. These emotional triggers should tap into how they can get more done, save time, or stand out against the competition.

B2B can do this is by incorporating storytelling that conveys emotion and empathy. By humanizing their product or service, B2B organizations are walking in the shoes of their customer and are straightforward about how they are removing business pain points for them. Another approach to demonstrating customer empathy is to maximize the discoverability of customer reviews.

As suggested here, “Reviews will tell the buyer how a vendor performs on many ease-of-doing-business elements long before the buyer has actual experience with that vendor. So, vendors must curate their online content deliberately and constantly, and they should encourage customers who are advocates of the company to provide reviews on relevant sites. Many B2B providers lag on these activities, choosing to invest more in their salesforces than in their online presence.”

“B2B vendors must curate their online content deliberately and constantly, and they should encourage customers who are advocates of the company to provide reviews on relevant sites. Many B2B providers lag on these activities, choosing to invest more in their salesforces than in their online presence.”

Create Opportunities for Free Trials

As stated above, Millennials trust their prior experience with the product, free trials, product demos and user reviews more than other resources. Consider these quotes from this survey about what Millennial B2B buyers want:

“Offer more free trials—the best way to see if you like a product is to try it!”

“I wish vendors would be more supportive when it comes to your needs and your time and be more flexible when it comes to trial versions and extended trial licenses.”

“Contactless trials and demos would be nice. Making it so that I don’t have to reach out to be approved to just see what the tool can do would make me more likely to proactively try out products when I don’t know whether or not we need them.”

“Extend free trials because we need to respond rapidly so we don’t have time to run through a budget review process to determine if a product is worth it. If they let us trial it, that will be the main reason we make the purchase ultimately.”

“I wish vendors would be more supportive when it comes to your needs and your time and be more flexible when it comes to trial versions and extended trial licenses.”

B2B product and service providers have the opportunity to close the marketing and sales gap by first understanding where their current product marketing and traditional sales efforts need to evolve, or at the very least start to explore new ways that allow them to demonstrate that they understand how the transformative B2B buyer thinks, acts and how they want to be communicated with.

Questions? Or if you’re looking for guidance about how you can redefine your B2B brand and product marketing strategy to reach Millennials, email me here

As always, thank you for reading.

Photo by ZHENYU LUO on Unsplash