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If you sell products or services to other businesses, it’s time to update your marketing strategy for a new generation of buyers: millennials.
Think about it. What percentage of your staff is under the age of 35? I’m willing to bet it’s a sizable—and growing—number. If it’s not, you’re a rare breed; as of 2015, there are more millennials represented in today’s workforce than any other generation.
It certainly holds true for me. Millennials make up the majority of Blue Corona’s staff—and not just in junior roles. Out of our four-person executive team, I’m the only non-millennial.
In working with millennials so closely, I’ve noticed many differences from some of the more senior colleagues of my past. Among them—and one that matters to B2B businesses—is millennial buying behavior.
Google just released new research verifying my observations, and it got me thinking about the changing dynamic of B2B businesses. B2B used to be a sales game. Sales reps found buyers through cold calls, paid ads, or other aggressive—and sometimes annoying—tactics. There wasn’t much of an independent research phase—buyers mostly depended on information provided by the sales team pitching them.
Thanks to the web, that’s changed. Today’s B2B buyers grew up with a library of information at their fingertips. They didn’t know life before the Internet. They consider themselves well-informed. They want to find what they want—they don’t want to be found. Cold calls? Forget it—90 percent of millennials won’t take them. The majority of them (my team included) do not expect—or even want—to deal with a salesperson until the later phases of their buying journey. Even then, they come with their own agenda.
Over a third of millennial buyers expect a business website to be their most helpful resource. What does that mean for you? You need to rethink your digital marketing strategy to meet the demands of today’s buyers. They don’t want to wait for the information they’re seeking, they want to know-on-the-go, and they want your information to be easily accessible. That translates into three key action items for you and your team:
- Your website needs to be fast and secure
- Your website needs to be designed for mobile (not just mobile-friendly)
- You need to have rich, helpful content optimized for SEO
Your B2B Website Needs to Be Fast—and Secure
Millennials expect immediate gratification. They don’t like waiting—not for a cab, not through commercials, and not for a website to load.
It’s not just them, either. Forty percent of users will abandon a webpage if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
Think about that—three seconds. Otherwise, the back button is just a click away.
Want to know another huge turn-off to millennials? Unsecure websites. They grew up in a world of hackers and data breaches; they are well-aware of the dangers of putting personal information on an unsecured site. In the coming months, it will be even more obvious when your site isn’t secure as Google puts more emphasis on site security. I’m not a betting man, but I’d be willing to bet a “Not Secure” or “Dangerous” symbol at the top of every webpage is going to be bad for business—especially if you’re selling to millennials.
Your Website Also Needs to Be Designed for Mobile—Not Just Mobile-Friendly
B2B marketers are used to operating under the assumption that the majority of sales happen either offline or on a computer. Thanks to the continuing evolution of the smartphone, that’s not true anymore. According to joint research by Google and BCG, 50 percent of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones. BCG expects that figure to grow to 70 percent by 2020.
When was the last time you went to your website on a mobile device? Here’s a challenge for you: find a millennial (preferably one you know) and show them your mobile website. Ask them what they think. Ask them to fill out a contact form. If they don’t like it or if navigating is difficult for them, you have a problem.
A B2B buyer today expects the same type of experience as a B2C buyer. These buyers expect enhanced search functions, ratings and reviews, a clean and sensible design, and easy navigation. You are being compared to the absolute best experiences your buyer has had on the web. It doesn’t matter if that experience was on a B2C or B2B site.
Your Site Needs to Be Optimized for SEO
Search engines are the new B2B buyers’ #1 resource for researching business products; for 90 percent of them, it’s the first place they go. And, yes—because the millennial buyer has access to an infinite number of resources via the web, they’re incredibly well-informed.
Research from Google shows that this generation of B2B buyers is already 57 percent of the way down the path to a decision before they actually act on your site. On average, they do 12 searches before taking action on a specific site. So, your website needs to have engaging, detailed content about your services or products, and each page needs to be optimized for search engines with B2B SEO.
What do I mean by rich, engaging content? To name a few examples, I mean:
- Case studies
- Research/white papers and FAQs
Know where else you need great, sharable content? Your social media sites.
Research shows that social media plays an important role in three quarters of B2B purchases. This includes Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and even Instagram. Social media is where you need to tell your story and bring your brand to life.
How to Pivot Your B2B Digital Marketing Strategy
Now is the time to pivot your marketing strategy. You want to focus on the behaviors of today’s buyer and provide resources millennials are looking for to make independent decisions.
- The first thing you’ll want to do is test your website for site speed and mobile friendliness. If it’s neither of those things you need a new website.
- If it is mobile-friendly, take out your phone and look at your website from the eyes of a buyer. If your website doesn’t look like it was designed to be viewed on a mobile device, you need a new design.
- Test your website’s speed. Does it load in three seconds or less?
- If your site is mobile-friendly, looks good on mobile, and is fast enough, you need to get an SSL certificate to secure it.
- Once your website is fast, secure, and mobile-friendly, optimize all of your main service pages for SEO using language that speaks to millennials.
- After your main service pages, start to optimize your sub-pages; then, build out your blog.
- Once you’ve got your content under control, start (subtly) promoting yourself via social media channels and paid search ads.
- Lastly, develop a social media and branding strategy that highlights storytelling and visual content, including video
Whether you acknowledge it or not, you have a digital presence. Business buyers are making decisions about whether to hire you or not based on it. The digital expectations of all buyers increases every single day. Millennials represent the newest generation of business buyers, and their digital expectations are great.
Have you heard the saying, “if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got?” Well, in this case, it’s dead wrong. If you keep marketing the way you did in 2018, you will not get the same results in 2019.
Now is the time to make a change—and if you need help seeing the world through the Millennial lens, I can help. Trust me.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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