When you hear the term Generation Y, what do you think of? iPods? Instant messaging? Online communities? If so, you’re on track. But as a B2B marketer, you should add target market to that list. And if you don’t think this demographic is part of your audience, think again.
Inherently tech savvy and mostly in their twenties, Generation Y (Gen Y) now represents a large part of today’s workforce. And that spells opportunity for B2B marketers. Yet how many of the business-to-business ilk are capitalizing on it? My guess is few. After all, half the battle of seizing an opportunity is first recognizing it exists, and in many ways, Gen Y is a B2B marketing opportunity hidden in plain sight.
Capitalizing On It
While Gen Y may share some similarities with other generations, this group is unique in that it requires marketers to not only think differently, but to also speak to them differently. Given that, B2B marketers need to re-think their strategy in order to effectively reach this audience where and how they will be most receptive to hearing the message.
For example, Gen Y’ers tend to do their homework, and are extremely well educated on the companies they work for, and they expect more from their employers overall. In fact, they expect to work somewhere fun and exciting, where they can promote or work with a great product or service. As a result, they focus on quality and speed, and often look to over promise and over deliver. Consequently, social networking, testimonials, and targeted creative provide marketers with effective means to reach this audience.
When planning and executing your marketing initiatives — especially your search campaigns — you should consider this group separate and distinct. Specifically, you need to modify your approach. How so? It comes down to three key areas: identifying where they spend their time, speaking their language, and then selling them on how you can help. Let’s take a look at each.
Be Where They Are
To effectively tap into the Gen Y market, you need to be where they are. Given that, it’s imperative to gain an understanding of the sites they frequent and the opportunities for you to connect with them. And social networking sites and blogs might be a good place to start. For example, are they twittering? Or on Facebook? Or perhaps spending time on YouTube, MySpace, or LinkedIn?
Research shows that social networking sites reach 69 percent of the total online audience, and that 76 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds used a social network in the past month. Moreover, a study by Forrester Research shows that Gen Y leads the way on social computing activities (43%) and blogs (28%). With 18 visits per person, per month, at 27.4 billion minutes, and a total of 64.9 billion page views, it’s easy to see why social networking sites and blogs offer marketers considerable opportunity to reach this audience (Source: comScore Media Metrix, May 2008; eMarketer, February 2008).
Ultimately, you need to cast a wide net across different sites and opportunities. Don’t just rely on Google, Yahoo! and MSN. Instead, look beyond them and identify any site where your customers are communicating. Then talk to your customers and listen! More often than not, they’ll tell you where they spend their time online.
Speak Their Speak
Once you know where your Gen Y audience is online, you need to speak their language. Let me start with an example.
Perplexed and more than a tad curious, I stopped a colleague in the hall to ask what he meant when he ended his email with “LMK.” His response was telling. He looked at me like I was crazy, and then he told me that it meant “Let me know.” Of course it does; shame on me for not knowing. Need you ask what generation he falls into?
Be it emoticons to express moods and feelings, or acronyms to save time and energy, it’s safe to say that Gen Y has taken efficiency to a new level. In some ways, they have a language of their own. So what’s a marketer to do?
To start, choose your keywords appropriately as they can make a big difference; they should definitely be words that your audience will relate to. For example, if you are a PC hardware reseller, you might traditionally target keywords that include cost specific adjectives like “cheap,” “discount,” or “affordable.” And you might even include feature/benefit descriptors like “low maintenance,” “guaranteed,” and “light-weight.” However, are you forgetting product comparison keywords to account for the fact that many Gen Y’ers rely on what other consumers have to say about these products and their experiences? Considering that, be sure to include customer testimonials and reviews. And remember that the same logic holds true for your messaging. Be sure it resonates with your audience and includes information about product comparisons and testimonials.
Now Sell Them!
You’ve successfully captured demand by focusing on the right keywords and using the right messaging. Once your targets are on your website, it’s time to sell them!
Specifically, you need to tell them about the benefits of your product/services as Gen Y tends to be more self-focused. In addition, they think they know more than they do, and are extremely self-confident. However, they don’t know what they don’t know, and that in itself represents opportunity.
Take advantage of your landing pages and be sure to incorporate a clear call to action, along with specific product features and benefits. If you can include testimonials on the page as well, then great. This generation tends to weigh others’ reviews and opinions pretty heavily, especially when making decisions on behalf of their respective organizations.
Additionally, when possible, show product comparisons. Gen Y’ers won’t want to say “I don’t know” when their boss questions their recommendation or purchase. They will need to know as much information as possible in an effort to support their purchasing decisions or recommendations.
So whether you refer to them as Gen Y, Millennials, or even Echo Baby Boomers, one thing is for sure: They represent a large part of today’s workforce, and ultimately spell opportunity for B2B marketers. But to effectively reach them, you’ll need to adapt your approach. In doing so, you’ll soon realize that Gen Y is a B2B opportunity not to be missed!
Andrew Wheeler is managing director of the Chicago office for search engine marketing firm iProspect, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.