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There’s a lot of talk about millennials getting tossed around nowadays – and certainly not all of it is exactly kind. But, love ‘em or hate ‘em, millennials may very well be your next customers.
You may be an industrial manufacturer with a blue-collar business, but that actually doesn’t matter – you still need to know how millennials buy.
1. B2B IS GETTING YOUNGER
The Baby Boomers comprise a huge portion of the working class, and now almost 10,000 of them are retiring by the day.
Gen X is nearly half the size of the Boomer generation, which means they can’t possibly hope to close that gap. Thus, a lot of Millennials are on the fast track to fill the shoes of departing boomers.
But “Millennials” shouldn’t be a dirty word, and it isn’t a euphemism for “kids these days,” no matter how much people have used it that way.
Millennials, right now, are essentially any adult under the age of 40.
That twenty-something with a salaried position who just got married? Millennial.
That thirty-something parent of three kids? Millennial.
That summer intern working their way through college? Actually that kid is part of Gen Z. (They are a whole different can of worms.)
Individuals that were born roughly between 1985 and 1995 are “millennials” because their formative years occurred before or during the turn of the century.
Most millennials actually grew up without cell phones, and many remember a time before household computers or email.
But…now they have all of the above. And so does everybody else. Which is why when you want to know how the majority if your customers will buy…what you’re really investigating is how millennials buy.
2. FASTER TECH MEANS FASTER PURCHASES
When millennials (or even many Gen Xers) enter positions previously held by Boomers, they’re going to bring their everyday-consumer habits with them. Most of those habits have become flexible, because they’ve learned to adapt every time a new technology comes out.
Remember when email was invented? Could you imagine trying to run a business without it now?
New tech isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing – but it definitely does mean that people are seeking and finding solutions faster than ever before.
When millennials start a new job or have a task they’ve never accomplished before, they might seek out advice from an experienced mentor – but the vast majority of them don’t have a mentor. So they go to the internet.
They can search for information on what others are doing in that field, or products that other professionals are buying.
A few weeks ago, we discussed the rise of eCommerce in B2B. What sparked it? The rise of B2C eCommerce in general.
At some point in the past few years, businesspeople have started to realize: “If I can buy groceries or a Halloween costume for my kids online…why can’t I buy an industrial brewing tank or a new set of CNC endmills for work?”
3. QUALITY IS IMPORTANT, BUT VISIBILITY IS KEY
Judson Voss of Chart Industries, makers of industrial gas systems and tanks, has a story he often tells of almost learning this the hard way a few years ago.
Chart very nearly lost a deal to a company with far inferior products…because that competitor had a far superior website.
People assume if you’re not adapting to the digital world, your products aren’t going to be state-of-the-art, either. That’s one of the main unspoken principles about how millennials buy or even just choose who to buy from.
Could you imagine trying to do business with a company who doesn’t use emails, or even fax machines? It would be near-impossible.
How can a company like that to create solutions that are truly innovative, or even up-to-date?
You may not like this, but websites are the best way to position yourself in front of potential buyers. They’re starting to by and large become one of the only ways.
And your website’s functionality isn’t just vital to your prospects, either.
4. IT’S NOT JUST SALES AND MARKETING
Other people besides leads use your website; and they use it for processes that have also evolved as well.
How you train or educate your own employees has changed. Company-wide memos or educational sessions are turning into webinars, for example.
Hiring or onboarding new staff is different, too. Green employees can fill out their paperwork or send in their resumes through forms on your website.
Discontent or confused customers can chat with representatives on your site using chatbots, so they don’t have to pick up the phone and sit around on hold before they can have their problem solved.
Remember Blockbuster? Netflix started competing with them originally by renting DVDs by mail. But that’s not what Netflix is known for now, is it?
Blockbuster didn’t pivot. Netflix did, and now it’s bigger even than Blockbuster ever was in its heyday.
As a manufacturer, you understand perfectly why your products need to be cutting edge. That’s how you stay in business.
Well, how you conduct the rest of your business practices will also affect that. If you don’t use phones, if you don’t use email, imagine how poorly you’d be able to get work done. If you’re not adapting according to your knowledge of how millennials buy, you’re also likely not adapting to other trends outside of marketing or sales as well.
The internet isn’t a menace; it’s just an asset you haven’t learned to take advantage of yet…and millennials – your next prospects – have.
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