Yes, I'm writing about millennials again. Because with greater numbers of those in the 18-34 age bracket entering the workforce, and becoming increasingly involved in buying decisions, the B2B industry simply can't afford to ignore this influential demographic.
According to last year's US Census Bureau, millennials outnumbered baby boomers in the US to become the biggest generational group. But how does this affect B2B sales and marketing, exactly?
There are loads of studies out there about millennials, but not too many that focus on them from a B2B buying perspective. That's why I was particularly interested to come across a recent study by Sacunas, reported on the Customer Think website, which looked specifically at the behaviours and preferences of millennial B2B buyers.
The research, which questioned 2,000 millennials from across the US, actually defined millennials as those aged 20-35. Those surveyed were either working in part- or full-time positions, or they were self-employed.
The key takeaway from the survey is that millennials are already shaking up the B2B sector - nearly three-quarters (73%) are already involved in purchasing decisions at their company, with 34% saying they were their department's sole decision maker.
So, what channels do they prefer?
As you might expect, the survey found that millennial buyers have a clear preference for digital communication channels. Some 85% said they used social media to research products or services, and more than half (56%) cited digital channels - such as websites, social media and search engines - as being the most crucial channels for their research.
What's more, these young bucks really love their smartphones: 82% of respondents said that mobile devices were somewhat or very important for researching new products and services.
And what about content?
When asked which content format was the most important when researching a company, video came top of the polls with 29%; this was followed by case studies (19%), white papers (16%) and brochures (15%). So, more than with any other age group, B2B marketing content has to be engaging and visual to appeal to millennial buyers.
Other research into B2B buying preferences has given a somewhat conflicting view about the importance of social media in the buying process, with some studies suggesting that it plays only a minor role. However, Sacunas' study confirms that millennial buyers are using social media even more than their older counterparts, and they expect to connect with brands through entertaining and engaging content. In fact not dissimilar to a B2C relationship.
What do you make of these findings? Will social media inevitably become ever more important in the B2B arena as millennials rise up the career ladder?