How to connect with B2B millennials

Even though the oldest millennials will turn 38 in 2020 (based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s stats) marketers are still trying to figure the generation out. Visions of their teen behavior seem to linger (how long was this generation labeled “entitled”?) far past their natural expiration date.

This is particularly challenging for B2B companies. Millennials have taken over from boomers as the largest generation in the workforce. That means their business decision-making and purchasing power is increasing as they rise through the corporate ranks.

Millennials are also touted as digital natives who are online 24/7. But communications consultancy Ketchum asks, “What if companies have it all wrong?” To get the answer Ketchum conducted a study of B2B millennial decision-makers—Ketchum’s Face Value: Connecting with B2B Millennials which busted some commonly-help millennial myths.

  • Myth: Millennials are exclusively digital-first.
    Not so. According to the study 76% of respondents would rather build a personal relationship with a company than read its product emails, and 61% want new business meetings to take place face-to-face.
  • Myth: Millennials prefer pixels over people when seeking information.
    Actually, the study shows, colleagues, industry experts, vendors and academics are all trusted more than online channels or industry events. Millennials even trust friends and family (56%) more than conventional sources such as vendor websites (49%), trade media (47%) or marketing materials (46%).
  • Myth: Millennials are guided solely by a company’s reputation for doing good.
    Close to half (49%) of millennial B2B decision-makers think it’s very important to work with a company that has a strong social purpose. But they balance purpose with pragmatism: reliable service (81%) and cost (76%) rank highly.
  • Myth: Millennials prize work-life balance over working hard.
    They’re putting in the hours—lots of them. Nearly 40% spend five or more hours looking at work-related content outside of working hours. And, yes, they are always connected—but 40% like it that way, saying it’s part of their personality.

When it comes to building relationships with new B2B vendors and partners, millennial buyers prefer a personal touch—face-to-face meetings (61%) and phone calls (55%) rank higher than instant messaging (15%), texting (12%), and e-newsletters (7%).

“Digital and social media tactics and purpose initiatives remain important influences on purchase decisions, but the real ROI comes when millennial decision-makers believe you understand them uniquely. Most B2B companies are not yet investing in that level of audience insight or high-touch engagement,” says Melissa Kinch, partner and managing director, Technology at Ketchum.

Connecting with the #JOMO Generation

Ketchum’s study found that contrary to the notion that millennials are “social media-obsessed and have trouble adapting to the workplace, this generation seems to be earning its Burnout Generation label.” Almost half always bring work home and “68% say they feel like they are ‘always-on’ the job, even at home.” They’re not complaining though—40% say they actually like that feeling and they consider “always-on” part of their personality. Ketchum warns marketers not to inundate them—only 30% prefer reading marketing emails outside of work and 27% say they notice the emails but ignore them.

Kinch says, “It isn’t easy connecting with a generation that coined the hashtag #JOMO to celebrate the joy of missing out.” It’s critical to understand what motivates them—content that makes them heroes, delivered to them from companies that align with their values and interact with them as individuals.”

Get more information. Or download an executive summary of Face Value: Connecting with B2B Millennials.

Millennials stock photo by Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock