We all know that Millennials are out-of-control college kids doing shots on Spring Break. And Gen Z are the 10-year-olds currently being raised by TikTok, right?
Hold onto your hats: The youngest Millennials are in their late-twenties. The oldest Gen Zs are 25 — that means they’re out of school and in the workforce. These two demographics are the fastest-growing cohort of B2B buyers.
And they don’t think like Boomers or Gen Xers.
So how do B2B marketers reach these mysterious digital natives? Here are a few pointers.
How to Connect with the New B2B Buyer
You don’t need the latest slang to speak authentically to younger audiences (though I find the new slang totes yeet). Just keep in mind these preferences.
1 — Omnichannel or Bust
Digital natives grew up with the Internet and Gen Z grew up with social media. They’re used to having the answer to any question at their fingertips. They’re also accustomed to multi-threaded conversations: For example, they can start with a social media direct message, continue in text, and end with a quick call. If the only way to interact with your brand is on a phone call, you might as well insist people use semaphore.
Here’s how dramatically the landscape has changed: In 2016, the average B2B buyer used five different channels to interact with suppliers. In 2021, the average was ten channels.
But it’s not just about how many channels you’re on; it’s the experience you provide across channels. Omnichannel means that instead of thinking in terms of channels (ie, Facebook, SMS, chatbot, voice), you think in terms of a single conversation. Every person who interacts with a buyer on behalf of your brand should have access to the entire conversation history.
If someone can interact with the brand across multiple channels with a single seamless experience, they are more likely to choose your brand at decision-making time. That’s especially true for younger demographics, but it also applies across the board.“If someone can interact with the brand across multiple channels with a single seamless experience, they are more likely to choose your brand at decision-making time.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites Click To Tweet
2 — Multimedia Is Mandatory
In the last few years, B2B marketers have finally pulled away from the static white paper or downloadable eBook as their primary content focus. While these old standbys still have a place in the marketing mix, top-of-funnel content must be more engaging to earn attention.
Video, audio, motion graphics and interactivity all help your brand’s story to come to life for your buyer. In a way, it’s an “omnimedia” approach; Gen Z and Millennials are used to seeing all different types of media in their social feeds. They don’t think twice about, say, a video embedded in a text document — it’s the expected experience.
For inspiration: Our client Prophix wanted a futuristic-feeling asset to promote the idea of AI in Finance. The end project includes animation, video, and an interactive audio feature.
3 — Sincerity Is the New Snark
Ironic detachment hit its peak in the 1990s. From Friends and Seinfeld to Wayne and Garth, it was all about delivering maximum sarcasm with minimal emotional investment. The Gen X motto — if we committed to something as uncool as a motto — would have been, “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”
If you’re a product of the Age of Detachment, it’s time to re-engage. Caring is cool again — feeling emotions, talking about them, supporting other people and lifting them up, the whole package. Think more Ted Lasso and less Chandler Bing.
In short, digital natives want to see the people behind your brand. They want to know your brand’s values and purpose, and they want to see those values in action. If your brand is too stand-offish, it won’t read as professional; it will seem impersonal.
4 — Let Down Your Gates
The conventional wisdom used to be that any substantial asset should be behind a gate. Give away a few tidbits, a blog post or two, but keep the really valuable stuff behind a lead gen form. Give away the trailer and sell the movie.
That approach doesn’t fly with Gen Z and young Millennials, for one simple reason: They already have unlimited access to an enormous amount of content on any subject imaginable. The odds are slim that any brand’s new eBook would be novel and useful enough to earn a form fill.
Our agency has found consistent success by giving away the good stuff and gating an add-on. For example, client Mitel has this beautiful interactive asset that they offer without a gate: The Future Now of Work. One added benefit is that the influencers featured (more on that later) are more likely to share an ungated asset, too.
Consider making your best content as easy to access as possible. For your lead gen forms, offer a download like a checklist, template or other useful tool.
5 — Find the True Influencers
To reach younger people with influencer content, you need to go back to the original meaning of “influence.” It’s not about who has the biggest following or the most retweets — it’s who actually inspires their followers to take action.
The career “influencer” with a million followers may look enticing, but the YouTuber with just 10,000 passionate subscribers is a better bet. Look past the numbers and look at who is actively engaging with their audience, building community and trust in their thought leadership.
Even better, look for influential people who are passionate about the subject you want to cover, people who share your brand’s values and point of view. Instead of paying them to endorse a product, invite them to co-create content with the brand. The end result is bound to be more engaging, more useful, and something an influencer will be excited to promote.
The Kids Are Alright
Look, I get it: It’s still weird to me that people can be born in the 90s. Now, suddenly the 2000s kids are hitting the workforce. It’s tempting to shake my cane and demand that they get off my lawn.
As a marketer, however, I’m glad to see them. The digital natives aren’t going to settle for boring, overly promotional, or insincere content. It’s going to be a challenge to make sure our marketing meets and exceeds their expectations. But it’s a challenge that will ultimately make our marketing better for everyone — even cynical Gen Xers like me.
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