How do Millennials in the workplace select vendors of products and services?

Young business people in an abstract office environment are sitting in yoga lotus-pose and relaxing.

There’s been plenty of articles written about how to target Millennial consumers. But what about reaching them as buyers or influencers of decisions related to the purchasing of products and services necessary to run, for example, a mortgage company? Many times, they are the “gatekeepers” if not the final decision-makers you need to impress.

Since 2010, a strong majority of Millennials have assumed management positions, versus their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.  In fact, according to the Google/Millward Brown Digital “B2B Path to Purchase Study,” last year Millennials made up almost half (46%) of B2B buying decision makers. And, with a growing number of U.S. executives becoming eligible for retirement, the percentage of Millennial decision-makers and influencers will continue to grow. 80 million strong, this demographic segment will comprise 50% of the country’s working population within the next five years.

All of this means Millennials are becoming increasingly influential when it comes to choosing vendors of business products and services.

Who they are…and how they roll

The oldest among them were born in 1980. This means the Internet, reality shows, smart phones and social media have largely defined how they get their information, are entertained, and communicate with the rest of the world. These “digital natives” as a general overview don’t like to leave messages, prefer texts over emails and phone calls, and trust the Internet for their information more than traditional media.

In the workplace, Millennials are driven by collaboration. They are similar to their other generation colleagues in terms of their career attitudes and aspirations, but are unlike them when it comes to making decisions. They believe the more colleagues that have input, the better a decision will be. Certainly, they will use data to make an informed decision about what firms to consider, but they’ll also seek out assurance from their peers at work to confirm their selection. Alternatively, Boomers are much more likely to operate autonomously when it comes to making a decision to select a vendor or purchase a product. Gen Xers, on the other hand, simply want to be satisfied.

Another workplace expectation of Millennials is convenience. This attribute speaks to how and when they collect data to support a purchasing decision, as well as how they communicate with their B2B vendors. They expect ease when it comes to doing business with a vendor – when they are researching alternatives, entering into the sales cycle, and after their purchase has been made.

One more generational difference worth noting is how much Millennials value industry and marketplace expertise. In other words, they won’t make time for those who approach them with one-size-fits-all sales pitches or solutions. They prefer meaningful, personalized and relevant experiences with vendor representatives who understand their business. They must truly believe in your brand and expect honesty.

These three attributes were identified in an important generational study conducted in 2014 by IBM’s Institute for Business Value entitled “How Millennials are Reshaping B2B Marketing.” The study focused on how Millennials operate in the B2B world as compared to their other generational counterparts.

As a B2B company that provides services in the mortgage industry, your job is to understand and embrace an approach that matches the distinct decision-making process of your Millennial prospects. Knowing how to communicate with them will become critical to your success in the years ahead.

5 Must Dos When Marketing Business Solutions to Millennials

  1. Become a good story teller. Just like in the B2C world, this is also important in the B2B world because of Millennials’ distinctly different research and decision making methodologies. For example, if a Millennial has narrowed the field to several mortgage loan origination system providers, the one they ultimately select will strike a chord of authenticity. To accomplish this, create a meaningful story for your brand – one that’s based on your “why.” Beyond how your technology works, why should they want or really desire to work with you instead of your competition? What’s the story behind your company? Why was it formed and why will you be successful? Answers to these questions help you develop your story to help them connect with you.
  2. Speak to their values in a manner that makes them comfortable. Enhance your approach so that it incorporates those things that are most meaningful to Millennials, such as passion, discovery, and sharing among others. Ensure that your USPs (Unique Selling Points) are both transparent and thoughtful and run deeper than product/service benefits. If they are, then you will be able to connect with Millennials on a personal level. At the same time, Millennials prefer a more relaxed style of interacting to formality, so be open to more relaxed conversational tactics.
  3. Get mobile. More than half of workplace Millennial decision makers use mobile devices to research their purchases (source: Acquity Group). This means you must make your website easy to navigate on a smart phone or tablet. And, make sure they can easily connect with you by simply tapping on your phone number and email. If they cannot easily find information on and understand your offering or reach you quickly, they’re gone. While you’re at it, determine how a mobile strategy (apps, opt-in text alerts, etc.) could be incorporated into your communications plan.
  4. Embrace video. This demographic grew up with YouTube. In fact, 70% of those researching B2B products and services watch video as part of their “buyer path” (source: Ad Age). Therefore, you should look for ways to incorporate videos and video chat into your website, whether they are product demonstrations or client testimonials. Or, consider posting videos on your blog that address frequently asked questions or tips for using your products and services more effectively.
  5. Cast a wider communications net. Because workplace Millennials rarely make purchasing decisions in isolation, it is important to target your marketing efforts to other key individuals within each prospect company that can influence a decision. You should also maintain a strong presence across multiple social media platforms to ensure you are reaching a broader cross-section of Millennials and the colleagues that influence their purchasing decisions. It’s also a good way to facilitate communication among all parties.

For B2B that provide products and services to the mortgage industry, marketing to Millennial decision makers can pose a new challenge. But, the truth is, they are not altogether that different from other generations. Their wants and needs are the same as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers – they just use different tactics and tools to answer them. By internalizing how Millennials think and operate and embracing what’s important to them, your marketing efforts will truly resonate with them and you’ll win their business.