Should Professional Services Firms Take a Different Approach When Marketing to Millennials?

Should Professional Services Firms Take a Different Approach When Marketing to Millennials?
Should Professional Services Firms Take a Different Approach when Marketing to Millennials?

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Marketing to a millennial audience should be a key priority for every Professional Services firm. This is true regardless of whether Gen Y – born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s – is your target market, or beyond it. The reason is that, more and more, millennials are assuming roles at B2B companies where they influence purchasing decisions. In 2014, nearly half of all B2B researchers influencing deals of $10, 000 USD or more were millennials, according to this report from Google. This figure is up 70% since 2012, which indicates a changing tide for B2B marketers.

Understanding what influences millennials when they make purchasing decisions and adjusting your marketing strategy accordingly will ensure that your firm isn’t missing sales opportunities to vendors deemed ‘a better fit’ for their company by Gen Y researchers.

How Professional Services Firms can Market Themselves to Millennials

Know How Millennials Differ from Their Older Colleagues

There are many workplace stereotypes that exist about millennials; they’re lazy, they’re technologically addicted, they’re job hoppers, they lack initiative and need hand-holding on projects, and so on. Although several of these claims are founded on reasonable observations – that millennials are generally more technologically savvy than their older colleagues, for instance – these stereotypes tend to be taken to unfair extremes. Extrapolating from Gen Y’s comparatively high usage of tech products that they are digitally ‘addicted’ and dismissing them as such is a damaging stance for employers to take because it hurts sales. Here’s why.

Millennials grew up in a digital Renaissance which saw them using a wide array of devices in their youth. This familiarity from a young age partially explains why they are generally more competent at adapting to new technologies than their older colleagues. However, the ‘social’ facet of technology is an equally significant explanatory factor. To put it bluntly, a craving for social validation has played a major role in millennials’ mastery of tech. And regardless of whether this social behaviour is empathised with by older colleagues or not, the fact of the matter is that millennials have a long history of using technology and continue to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops interchangeably each day. This behaviour has important practical implications for Professional Services firms.

With millennials’ varied use of devices comes a natural preference towards companies that offer a seamless customer experience across all channels. This is why B2C companies have made significant, targeted efforts over the past few years to provide seamless omnichannel customer experiences. In an Executive Report released by IBM in 2014, it was found that millennials’ high standards for consumer brands are impacting their expectations for B2B companies and influencing their purchasing decisions.

The Importance of a Great Omnichannel Experience

According to the report, when researching B2B vendors the first priority for millennial researchers is the ease of doing business. In practical terms, this amounts to vendors being easily contactable via social media and having live chat and/or instant messaging features to answer any initial questions prospects have about the firm’s products and services. This priority is seconded by the vendor’s ease of access to relevant data and statistics. Millennials want easy access to detailed information about brands and this needs to be readily available across all platforms. On average, according to the aforementioned report from Google, B2B researchers from this age group do 12 generic searches prior to engaging with a specific brand. Importantly, they are using multiple devices to conduct these searches. When a millennial researcher is checking a vendor’s data against its competitors, a firm can therefore fall out of the race if it has failed to optimise its blog and site for mobile. In other words, providing a great omnichannel customer experience is essential for bringing prospects deeper down your sales funnel and ultimately convert them into paying customers.

How does this approach differ from Gen X or Baby Boomer buyers? Well, these generations rate the ease of doing business and use of latest technologies as the least important factors influencing their deals. This makes them notably different from millennial buyers. Instead, these generations prioritise a vendor’s ability to deliver products and services to their satisfaction and their ability to respond quickly above all else. This corresponds with the traditional marketing approach for Professional Services firms which primarily focuses on promoting products and services at  trade shows or industry events.

While there remains a place for these types of in-person events in a Professional Services marketing strategy, it is important for firms to recognise that these ways of reaching buyers are more important further down your sales funnel.

The Importance of Family and Friend Recommendations

Perhaps most surprisingly, IBM’s global study showed that when millennial researchers are ready to act they cite recommendations from family or friends outside their organisation as an equally significant influencer in their purchasing decisions as data analysis and customer experience. For Professional Services firms, this means that individuals outside of your target market are influencing the buyer’s purchasing decisions. This is the point in the customer purchasing journey where a good content marketing strategy becomes essential.

To ensure that your firm is reaching all your influencers (not just your target market), firms need to take steps to ensure their brand has a strong voice in their influencers’ digital communities. The most effective way of achieving this is by having an active blog and effective social media distribution strategy. Video content is also greatly beneficial to B2B companies, since nearly half of all millennial researchers admit to viewing 30 minutes or more of B2B-related videos during their research, according to Google. You can read more about how to win with video content and the different forms of content that attract viewers here. By using social listening tools and analytics, you can determine if your influencers are getting the right exposure to your brand with your content marketing strategy.

From these findings it is clear that abiding by a marketing model that aims its content strictly at senior-level prospects with in-person events is outdated. Professional Services firms should take away from these findings that millennials are influenced by the quality of customer experience they receive in a way in which their older colleagues are not. It is not sufficient anymore for B2Bs to simply provide great product or service satisfaction; they must provide a seamless customer experience and immersive digital experience as well.

B2B Content Marketing Agency London

Marketing Fundamentals Ltd is a B2B Content Marketing Agency in London that creates Content and manages Social Media for Professional Services firms. We hope you find this information useful.

If you would like our help creating and executing a Content Marketing Plan for your business or organisation give us a call on +44 (0) 845 2264 247. You can also email us via mail@marketingfundamentals.com

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Best regards,

Karla McDougall
Digital Marketing Intern

Marketing Fundamentals Ltd

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This is blog post number 297.

Founder of Marketing Fundamentals Ltd, Blogger, Author & Content Creator