Last week I looked at the different characteristics of the three generations of B2B customers – Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials (or Generation Y) in an infographic. Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are generally considered to be those born in the 1980’s to 2000’s as against Generation X; born in the 1960’s to 1980’s. Baby Boomers are the post war generation born between 1946 and the 1960’s.
The infographic was base on research by IBM into the buying habits of the three generations that uncovered some surprising and significant differences between them.
This week I am going to take the five main points of the research and lay out the implications for your marketing strategy.
Millennials want to talk to a representative – during the research phase
This might seem strange as we have come to regard the Millennial generation as the most digitally switched on, mobile and Internet savvy – but using online sources of information is a given for this generation, so what they need most is a sense of what a seller’s people are like. Can they work with this company? Are their people any good? Will they get good service? Most of all they want to establish a relationship and have their questions answered personally.
Trade shows, conferences and seminars can still hold some value, creating an in-person opportunity for potential buyers to query representatives about your product or service. But they are not likely to be the best place to close the deal. And in all probability you are only likely to touch a fraction of potential customers in this way. Making your experts and knowledgeable sales people available to buyers online during the research phase is important if your potential buyers are likely to be Millennials.
Different generations – different priorities
Whilst all three generations want competitive pricing, their remaining preferences are quite different when it comes to buying.
From this we can see it becomes crucial to know the age of your buyer(s) as they will be looking for different things. Never has the adage “Know Your Customer” been more relevant.
Your marketing and customer services teams will need to be geared up to meet the different expectations of the different generations.
For Millennials in particular, priority should be given to making the buying process easy and ensuring that dealing with your organisation is as painless as possible.
Given unlimited resources you could segment your market and tick all the boxes – otherwise you may have to concentrate on the main requirements of your most common generation of customer. Either way, you will need a process for identifying who they are.
Millennials have different buying influences
Although Millennials remain independent during the research phase, when the time comes to make a buying decision they are almost equally influenced by their organisation’s data analysis, by family and friends and by their own personal experience or impression of the product or service.
Generation X on the other hand, rely on independent analysts or industry experts and customer reviews as well as their own personal experience or impression of the product or service.
Although you have little, or no control over recommendations from friends and family, make sure that your marketing is clear and as far-reaching as possible. Take pains to ensure that buyers have the best possible impression of the product or service. Make sure that key influencers have all the information about your products and services and that you cultivate good relationships with influencers in your industry – the analysts and experts that your buyer respects.
Millennials share the love – not the pain
Interestingly, although Millennials may share their feelings more freely than previous generations in their personal lives – freely giving positive and negative feedback, when it comes to business, they rarely post negative comments. Older generations are far more likely to vent their frustrations in public. However, the big win here is that Millennials are happy to share their positive experiences.
Although you might think that Millennials would be the first to complain when things go wrong, this study tends to suggest that you will have a little more leeway to put things right with this younger generation than with their older predecessors. It also implies that you need to put in the effort for the older generation of buyers or they will complain. Make sure it’s easy for your customers to post reviews and share their love of your brand and their great experience with your product or service.
Younger Millennials prefer social during the sales cycle
Perhaps not a great surprise – but this study confirms that the younger the buyer, the more likely they are to want to connect on social media and through instant messaging.
If you are dealing with young buyers, be prepared to meet them on their own turf – on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and to communicate with them through the messaging channels they are most at home with. Don’t try and pressurise them through face-to-face meetings, but use email and phone to complete the sales process.
So if you know the generation your target customer belongs to – handling these five issues well should give you a better chance of keeping them happy and improving sales and customer satisfaction.