Does B2B marketing need to evolve?
From radio and television to social media, programmatic advertising, and the rise of influencers, it’s no surprise that marketing has evolved over the decades. But have you considered the audiences to which these ads are being catered? They too, are changing. As workforce demographics continue to shift, B2B marketers must consider the needs of today’s employees. Relying on past strategies just won’t do. Your business will be wise to rethink and get creative with its marketing strategies for the new decade ahead.
A recent article by Forbes warned readers of the impending demographic shift within the workplace. Within the next six years, three-quarters of employees will consist of millennials, creating a new set of buyers and decision-makers. This thought might invoke fear in some businesses, given the amount of influence millennials have had on other industries.
If you type “millennials killed” into Google, the auto-fill tool will present such options as “the power lunch,” “milk,” and “malls.” Times have changed, and several industries have failed to keep up with consumer demands. The same can be said for the B2B sphere, should marketing tactics remain unchanged. Millennials have taken matters into their own hands, forcing businesses to adapt or be left behind.
A McKinsey study found that less than 20% of buyers want to speak to a salesperson if they’re repurchasing a product. They’re also likely to do their research ahead of time if looking to make an initial purchase. The era of the all-knowing (and occasionally perceived as pushy) salesperson has been muted as the Internet has assisted with product reviews and demos, online discussions, and content marketing pieces. So how can brands close the gap? This is where less traditional marketing tools come into play.
Join the discussion: If you consider yourself a “mom and pop business” that has “all the customers we already need,” you really shouldn’t be discounting your business’ growing potential. (Yes, I’ve actually come across this!) You refuse to learn about what’s out there, and any prospective new clients won’t know about you, either. What to do? Get a website, get on social media, and start working on your content marketing. A stubborn attitude about marketing will not keep your business afloat forever.
Listen to what your customers want: How many times have you been shopping, and been approached by a sales associate, rambling on about the latest sales? What if you’re not interested in those sales, but are looking for a more niche offering? You might just decide to peruse the store on your own until you find said item. You might even leave! Consider this process before bombarding your prospects with information they may not want (or currently need), and instead, get to know them and their business better before making suggestions.
Highlight the benefits of working with your business: This can be a tricky one. Without sounding like a press release, showcase the realities your customers will face should they choose you. Devoted account managers? New learning opportunities? A partner portal that updates with statistics entailing your business relationship? These will help you set yourself apart from the competition. Consumers might want to come to their own decisions, but they also want to feel supported along the way.
Think about the future: You want to construct a future for your new customers with your business as a service provider. How will your working relationship, product offerings, and opportunities for upselling evolve over time? The stronger the relationship, the better your chances are that they will serve as brand ambassadors in the years to come.
If you thought that this past decade has flown by, then Forbes’ cautionary six-year window will be closing even sooner. Marketers will be wise to take a customer-focused approach when catering to millennial buyers in the years ahead. Millennials didn’t “kill” certain things – they simply took their business elsewhere when they found a better alternative or new opportunity. B2B marketing shouldn’t be purely ad-based; you must also consider the personal side of the working relationship.
Consider your current sales teams’ engagement tactics, and reflect how they should evolve to be successful in the 2020s and beyond. Come 2030, you won’t want your brand’s unwillingness to adapt to be known as a cautionary tale in your industry.