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What is the right way to market to millennials in B2B?

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Posted by , 8th June 2018

Exhibitors Only: Marketing to millennials

How marketing and content can help close deals with millennials

To say that marketing to millennials is a popular topic is an understatement. There are many articles, books, and posts on the subject. Here’s why.

Here in the United States, millennials are the largest demographic group at approximately 80 million people. That’s approximately, 25% of the population.

In the United Kingdom, millennials make-up approx 21% of the population. Just under 14 million people were born between 1982 and 1999.

In both countries and across the world, millennials represent a significant demographic group. Traditional marketing strategies are now evolving to be more in sync with the changing preferences that this shift in demography is bringing.

Yet, most articles on marketing to millennials seem more applicable to B2C than B2B.  So how should you think about marketing to millennials if you are in a B2B role?

Recognize the difference between Sales & Marketing

The first step is to understand the difference between sales and marketing. That distinction is often blurred but it can be clarified by function.

Marketing is content-driven because that is the most efficient way to interact with large numbers of people.  Sales are human-driven because the sales conversation is an interpersonal interaction that becomes a consultative, problem-solving dialogue.

Sales and marketing follow different processes. The people holding those roles have different skill sets, but they must work together as a single unit.

Frame things around the buyer’s decision journey

Marketing and Sales are both process-driven, each with a specific strategy to advance the prospect towards a purchasing decision.

It helps to think about the Buyer Decision Journey as an overlay atop both the marketing strategy and the sales process. The Buyer Journey is a 5-step progression:

  • Need Recognition: The buyer realizes that there is a problem worth fixing.
  • Information Search: The buyer explores alternatives.
  • Evaluation of Alternatives: The buyer develops product preferences.
  • Purchase Decision: The buyer commits to a specific vendor and becomes a customer.
  • Post-Purchase: You focus on increasing the lifetime customer value and the potential upsell.
Exhibitors Only: Marketing to millennials
Crossing the chasm

Within the context of the Buyer Decision Journey, it is important to orchestrate a smooth handoff from marketing to sales.

Most companies set their marketing strategy and their sales process in isolation without considering how the two intersect from the prospect’s viewpoint.  Mechanically, you need clear definition around when and how prospects are transferred from marketing to sales. And then how prospects are returned to marketing if the buyer is not ready.

Making sense of “Word Salad”

Merriam-Webster defines word salad as a “confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases.” That’s how most sales professionals think of terms like MQLs and SQLs.

To clarify, these are the typical definitions:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): A lead that demonstrated some level of interest that tells marketing this is a genuine lead.
  • Sales Accepted Leads (SAL): A marketing qualified lead (MQL) that has been reviewed and passed to the sales team for approval.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): Leads that have been sufficiently qualified by showing some intent to buy. They are converted into Opportunities that will end in a Win or Loss.

The real difference between an MQL and an SQL is that they are ready to make a purchase. That’s it.

Marketing develops the content plan with the singular purpose. That is, educating the prospects to the point where they are far enough along in their decision process to be handed over to sales.

The trick is getting the timing right so that salespeople don’t spend time calling prospects who are just not far enough along in their decision process.

Develop a content plan

Timing that handoff correctly is why the content plan should mirror the Buyer Decision Journey.  The intent is to spell out how you will engage with prospects when they are doing their initial research.

Then, to show how you will be one of the alternatives they consider for potential solutions. How you will make the short list when they form their product preferences.

If you build each piece of content for a specific purpose within a particular stage of the Buyer Decision Journey, your job of moving the prospect from stage to stage will be infinitely easier.

Content with a specific purpose

For example, sometimes content is built with the sole purpose of getting people to visit your website.  Not everything is designed to lead to a purchase. Instead, each piece of content should have a specific purpose but all fitting into a coherent path that guides prospects through their decision process.

Your content plan should be dynamic because it is a process just like the sales process. That means the content plan must be refined, adjusted, and optimized as new information becomes available. Just as you would with sales.

If the content plan is done well, potential buyers will see you as a source of trustworthy information. This feeling also provides your buyer with a strong sense of the value they would receive as your customer.

On lead scoring

Many companies use marketing automation platforms to execute their content plans.

These systems quantify a prospect’s interest level using a lead scoring index. The index enables you to attach values to each prospect based on their behavior. For example; how much time they spent on your website, how many whitepapers they downloaded, and whether they attended your webinars.

Without a clear series of events to alert marketing that the lead is ready for a sales conversation, sales reps might be calling on leads that are not ready. Or, they might miss opportunities by calling too late in the process.

Here are some of the specific ways that marketing helps win more business.

How marketing helps close deals
  1. Expertise: Both the product and the marketing team have a deeper understanding of the technology, product, or service than the sales. Marketing has a broader perspective on where your solutions fit within the industry. They are also more aware of how you compare to market alternatives. This added perspective goes a long way towards advancing the sale.
  2. Increased Sales Efficiency:  When marketing invests the time to build the content plan around the Buyer Decision Journey, the drip campaigns keep the prospects advancing towards the purchase decision. That’s incredibly important for keeping the sales team focused on the right prospects at the right time.
  3. Marketing Collateral:  The materials that marketing produces, specifically, case studies, ROI analyses, and competitive analyses, all add credibility which gives the buyer comfort in the purchasing decision. People make decisions on emotion and reinforce the decision with data. The marketing collateral is an essential element in the sales process.
  4. Competitive Intelligence:  In every sales conversation, the prospect wants to understand why your company is different. That differentiation is a central component of the content plan, so marketing is obsessive about your competitive positioning.  They will be the first ones to pick up on competitive changes and can telegraph that to the sales team so that they can adjust their sales pitch accordingly. That keeps sales current regarding what is happening in the market – because marketing is watching out for them.
  5. Creating Urgency: Sometimes sales stall because the buyer does not have a sense of urgency. Quite often, a tepid sense of urgency can trace back to something missed in the discovery phase of the sales process.  Regardless, marketing can be instrumental in creating limited-time offers that build a sense of urgency and help move the deal across the finish line. That is why it is essential that sales and marketing work in concert with one another to drive revenue growth.
What’s the right way to market to millennials in B2B companies?

If you are in a B2B company, the best way to engage millennials is to think about where they fit into the Buyer Decision Journey and how you can participate in a well-informed decision.

Most commentary talks about the choice of marketing channels like Facebook, YouTube, or other communication vehicles. Perhaps those are more relevant for B2C, but in B2B, those are tactical choices, not strategic decisions.

Granted millennials are more tech-savvy than previous generations because they grew up in the digital age. Setting that aside, millennials go through the same decision process that everyone else does. They want to do their research and make the best possible decision.  That means the framework for marketing to B2B millennials is pretty straight-forward:

  1. Build the content plan around specific stages in the Buyer Decision Journey
  2. Ensure a smooth, well-timed handoff from Marketing to Sales
  3. Initiate a thoughtful sales conversation built around the objectives the prospect wants to achieve

Everything beyond that is tactical, not strategic.

Exhibitors Only: Marketing to millennials

About the Author

Anna Kucirkova produces content for Connex Digital Marketing, a Texas-based company that helps businesses develop and grow their online presence.

Anna speaks 3 languages has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and SE Asia she still wants to explore the rest of the world. You can connect with Anna via LinkedIn .

Posted in Millennials  /  Stand Management  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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