2/6/2020 | 5 MINUTE READ

The “Youth” Movement in B2B Buyers is Happening Faster Than You Think

Meet the future. It’s happening now.

By Mark Semmelmayer, CBC
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications

Marketing has never been static. What was a sign with a boot hanging over a door has become websites for Zappo’s and myriad shoe sellers. B2B marketing communications are no different. Times change, media consumption changes, people change.

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Let’s talk people changes first. Specifically, buyer demographics. Assuredly, in manufacturing purchases, the over-50 buyer still has considerable sway. But that’s changing, because technology is changing and we’re all aging.

According to TrustRadius, a review site for business technology, their 2018 industry survey found “millennials have taken the workforce by storm, dominating the B2B buying process. Over 45% of B2B technology buyers are 25-34, making them the single largest demographic, followed by 30% in the 35-44 age group.”

It’s not just demography, it’s also technology. Every day, the “internet of things” becomes increasingly important in manufacturing. Tech is the realm of younger buying influencers. Sellers must understand how to communicate with these younger up-and-comers. When 75% of your target audience are “digital natives,” effective marcomm planning needs to evolve.

Case in point: B2B buyer usage of social media. These buyers are no different than the rest of the world. According to Hootsuite™, social media in 2018 had 3.48 billion people logging on to social, up 366 million year-on-year. With half the world spending two hours surfing social channels every day, we can be sure industrials are joining the mix.

What’s important is understanding how they use social media in buying decisions, to craft better marketing plans that get more return from online marketing investments.

Let me be clear. I’m an aging boomer who isn’t a digital native. That said, I use social media and have used it, both in my corporate and private marketing “practice”, to research and make B2B buying decisions. Am I an expert in social media? No. But as an old boss used to say, “You don’t have to make lawnmowers to know how to use one.”

I want to accomplish 2 things here:

  1. Provide a broad-brush framework for thinking about, and crafting, a social media strategy
  2. Explore “selling” a plan, with social components, to a C-Suite perhaps dubious of social efforts and spending

Approaching Social Media Planning

First, be a devotee of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) to incorporate social into your communications planning. If you haven’t brushed up on IMC lately, you should.

In a nutshell, here’s how IMC works:

  • Research your target, their pain points, preferences and how they get buying information
  • Craft meaningful and appropriate messages that clearly state your value proposition
  • Deliver the messages when, where and how your prospects want them
  • Evaluate results and adjust accordingly
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In broad context, IMC planning will demonstrate how social can’t be your only focus. Traditional marketing has its place. Social is another tool in the box, albeit a new, increasingly important one.

Second, let’s adjust our view of a buyer’s journey. We’ve been taught to think of a sales funnel: Inbound leads collected, nurtured and turned into a sale. I read a post, though, positing that today’s funnel is really a flywheel. It’s definitely worth a read.

Writing for The Weidert Group, Stacy Bouchard offered this:

“Well-informed B2B prospects hold more power in the buying process, putting them in the middle of a sales “flywheel,” with key opportunities for you to attract, engage, and delight potential purchasers. Leverage flywheel momentum during the process, reducing speed-killing friction throughout marketing, sales, and service. Inbound efforts should align with these nuances in the B2B buyer journey.”

According to Forbes, “When shopping for vendors and solutions, B2B buyers look at peer recommendations and review sites (65%) and social media (54%). LinkedIn is the most influential social media channel, used by 52% of respondents. 42% use blogs to learn about solutions. They read existing discussions to learn more about an issue, get recommendations and suggestions.” YouTube is also influential. Statistics indicate B2B marketers make heavy use of it for product information videos.

LinkedIn and YouTube are obvious suspects, but don’t stop there. I won’t make specific channel recommendations, but Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also powerful. Using them, or other outlets, is up to you. My best suggestion? Explore what your main competitors do in the social sphere, analyze how and why, and develop a sense of what might work for you.

Selling the Plan to Social Infidels

Readers here, of different ages, experiences and media preferences, will probably ask, "What matters most in making social media a working part of marketing? “

Money! Nothing will fail, or undermine your goals, faster than social media efforts that aren’t resourced.

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It’s a paradox. Non-paid media require significant resources to function effectively. Much of the investment is in people, in-house or out of house, expert in bending social media to your purposes. SEO experts, content providers, bloggers, production companies for videos. As they say here in Georgia, “that ain’t cheap.”

Problem: It’s likely those in the C-Suite, who hold the purse strings, are older and less convinced of social media value, compared to traditional marketing tactics.

Solution: Treat social media like other line items in your marketing plan, allocating resources and dollars appropriate to your level of effort and expected returns.

Strategy: Employ a traditional planning approach for including social. Achievable objectives, actionable strategies and measurable bottom-line results.

Recently, a good company in the content/infographic space, Venngage, contacted me about updating a Gardner post on B2B social media to include one of their blogs. Not possible, but this great blog on marketing plan templates, may prove helpful in crafting a plan featuring social media.

The take-away from this post? Social media is a rising influence in B2B marketing. We need to use it, but, as true in any toolbox, it needs to be organized with other tools, and have a reason to be there.

Bottom line, B2B social media is a cresting wave. Hang 10 and ride it. It’s gnarly.

Need more information?
Mark Semmelmayer, CBC
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
Saint Simons Island, Georgia

About the Author

Mark Semmelmayer, CBC, Chief Idea Officer, Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications

Mark Semmelmayer, CBC

Mark is a past international chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA), the 2015 recipient of BMA’s prestigious G. D. Crain Award and an Inductee into the Business Marketing Hall of Fame. A 40-year B2B marketing pro, including 32-years with Kimberly-Clark, he’s the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy on Saint Simons Island, Georgia.

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