Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

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By Carolyn Baird

The Millennial generation, which prioritizes transparency, relevancy and engagement from consumer brands, has had a profound impact on consumer marketing practices. But will this fast-growing group, which is rapidly ascending to leadership positions within their organizations do the same for business-to-business (B2B) marketing?

In a just-released report by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) on the power of Millennials, the study reveals that Millennials’ high expectations as consumers are indeed impacting their expectations for their B2B client experiences.

The study, the second in a series titled, “To buy or not to buy: How Millennials are reshaping B2B marketing”, looked at a subset of survey respondents (more than 700) who influence or are responsible for B2B purchasing decisions for their organization. It dives into generational preferences for researching and engaging with B2B vendors and what ultimately impacts their decisions to pull the trigger and buy.

The first study in the series, “Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths – The real story behind Millennials in the workplace”, was released earlier this year and found that Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers share many of the same career aspirations and preferences for their work environment. Decision making was the one area where the study uncovered some key differences among the generations.

What’s a B2B Marketer to Do?

For starters, a mix of seamlessly integrated in-person and digital experiences is recommended for Millennials who place a high value on convenience. When researching B2B products and services, Millennials say the number one source they turn to is the vendor’s representatives.

But forget the sales pitch. What they are looking for is authentic, relevant, personalized interactions. And once the sales cycle begins, they would much rather engage vendors via digital, virtual means instead of face-to-face meetings. In fact, 69 percent say they would prefer email.

For Millennials—even more than their older colleagues—it’s all about having an easy, hassle-free client experience, on their terms. B2B vendors and marketers should assess their full client lifecycle to better understand where to make adjustments that will resonate with Millennials.

Data: The Key Ingredient

One decision making tool that Millennials and Gen X especially value is data and analytics. To make choices confidently, decision makers like to arm themselves with analytics tools and actionable data insights. B2B vendors and marketers should explore innovative uses of mobile, cloud and data analytics to help streamline the researching and purchasing process, providing quick access to the right information, when, where and how clients need it.

Reach the Influencers

When deciding whether or not to make a B2B purchase of US$10,000 or more, Gen X and Baby Boomers primarily rely on their personal impressions of the product or service. In contrast, Millennials first look to their organizations’ data analysis and to the opinions of family and friends. This poses an interesting challenge for B2B marketers trying to connect with Millennials.

Vendors need to consider the reach of their brand reputation, and by using social listening tools and data analytics, they can learn more about their prospects’ ecosystems in order to create new marketing strategies that influence the influencers, both inside and outside the client organization.

Spread the Word

Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

When Millennials are satisfied clients, they are happy to talk about their experience. Sixty-nine percent of Millennials say they are likely to post a compliment on a vendor’s Web site. B2B vendors and marketers need to make it easy for satisfied clients to tell their story through a variety of channels, including social media, blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts, panel discussions, and more.

If you’re worried about Millennials bashing your B2B brand online, your fears are misplaced. You should be more wary of Gen X and Baby Boomers. Only 10 percent of Millennials say they would post negative comments on social media, whereas twice as many Gen X and Baby Boomers say they would do it.

The time is now for B2B vendors and marketers to revisit their strategies to meet the needs of Millennial decision makers. To learn more, download a copy of the report, visit ibm.biz/millennialsb2b.

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