Do you know who your real B2B target audience is? (Hint: It may NOT be the distinguished gentleman in the blue button-down!)

We’ve targeted the mature C-Level pretty successfully for years. But guess what? While we’ve been busy ignoring our own aging, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that our B2B target demos are aging right along with us. And, somewhat shockingly, some of our most important decision-makers may just be the precocious kids we babysat 10 years ago.

I was truly astonished when I read Google Think’s piece[1] on the pace and significance of change in the makeup of B2B decision-makers in just two years. Reading the results of this study has made me change not only my consideration set for targeting, but correspondingly, how I target them. Obviously, a new demo target may go about decision-making differently.  From the first glance at this research, I began to question my B2B targets. I dug into more research. I fielded an extra survey. I got to some surprising new profiles that in some cases widened the net I cast and in some cases, narrowed it. But at the heart of it all, was reassuring myself that I was reaching the right people with the most relevant offering.

But Google, partnering with Millward/Brown, proved to be quite the myth-busters.

MYTH: Millennials aren’t making B2B business decisions

REALITY: Nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials

Wait, what? Did you see that coming? I sure didn’t.  I thought the Millennial trend was a B2C thing. Evidently, it’s not. Within B2B, this surge in millennial researchers represents a shocking 70% increase from 2012. What does it all mean? According to the study, It means “we need to reconsider our thinking about print wraps to the C-Suite and think instead about how we connect with a generation that has never known a world without the modern-day internet.”

MYTH: B2B marketing should target the highest-level executives

REALITY: B2B researchers who are not in the C-suite influence purchase decisions

I’ve always been pretty good about keeping an eye on “concentric circles” around my primary target. “Influencers” have been a thing for some time. Yet, I’ve always tended to orient my targeting to that one guy at the top. This study points out that “81% of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions,” which suggests we need to broaden both our targeting and our communications perspective to include millennial researchers. How do we best reach them? By providing trustworthy, utilitarian knowledge so that researching influencer can go forth and influence capably. Jay Baer calls it “Youtility” —defined as “massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.” Baer asks, “What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote?[2]” Bingo.

MYTH: Branded searches should be the focus of your search strategy

REALITY: 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search

I always thought most folks start their research process with non-branded search—especially in what is frequently a solutions-oriented B2B universe—so this reality didn’t especially come as a surprise to me. A lot depends on your brand’s existing level of awareness. If you’re a new entrant in the marketplace, or have awareness issues, you likely need to buy your way into the category with heavier non-branded search.

While I did not find this “reality” surprising, the degree of the reality sure was. I mean, 71%!? Three other mind-blowing little stats from the study included the following:

  • Those involved in the B2B buying process are already 57% of the way down the path to a decision before they’ll actually perform an action on your site
  • 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases
  • B2B researchers now do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site

These facts reinforce the need to satisfy the DIY vibe of the millennial generation by employing a great “youtilitarian” content marketing strategy and having a good understanding of where and how they want to consume that content (Psst. It’s possibly not a print-wrap or direct mail piece).

Keeping these facts in mind, two questions you should always ask yourself are: how are you going to be relevant to your millennial decision-maker across their 12-search journey, and how are you going to be a trusted partner along each step of the first 57% of their purchase-decision path?

MYTH: Not many B2B researchers use mobile

REALITY: Mobile usage is intensifying; B2B researchers are using it throughout their entire path

Another shocker the study showed was that there’s a “91% growth in B2B researchers using smartphones throughout the path to purchase.” I think we’ve all noticed the tipping point in mobile over the past few years—B2B often lags behind B2C trends and it’s not surprising the gap is being quickly closed here.

So, what does it mean? For Millennials, one of the great keys to success is “cross-screen” or “multi-channel” targeting. Coordinating your media and messaging so that mobile is a significant and integrated component of your media plan is now beyond critical.  

[1] Think With Google, “The Changing Face of B2B Marketing” featuring the results of the Google/Millward Brown Digital, B2B Path to Purchase Study, 2014

[2] “Youtility. Why Smart Marketing  is about the Help not Hype.” Jay Baer.

Kristin Lennarz
Kristin Lennarz

Digital Strategy Director
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