As I noted in a previous article, demographic “generations” — like baby boomers and millennials — are an artifice created by marketers and the media as a way to reach out to individuals of a certain age. Cara Salpini (@CaraSalpini) observes, “There’s a lot to be said for generational marketing, but retailers should really focus on using it to identify generational channels or trends, rather than as the linchpin of their marketing strategy. … And finding the right channel to market on is a great example.” Finding the right marketing channel is particularly important for younger generations, like millennials. If you don’t know the channels millennials are using, you’re never going to get to starting gate let alone win the race to reach them. Following the publication of an earlier article about targeted marketing approaches for millennials, John Hawthorne sent me a link to an article he had written on the subject for Triple 20, a company that helps sales teams through process improvement, training, and coaching. John gave me permission to republish his article in full.
“5 Key Tactics for Marketing to Millennials” by John Hawthorne
At some point in the near future, regardless of whatever industry you are in, you will realize that a large percentage of your buyers are millennials. After all, there are more than 80 million millennials in America right now and they outnumber baby boomers. But marketing to millennials is different than traditional marketing, so without the right strategies, you could be at a real competitive disadvantage.
Generally speaking, millennials are currently in the age group between 18 and 35 as cited here by the University of Southern California and they make up about 40% of the American population. With those kinds of numbers, it is reasonable to conclude that millennials presently hold a large number of leadership positions in American businesses and that number will continue to grow.
Yet, millennials are quite different from previous generations, especially when it comes to online behavior. That’s why marketing to millennials requires a different approach to capture their attention.
This is a generation for whom smartphones are an integral part of life and business, so naturally, they rely on digital media more than traditional media channels as primary sources of information. The USC article shows how millennials make up the smallest percentage of newspaper and magazine readers but they are the heaviest users of social media to learn about new products, follow brands, and interact with businesses.
Social media is not just for B2C companies; it is important for B2B companies too. It takes a different approach, but B2B companies need a social media marketing strategy to engage with millennial buyers. And companies like Oktopost are trying to help B2B companies understand the return on investment from their social media expenditures.
How might you refine your marketing to effectively engage with millennials? Here are 5 suggestions:
(1) Focus on Building Relationships
The millennial generation places a strong emphasis on building relationships and the use of websites, social media, and other technology to achieve this. They don’t want to be barraged with advertising. Instead, they want to be included in a broader conversation about why a particular product or service is a good choice. And they want their opinions to help shape the future direction of products and services.
When it comes to selling to and partnering with businesses owned and operated by millennials, simply having a digital presence isn’t sufficient. Instead, the key to engaging and selling to this generation of B2B buyer is to create a user-centric environment.
User-centric content is simply content that is interactive. Perhaps that means engaging with your prospects on social media or creating insightful content that adds value and can be shared with colleagues.
Ultimately, the best way to interact with the millennial B2B buyer is to establish an authentic, transparent relationship where you focus on helping them solve their business problems.
(2) Engage with Your Audience
Engaging with your online audience becomes part of the ongoing sales conversation. It is another opportunity to solicit their input, to get more clarity on what you can do to work with them, and how you can collaborate to make things possible.
And it appears that millennial buyers want to have that conversation. For example, a staggering 90% of millennials are positively inclined to answer questions on social media. They think it is informative and productive as opposed to being annoying. They are willing to engage with you provided you are willing to put forth the effort.
(3) Bring Live Video into the Mix
Using livestream video is becoming an increasingly important communication vehicle. That is why tools like Facebook Live, Instagram Live and Snapchat are some of the most popular tools amongst marketing professionals trying to appeal to millennial buyers.
SproutSocial notes that 81% of internet users watched more live stream content in 2016 than the year prior, and that trend will continue. Accordingly, Facebook and Instagram are heavily promoting live video, which means they’ll show it to more people than they do written content.
Facebook even recently reported that live videos drive much more engagement, with about 10 times more comments because of the real-time connection between users.
Implementing live video streams into your marketing strategy can give you a unique, real-time content source that helps you directly connect with your audience and build a loyal following.
(4) Develop Authenticity
According to Hubspot, about 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news, which is not surprising since we seem to be in the age of fake news. The point is that millennials value relevant, authentic opinions, not unsubstantiated claims.
That means they trust candid opinions, customer reviews, and authentic commentary far more than sponsored content. Hubspot reports that 84% of millennials say that user-generated content influences their buying decisions and 73% think that it is important to read others’ opinions before making a purchase. That shows how important user reviews are for your marketing initiatives.
One might think that user-generated reviews are for B2C companies and aren’t that relevant for B2B companies but that would be a mistake. Studies show that 97% of B2B buyers say that user-generated reviews are more authentic than any other type of content, and Software Advice found that nearly 60% of software buyers were likely to choose a product based on reviews.
That’s why it is important for B2B and B2C companies alike to encourage user reviews on their sites, to provide case studies and testimonials, and to intentionally develop a transparent, direct way to communicate with your customers and prospects.
(5) Create Authoritative Content
It used to be that authority was a function of brand equity. If you had brand recognition, you didn’t need to prove to buyers why you were valuable because you already had the credibility of your brand. Nowadays, the abundance of alternatives means that millennial buyers are less likely to purchase simply on brand reputation. Authority has to be earned.
One of the best ways to do that is to create insightful content on a variety of platforms. That content may take many forms, but the key is that it provides value. When you provide value through high-quality content over a sustained period of time, it reinforces your authority in the industry, it builds your credibility as a thought leader, and it gives your audience increased comfort in your ability to deliver results.
Despite the way millennials are portrayed in satire, they will soon become the driving force behind American business so if your B2B marketing plan does not factor in a way to engage with the millennial buyer according to their communication preferences, perhaps it should.
 Stephen DeAngelis, “Targeted Marketing to Generations is becoming Passé,” Enterra Insights, 20 March 2018.
 Cara Salpini, “Why generational marketing could send retailers back to the drawing board,” Retail Dive, 14 February 2018.
 John Hawthorne, “5 Key Tactics For Marketing To Millennials,” Triple 20, 7 February 2018.