Positioning B2B Content to Appeal to Different Generations

Part 1: The Millennials

LIsa Vitale marketing Gurugeneration gap: n. a lack of communication between one generation and another. . . brought about by differences of tastes, values, outlooks, etc.  

For those of us who have experienced the joys (and frustrations) of raising, mentoring, or working with young adults, the concept of a gap in communication between generations really isn’t foreign. Have you ever gotten a text from your young adult while they’re in the same house with you? Conversely, have you ever found yourself seeking the help from them to better navigate the waters of social media in an effort to ‘keep up with the times’? While we might find humor in some of the challenges posed by generational gaps on an individual level, trying to broadly communicate to a generational segment, poses a whole new set of challenges.

But the generation gap goes both ways in the workplace as well. For example, one of my co-workers recounted the following conversation with his 25 year old son, an engineer at large technology company.

“Dad, I hang out with a bunch of guys your age when I’m at work. They are all in their late-50s to mid-60s. They’ve worked for XYZ Company for much of their lives, and now they are just waiting to retire. But, I’m not going to do that for two reasons.

  1. I don’t want to waste my life working for one company, doing much the same thing every day until I retire.
  2. I couldn’t work for the same company even if I wanted to, because there is no expectation that they would keep me employed anyway.”

Thanks to advances in health and longevity, for the first time in history four very different generations are working side-by-side, creating some unique content challenges for B2B marketers. Certainly any conversation about generational differences will, by necessity, make generalizations and broadly paint a loosely defined age group. But that’s not to say those generalizations are without merit. Generational traits are set during the formative years, with collective experiences influencing such things as values, preferences, and attitudes. To a certain degree, the time we live in shapes who we are. Understanding such things can help you better communicate with your target audience(s).

Following is a quick look at the key defining characteristics of Millennials, and some insights B2B marketers can leverage to more effectively target relevant segments (for each of the other generations in today’s workplace, see our Part 2 of this post).

Millennials (1981+; up to 33 yrs old in 2014) The first generation to come of age in the new millennium, Millennials have been raised to believe they are special, and consequently tend towards lofty expectations and big dreams.

Millennials Characteristics:

  • Technologically-savvy and digitally engaged
  • Accustomed to 24/7 real-time, global information, updates, and interpersonal communications
  • Practiced multitaskers, highly visual, and have short attention spans
  • Look to leverage technology to their maximum advantage
  • Mistrust institutions and look to their personal network for advice and recommendations
  • Environmentally and socially conscious, and value a healthy work/life balance
  • See themselves as creative, open-minded, intelligent, and fun

Millenial Characteristics

Implications for marketers:

So what does this mean for you when marketing to millennials?

  • Develop content with a strong visual element (e.g., infographics, videos, eye-catching design), multimedia formats, and optimized across multiple platforms/devices.
  • Create fun, edgy, and entertaining content Millennials will want to share (and will make them look cool and smart for doing so).
  • Leverage the social need of Millennials to share, review, and recommend by making it easy for them to do so.
  • As Millennials trust their friends and networks first and foremost, actively seek input and dialogue with your target audience to encourage user-generated, and therefore highly-credible, content.
  • Write for ‘scannability,’ in short, easily digested bits with headings and subheadings that clearly anchor the reader in the text.
  • Craft intriguing, enticing email subject lines or risk being deleted as irrelevant.
  • Millennials text, email, and chat online – CTAs with phone numbers will likely be ignored.
  • Appeal to their desire for status, adventure, and professional success. Also appeal to their strong sense of social and environmental responsibility, as well as their desire for authenticity and honesty in distrustful, dangerous world. Craft insight selling approaches (which promote new and different perspectives) to appeal to their sense of open-mindedness.

For insights on crafting content to appeal to Gen Xers, Boomers, and Traditionalists, read our part 2 of this post.

Find out more about how SimplyDIRECT lead generation surveys can help you find out more about you target millennials here.