Why Generational Differences are Suddenly Key to Shaping B2B Technology Marketing

  • Sunil Shah

One of the foundations of B2B technology marketing–especially for lead generation and nurturing–is ensuring correct segmentation and the accurate targeting of content. Aligning the right content to the right customer segment is key to lead nurturing success. But what is correct segmentation, and what role do generational differences play in it? And what’s a generational difference, in the first place? (see interactive chart below)

Sources of Information B2B Tech Buyers Use—By Generation
Click on Baby Boomers, Gen X, or Millennials to find out which content type they prefer.

What content types different generations turn to also changes according to which stage of the buying funnel they are. To find more, here’s Arketi’s interactive chart.

What’s all This Fuss About Generational Differences?

When segmenting audiences, B2B technology marketers have the option of splitting audiences by industry, or by region, or designation (technical decisions makers versus business decision makers, for example) or a mix of these.

We could also segment audiences by figuring out which generation they belong to. Research has shown that different generations search, assimilate, and understand information differently. Baby boomers, gen X-ers, and millennials are all, subconsciously, more receptive to different types of marketing messages and strategies.

Millennials (1978-1994), for example, tend to be more tech-savvy, and tend to be more open to marketing messages that are wrapped in subtle, funny, and creative packaging. They also more receptive to blogs and content marketing sites.

Gen X-ers (1965-1977), on the other hand, aren’t normally so caught up in the packaging. Marketing messages that stress on proof that a product or service works, is the way to go for buyers from this generation. And that proof works best when it comes from their peers; a CIO reading the case study of another CIO is an example.

Then there’s the baby boomers (1946-1964). This generation tend to want just the facts, unfiltered by experts, or commentators.

Here’s more on that.

Hang On, Why Should I Suddenly Start Caring About Generational Differences?

Why try to align content for specific generations? Isn’t segmentation complex enough as it is? Why make our lives more difficult?

It’s important because of a developing phenomenon: The numbers of baby boomers, gen-xers, and millennials, in the customer mix, is inching towards parity.

Let’s be clearer. Not too long ago, a B2B technology marketer could be forgiven for focusing on one or two generations. But today, according to new research by RainmakerThinking, the percentage of working baby boomers, gen-X staffers, and millennials, is 30%, 27%, and 28% respectively.

It’s because their numbers are all hitting the same levels that it’s become vital for B2B technology marketers to give equal focus to all three generations. Figuring out which generation potential buyers are from should have a large say on the sort of message, and medium our content and campaign plans to explore.

Are We Already Addressing Generational Differences?

The good news: It’s likely that you and your content team, especially if you have built personas, are already trying to align content to generational differences—without even knowing it.

Let’s find out.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a content/campaign ideation brainstorming meeting and everyone in the room is trying to figure out how best to persuade your target audience to buy a product or service.

Different members of your team are offering multiple approaches. One person says: “Let’s prove the benefits of the product, that’ll convince them!”

Another says, “No, let’s ensure that the messaging, whatever it may be, is funny and creative, that’ll get them at a subliminal level. They won’t be able to resist remembering our product.”

Yet another colleague offers another approach. “I think it’s best if we use cases and testimonials. Our target audience will respond if we can show them that the product works. And it’s important they hear the experience of their peers–another CIO or IT manager.”

A fourth person says, “No, I disagree, the best way is to just lay out the feature set before the audience. And then tell them the price. They will appreciate being able to decide for themselves. No need for peer reviews or pundit whitepapers. Those might even turn off our audience.”

“Oh boy!” you’re thinking, “This is going to be a long meeting.”

And you haven’t even got around to deciding which medium you are going to use to channel the message. Social media? Emailers? Blogs? Videos? There are so many possibilities!

If this has happened to you, it’s possible that your team is already, subconsciously, trying to tap into the benefits of aligning content to the way that different generations of buyers.

Instinctively, they know that different approaches work for audiences of different ages. All that’s left to be done is ensure that the strategy you choose is done deliberately and consciously.

How Can I, as a B2B Technology Marketer, Make an Impact?

The question is: as a marketing leader, how do you guide your team? How do you help them decide which content type works best for audiences across generations?

One marketing and public relations firm, the Arketi Group, researched the subject, to help marketers answer just such a question.

If you are like us and want to get to the science behind what drives different generations to trust different types of content, try looking at this chart. It will help lend perspective on the different environmental factors that shaped the priorities of different generations—and give you a better sense why baby boomers, gen x-ers, and millennials are attracted to certain content and content delivery mechanisms.

A word of caution: It’s important to remember that the characteristics of one generation could overlap with those of another. People, after all, don’t come out of cookie-cutter molds.


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