What B2B Marketers Need to Reach Millennials

When asked what will impact marketing the most in 2018, “73% of marketers think it’s artificial intelligence or a technology dependent on AI.” That’s the conclusion of a recent survey of 350 marketers, CEOs and influencers published by Mobile Marketer.

Put some PI in your AI

While I certainly agree that AI holds superior promise if you are marketing a B2C commodity, I think marketers need both AI and PI (prospect intelligence) when it comes to B2B marketing of high-consideration products and services. Here, the advantage lies with real insight into and empathy with the people who inhabit our classifications of prospect and customer.

Especially if they are Millennials, which may seem counter-intuitive. Given their immersion in technology, a technological solution seems like a no-brainer. I think that to be truly effective, we’ve got to start with the person.

Let me provide some context.

Reference the Cohort

The Pew Research Center offers a cohort perspective. At a high level, they counsel that studying the needs and preferences of a cohort, or generation of individuals, seeing how they change over time, and comparing them to other cohorts, provides a deeper understanding of the individuals within the cohort.

The implication for us is that by including cohort, or generation, into our persona and marketing process, we are better able to empathize with, and communicate with our prospect.

“An individual’s age is one of the most common predictors of differences in attitudes and behaviors.” And, I would add, a key to how they learn, what sources they trust, and how they communicate with colleagues and other members of the buying center.

Pew includes 5 cohorts, but for B2B marketing let’s narrow this down to 3 as these are the most likely to be participants in the buying center. In 2018:

• Boomers are 54 – 72
• Gen Xers are 38 – 53
• Millennials are 22 – 37

Some of Pew’s insights are edifying to us as marketers regarding our formation of messages and the channels we may select. We will focus on the millennials here.

Millennials Are On The Cusp

Millennials are the up-and-comers, and because of their technological orientation are likely to be strong influencers now. Also because of their immersion in technology, they are hard to reach, crouching under cover of the digital, protecting their anonymity. They carefully decide whom they listen to. Interpersonal communication and social skills do not come easily.

Millennials see technology, tweeting, social media, etc., as part of every day life and the mobile device is their primary way of connecting. The implications of growing up in an “always on” technological environment are only now coming into focus. Research is showing dramatic shifts from previous cohorts, attitudes and lifestyles, both positive and concerning.

Many came of age, and entered the workforce, at the height of the economic recession, which continues to shape their worldview. Their life experience (added by me) includes companies turning away from the “paternal organization”and the rise of executive greed.

Other influential events in the lives of Millennials:

• Talk shows / reality TV
• Oklahoma City bombing
• Busy planned lives
• School shootings
• Desert Storm
• Google

According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

• Millennials are on the cusp of surpassing Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.

• Women comprise a much greater share of the career-minded Millennial workforce.

The Bottom Line is Maximizing the Impact of Your Marketing

Said differently, will a marketing campaign based on AI, A/B testing or the like outperform the baseline? Absolutely.

But to get there, we have to throw out some messaging, over some channels that turns out to be ineffective. Will understanding the people first generate better results? Absolutely. Relying on someone else’s research is a start, but conducting your own prospect persona research is much more effective.

As my good friend Stuart Taylor, SVP of Nielsen, has said (and as I repeatedly come back to), “B2B is a personal sell. Always has been.”