On their Terms: Millennials Shift the B2B Buying Journey

Author: Antje Helfrich
9 / 4 / 2019

Enterprise technology buying is changing, driven by two major trends: the consumerization of B2B and a generational shift as Millennials step into decision-making roles. This has implications for everyone working with Millennials throughout the B2B buying journey – and ultimately the journey of turning customers into advocates.

The Consumerization of B2B

Increasingly, B2B buyers have been approaching the technology purchase process through the lens of B2C. 81% of buyers indicate that the experience a company provides is as important to them as its products and services. They expect an Amazon-like experience with a high degree of self-service and personalized offers, and they are ready to take their business elsewhere if their needs are not met.

This shift in expectations is led by Millennials, who grew up with technology and online shopping, and who today make up over 35% of the total US workforce.

A Generational Shift in the Buying Committee

Millennials are firmly established as part of the technology purchasing process for their companies, with 73% of them providing input and 34% assuming the role of decision-maker. They bring different attitudes and needs to the buying process:

• They expect sellers of products and services to tailor their engagement to their individual needs and preferences. Millennials don’t want to be sold to: they want to buy on their terms.
• They are comfortable using a broader variety of channels, devices and technologies – expecting a consistent experience throughout.
• They look for self-discovery and self-service both pre-sale and post-sale – and immediate real-time communication when raising their hand.

These generational traits have implications for the whole buying journey, from pre-sales to deployment and from onboarding to customer advocacy.

Marketing, Sales and the emerging Customer Success functions are all impacted and have to adapt to new expectations and behaviors:

Sales & Marketing: Marketers need to reach Millennial buyers in their preferred channels; this includes B2B ads on social channels and investing in podcast advertising over TV ads. Leading their marketing effort with brand and experience, un-gating content, highly personalizing the messaging, and providing pricing transparency are all ways in which marketers capture buyers’ continued attention and interest.
Today’s buyers are well informed by the time sellers have their first touchpoint. They are educated and prepared and don’t want sellers to waste their time. Sales professionals need to meet buyers where they are in their journey, and personalize their value prop, communications and offers.

Customer Success: Customer success managers are the business world’s loyalty marketers. B2B companies need to take clues from B2C and use proven practices for developing deep brand relationships, which turn customers into advocates – and advocates become your best sellers. Customer success managers need to provide a great experience for Millennial business customers and help them get the most value out of their product or service. These customers expect to be served through a variety of channels from SMS to chat bots, with a consistent experience across all channels. Most importantly, as trust has become a key ingredient of what buyers are looking for in a technology provider, customer success managers need to become trusted advisors if they want to grow their customers.

Modern B2B Marketing

Atlassian, which generated over $1B in revenue last year selling the project management tool JIRA and other SaaS solutions, understands that buyers want to gather their own information about their (and their competitors’) products and so they provide pricing calculators on their website even for enterprise size deals. “Sales” happen on the customer’s terms and, if desired, entirely in a self-service mode – speeding up time to value for the customer.

The company’s take on customer success is to get out of the user’s way post-sale as well, making it easy for customers to drive their own experience through relevant content and behavior-based recommendations. They let customers be hand-raisers if they want a higher touch, and there is a team to answer complicated questions. As President Jay Simons says: “If [customers] don’t need us, that’s great. We’ll leave you alone. If you do need us, then we’ll absolutely bend over backwards to help.”

 

We are exploring the impact on the Sales, Marketing and Customer Success professions in more depth in coming posts, sharing industry best practices and our point on view of what makes today’s B2B leaders successful. Stay tuned!

What does it mean to be a leader in loyalty? Forrester places Lenati, the strategy and design division of PK, in the leaders group in their recent Forrester Wave report on Loyalty Service Providers. Download a copy of the report to learn how you can reboot your strategy, challenge your thinking and achieve loyalty as an outcome – not a program.

About the Author

Antje Helfrich is a Senior Manager at Lenati and brings over 20 years of experience developing B2B and B2C customer-centric marketing strategies. She has led successful initiatives with well-known brands including Starbucks, Microsoft, T-Mobile, SAP, AT&T and more. Antje is passionate about the intersection across business, customer, and marketing technologies. As a leader in Lenati’s Customer Experience Practice, she helps clients create meaningful customer experience programs that drive loyalty and generate business growth.

Rebecca Lucash is a Consultant at Lenati specializing in research and insights-driven strategy. She is passionate about customer-centric marketing – learning what drives customer behavior, and leveraging those insights to create value and more meaningful experiences. Prior to joining Lenati, Rebecca worked in the consumer packaged goods and publishing industries.

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