It was just a matter of time before millennials entered the workforce, got promoted up the ranks and are now becoming influential in the B2B marketing space.
Just last week, Google and Millward Brown released a study that evaluated the state of B2B marketing. Approximately 3,000 B2B researchers were surveyed about their research and purchase habits as well as their use of digital technologies (specifically, search, mobile, and video).
Google also analyzed 13 months of clickstream data from Millward Brown Digital’s desktop panel. The study, which was fielded in 2014, mirrors research from 2012, enabling us to see the shifts of B2B marketing over the past couple of years.
Here’s what the report tells us.
Nearly half of all B2B research is done by millennials. Over the past two years, there’s been quite a dramatic shift in the B2B researcher demographic. Back in 2012, there was a pretty even mix across all age groups. In 2014, however, 18 to 34 year-olds dominated almost half of all research, an increase of a whopping 70%.
It’s not all about the C-Suite. The ecosystem of influence around B2B research has changed quite dramatically. While 64% of the C-suite do have final sign off before making a purchase decision, so do almost 24% of the non-C-suite. And it’s this group that has more influence; 81% have a say in purchase decisions.
71% of B2B research starts with unbranded search. Previous research shows that those involved in the B2B buying process are already 57% of the way down the purchase path before they’ll actually perform an action on a brand’s web site.
Obviously, search is important to consider as it’s their #1 resource while conducting research; 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research various technologies, use cases, white papers, customer testimonials, etc. These numbers are consistent with data from 2012 but the way they’re searching has changed. On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site.
Mobile continues to dominate; now in B2B marketing. According to the study, 42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. Of those, there has been an impressive 91% growth in use over the past two years throughout the entire purchase path (instead of just at the initial stages of research).
What’s even more interesting is that 49% of B2B researchers who use their mobile devices for product and technology research do so while at work. They’re comparing prices, reading about products, comparing feature sets, and contacting retailers. They’re purchasing, too; purchase rates on mobile are up 22% in the past two years.
B2B research involves watching video. 70% of B2B researchers are watching videos throughout their journey. That’s a 52% jump in only two years. And it’s not just light viewing. According to YouTube data, over 895K hours of some of the top B2B videos from brands were watched in 2014. Nearly half of these researchers are viewing 30 minutes or more of B2B-related videos during their research process, and almost one in five watch over an hour of content.
This data shouldn’t be too surprising. Millennials grew up “Googling” anything and everything they were looking for. They were behind the growth in online video and mobile usage. Now they are just taking those behaviors with them into the workforce.
Here’s what you should do to understand and reach your B2B customers:
- Understand who is driving the conversation about your industry? Identify and document the top 1% of influencers who are creating and distributing content? What are they saying? Who do they influence and who influences them? It’s not difficult to find these people – they leave digital breadcrumbs all across the internet. The data is there. Go get it.
- Examine the market conversation. Determine if the language and content that your audience (and influencers) are using matches the content you are using across your digital channels. Are there any gaps or opportunities? These insights should help you craft an editorial strategy that can make an impact.
- Dissect the customer journey. What are your customers searching for online at each phase of the purchase funnel? What are their content consumption habits and behaviors? What type of language or vernacular do they use? Where do they spend their time online? We know they use Google but keywords are they using, where else do they hang out, read and share content from?
- Build a converged media strategy. The analytics and insights from the above bullets should help you craft a strategy that reaches your customers with the right content, at the right time, in the right channel and to the right customer. It involves having a consistent and integrated brand story across PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned media.
Hope this helps as you try and reach that dynamic and very unpredictable millennial IT decision maker.
Let me know your thoughts below in the comments or shoot me a note on Twitter.