Marketing to Millennial B2B Buyers – Leverage the Yearning to Learn

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Millennials are now major players in B2B buying, according to research recently published by The B2B Institute and GWI. Work in BETA:  The Rising B2B Decision Makers ("Work in BETA") was based on surveys of over 17,000 business professionals between the ages of 21 and 64. The report focuses on the attitudes and behaviors of business professionals between the ages of 21 and 40. The surveys were conducted in 2020 and included respondents from ten countries.

In the Work in BETA surveys, significant proportions of the millennial respondents said they have influence at every stage of the buying process, including identifying the business need (57%), researching potential vendors (41%), evaluating vendors (40%), and approving the final purchase (47%).

The Work in BETA research provides a plethora of insights about the attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles of today's millennial business professionals, many of which have important implications for B2B marketers.

In my last post, I discussed why the pervasive use and reliance on smartphones by millennial B2B decision makers is elevating the importance of "micro-moments" of marketing. This post will discuss how B2B marketers can take advantage of the strong desire to learn that millennial B2B buyers exhibit.

The Yearning to Learn

Millennial business professionals have strong feelings about the importance and value of professional development. The Work in BETA research found that they have a penchant for online learning. About 80% of the surveyed millennials said they participate in online learning events to improve their work skills, increase industry knowledge, or obtain professional qualifications.

Millennial B2B decision makers also use online events to learn about products and services, with almost 50% of the Work in BETA millennial respondents reporting that they regularly attend webinars. However, only about a third of those respondents said the webinars they attend are useful when researching products or services.

Implications for Marketers

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of most in-person marketing events in 2020, and in-person events aren't likely to return until the second half of this year. As a result, many companies have turned to webinars and other online events to fill the gap.

The findings of the Work in BETA research make two things clear:

  • Webinars and other online events can be attractive vehicles for engaging with millennial B2B buyers.
  • Many webinars aren't "hitting the mark" with those millennial buyers.

To maximize impact, B2B marketers must recognize that webinars* are hybrid events that perform both a marketing function and an educational function. It's also important to understand that if a webinar doesn't effectively perform its educational function, it won't be an effective marketing event.

There are an abundance of resources that describe how to plan and conduct successful webinars. Most of these resources approach webinar planning from a marketing perspective. Most don't deal with how to develop webinars that will be effective learning events.

To produce webinars that are both great marketing events and great learning events, marketers need to be as meticulous in planning the educational aspects of a webinar as they are in planning the marketing aspects. In short, a successful webinar requires both a sound marketing plan and a thorough lesson plan.

Professional teachers have used lesson plans for decades to organize their classes. A lesson plan is simply a detailed description of a specific class. The content and structure of lesson plans can vary significantly, but all complete lesson plans will include three essential elements.

Learning Objectives - Learning objectives specify what the students will have learned or be able to do after completing the lesson. Obviously, learning objectives for a webinar should be relevant for the potential attendees and be aligned with their existing knowledge about a subject. The process of identifying learning objectives for a webinar will help ensure that the webinar content delivers real value to the attendees.

The Hook (a/k/a the "Anticipatory Set") - A hook is something the teacher does at the very beginning of a lesson to grab the students' attention and get them engaged with the subject matter of the lesson. Hooks are brief and can take many forms. For a webinar, the hook could be a creative poll, a compelling story, or even an attention-getting chart or graph. An effective hook will be linked directly to one or more of the learning objectives and will provide a clear answer to the question:  "Why should I pay attention to this lesson?"

Lesson Materials and Procedures (a/k/a "Input Modeling") - This component of a lesson plan is a detailed description of how the teacher will conduct the lesson, including:

  • How the lesson topic will be introduced.
  • What materials (slides, videos, polls, etc.) will be used.
  • How much time will be spent on each portion of the lesson.

Creating a complete lesson plan for a webinar does take time. But when this level of educational planning is done in parallel with good marketing planning, B2B marketers will substantially improve their odds of producing highly effective and successful webinars.


*I'm using the term "webinar" broadly. Today, a webinar can be a presentation by a subject matter expert, a panel discussion, an interview with a subject matter expert, or an informal "chat" with an industry leader or recognized expert. The subject matter of the webinar will usually determine which format will work best.


Image courtesy of Marco Verch (CC).

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.

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