B2B marketing is shifting its focus from decision-makers in the Baby Boom and Generation X demographics to Millennials. The younger generation, which has increasing influence over B2B decisions, is always connected, tech-saturated, and cost-conscious.
Two new studies show that though overarching B2B trends have remained fairly constant in the past few years, on a granular level, what's driving lead generation is changing. IBM and Google recently completed studies on Millennials in B2B decision making, and they're debunking myths about how B2B lead generation is done.
IBM's Study of Millennials and B2B Decisions
IBM surveyed 704 participants to determine behavior and priorities in the workplace for Millennials, focusing on buying habits of those who influence business purchases of $10,000 or more. Responses by Millennials (born from 1980-1993) were compared to those from those in Generation X (1965-1979) and Baby Boomers (1954-1964).
Millennials prioritize ease of doing business before industry expertise. Majorities of both Millennials and Gen X-ers say they make better decisions through collaboration, while only 39% of Baby Boomers do. Baby Boomers also place less stock in data for driving decision-making than their younger counterparts do, and your lead generation efforts should consider this.
The Google-Millward Brown Digital Study
Google, in partnership with Millward Brown Digital surveyed 3,000 B2B researchers concerning their use of search, mobile, and video, as well as their purchase habits. They found that 46% of potential B2B buyers today are Millennials, up from just 27% in 2012, making Millennials the biggest generational group influencing B2B purchasing.
If you're a B2B marketer and you think Millennials aren't making major B2B decisions, it's time to think again and adjust lead generation strategies accordingly. Just three years ago there was a balanced mix of age groups making B2B decisions, but the number of 18- to 34-year-olds doing B2B research and making decisions has increased by 70% since 2012.
Today's B2B Search Process
People searching for B2B solutions start with generic queries. That means you need to position your business for good generic search visibility to capture eyeballs at the very beginning of the lead generation path. Contact with a sales professional comes later, so you have to present your value proposition earlier than you might have thought. Many purchase relationships happen exclusively (or almost exclusively) online, so things like social media outreach and blogging are important to make sure lead generation is possible at multiple points along the buying journey.
Mobile First and Everywhere
Today's B2B decision-makers use mobile devices heavily throughout the purchase process. Mobile usage has only increased by 6% since 2012, but how people use their smartphones is changing. Mobile queries have grown tremendously during that time period, for instance.
Millennials researching B2B purchases don't only use mobile when they're away from their Wi-Fi network, but wherever they are, including the office. They use mobile devices to compare prices, research products, compare features, and contact B2B sales professionals. They also use them to make purchases, so you ignore your brand's mobile experience at your peril.
Data and Collaboration Are Key Points
Data and opinions of peers are the two biggest considerations when Millennials make B2B purchases. Peer opinions may come from outside the industry from people with little or no knowledge of particular vendors. Millennials make decisions informed both by hard and fast numbers, and by intangible "gut feelings" and opinions of those who know them best, according to the IBM study.
Businesses that employ Millennials in B2B decision-making capacities need to provide them with data and analytical tools, but should also encourage collaboration, which these younger workers want before making important buying judgments. Before pulling the trigger, Millennials seek information across their organization, from vendors, and from peers, and your lead generation efforts should be evident in many places during this process.
B2B marketers must understand that many decision-makers are younger than they expect, and they need to reach them early and often, with rich, informative content that's readily available on mobile platforms. Search, mobile, and video are all important in influencing Millennials' B2B choices, and providing what is needed for good lead generation requires that you have outstanding marketing data that's clean, timely, accurate, and non-redundant.
SmartForms by ReachForce ensures your lead generation efforts bear maximum results. By appending, enriching, verifying, and cleansing data captured by lead generation forms, SmartForms ensures you don't waste time in reaching B2B decision-makers. Fuel your marketing engine with high quality data, and you can give B2B decision-makers what they need to see that your solution is the right one. If you'd like to know more get our demo or try out SmartForms for free. See for yourself how committed we are to helping companies make the most of their marketing data.