Millennials are changing the B2B tech market. Tech buyers really hate B2B marketing tactics. And today’s buyers rely on five primary sources of information to make decisions.
Those were a few of the findings from the 2021 B2B Buying Disconnect report, published by TrustRadius at the end of 2020.
Now, a new TrustRadius study, How to Sell to Millennial B2B Buyers, expands on that research and adds many key new findings.
The B2B Marketer-Buyer Disconnect
Among the most important takeaways from the year-end report were:
- Buyers consistently use these top five information sources to make purchasing decisions:
- Product demos;
- Vendor/product websites;
- User reviews (nearly half of buyers use reviews as part of their purchase process);
- Vendor sales reps; and
- Free trials/accounts.
- Gen Z and Millennial buyers are 2X more likely than older generations to discover a product by searching online. SEO really really matters.
- “When asked what their marketing pet peeves were, buyers’ number one and two responses were marketing emails and sales cold calls…(which) highlights the growing disconnect between tech marketers and their buyers…Over 90% of buyers say they are ‘not likely at all’ to respond to non-personalized messages and cold calls.”
How to Sell to Millennial B2B Tech Buyers
So, what’s changed over the past nine months? Here are some of the key findings from the most recent TrustRadius study, which builds upon the “disconnect” report.
Millennials are now the majority of B2B purchasers. 60% of all B2B tech buyers are millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996); this generation accounts for 51% of “Lead Buyers” and “Financial Approvers.”
Search, trials, and reviews matter. Millennials are twice as likely to discover products through online search compared to older generations. And when researching products, millennials trust their own prior experience with the product; free trials and product demos; and real-world user reviews more than other resources.
Analyst reports don’t. “Less than 20% of millennials use analyst rankings and reports. Millennials are 20% less likely to use analyst rankings and reports than baby boomers. Gen Z buyers are 30% less likely.”
Three More Bits of Guidance
There were also some “yes, but” findings from the research. First, millennials generally don’t place much trust in marketing collateral and website copy (ouch!). But “millennials do appreciate vendors that are forthcoming about their limitations.”
The message for marketers: avoid excessively promotional rainbows-and-unicorns “our product is the greatest thing since sliced bread!” type copy. Play it straight. Use precise, descriptive language (the words your buyers use). Our product provides (benefit) by (capability or feature). Acknowledge limitations and where it doesn’t fit.
Let your customers speak for you (encourage and quote reviews). And offer a free trial if possible to let millennial buyers prove it for themselves.
Millennials also don’t place a lot of trust in vendor sales reps. But they value straightforward responses and fair pricing. “One of the only times millennials interact with vendor reps is to confirm product limitations and negotiate pricing. A B2B sales rep can make or break the deal by providing open feedback, quick responses, and a pricing plan that works.”
Furthermore, per the report, “Vendors do still play a role with millennial buyers…Over half of millennials use vendor or product websites to make decisions. And over 40% use a vendor representative in their B2B buying process…(but) vendors are facing a crisis of trust. To get through to millennials, you need to invest in making your product more accessible to them.”
And create content that helps younger marketers do their jobs better. Then make that content easy to find in search.
Finally, there’s the matter of social justice and corporate responsibility. From the report, “Millennials care about social good. They lean into activism. They care deeply about social issues and support the causes they believe in.” That can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored, but how vendors address this matters.
Be positive. Focus on what you care about, are in favor of, and value as a company, much more so than what you are against.
Pick your battles. Your ultimate responsibility as a business leader is to act in the interest of your customers, shareholders, and employees. Don’t shy away from taking a stand when it really matters, but also don’t risk unnecessarily alienating significant percentages of all three groups about trivial or peripheral issues.
Be inclusive. Be a uniter, not a divider. Focus on ways to bring people together rather than contributing to societal division. After all, as one final item the report notes: “In business, millennials value being collaborative.”