Millennials are largest generation in the labor force, and their business decision-making and purchasing power is increasing as they rise through the corporate ranks. They’re also known as digital natives who are always online. Every B2B company wants to connect with them.

But what if companies have it all wrong? A new study of B2B millennial decision-makers by comms giant Ketchum busts some popular myths about this coveted 23- to 38-year-old demographic as they emerge as business leaders.

Millennial mythbusters—do these next-gen leaders prefer face-to-face or tweets and texts?

The firm’s new Face Value: Connecting with B2B Millennialsstudy pokes holes in several myths:

Myth: Millennials are exclusively digital-first

The study found that 76 percent of respondents would rather build a personal relationship with a company than read its product emails, and 61 percent want their new business meetings face to face.

Millennial mythbusters—do these next-gen leaders prefer face-to-face or tweets and texts?

Myth: Millennials prefer pixels over people when seeking information

Actually, colleagues, industry experts, vendors and academics are all trusted more than online channels or industry events. Millennials even trust friends and family (56 percent) more than conventional sources such as vendor websites (49 percent), trade media (47 percent) or marketing materials (46 percent).

Myth: Millennials are guided solely by a company’s reputation for doing good

Close to half (49 percent) of millennial B2B decision-makers think it’s very important to work with a company that has a strong social purpose. They balance purpose with pragmatism: reliable service (81 percent) and cost (76 percent) rank highly.

Millennial mythbusters—do these next-gen leaders prefer face-to-face or tweets and texts?

Myth: Millennials prize work-life balance over working hard

They’re putting lots of hours on the clock, as close to 40 percent look at work-related content outside of working hours for 5 or more hours after the work day has ended. They’re always connected—40 percent like being “always on” and say it’s part of their personality.

The study examines the attitudes, purchase decision influences and communication preferences of the largest generation in the U.S. labor force and the first generation to include digital natives, an increasingly important audience for B2B companies.

“Ketchum’s Face Value study can help B2B marketers and communicators see beyond the stereotypes and understand the need to build high-touch relationships with this growing generation of decision-makers,” said Melissa Kinch, partner and managing director, Technology, in a news release. “Consumer brands have been gathering insights on millennials for years. We conducted this research because we believe B2B brands need that same depth of insight about their potential buyers.”

When it comes to building relationships with new B2B vendors and partners, millennial buyers do prefer a personal touch. Sixty-one percent prefer face-to-face meetings and 55 percent like phone calls, while real-time interrupters like instant messaging (15 percent) and texting (12 percent), and mass marketing tools like e-newsletters (7 percent) are a big thumbs-down.

“Digital and social media tactics and purpose initiatives remain important influences on purchase decisions, but the real ROI comes when millennial decision-makers believe you understand them uniquely. Most B2B companies are not yet investing in that level of audience insight or high-touch engagement,” added Kinch.

Connecting with the #JOMO Generation

Despite a popular assertion that millennials are social media-obsessed and have trouble adapting to the workplace, the study found that this generation seems to be earning its Burnout Generation label. Nearly half say they always bring work home and 68 percent say they feel like they are “always-on” in their job, even at home. But 4 in 10 say they actually like that feeling and that being always-on is part of their personality. That doesn’t mean marketers should inundate them, though: while 30 percent prefer reading marketing emails outside of work, 27 percent say they notice them but ignore them.

“It isn’t easy connecting with a generation that coined the hashtag #JOMO to celebrate the joy of missing out,” said Kinch. “It’s critical to understand what motivates them—content that makes them heroes, delivered to them from companies that align with their values and interact with them as individuals.”

Ketchum’s Face Value playbook gives B2B marketers and communicators a customized, industry-specific approach for engaging millennial decision-makers. Based on a foundation of analytics-driven audience insights, Face Value provides a customized, measurable program that leverages B2B influencers, digital and social channels, and custom content.

5 tips for connecting:

  • Get to know the millennial B2B buyers in your industry: uncover unexpected insights by analyzing their beliefs and preferences and paths to purchase
  • Content should seem clearly helpful to B2B decision-makers in their jobs
  • Digital and social content and purpose initiatives will deliver more meaningful engagement if they connect directly with the audience and their business needs
  • Put extra effort in maximizing interactions at in-person events like conferences and trade shows
  • Use communications channels to give B2B decision-makers access to real people at your company

Face Value: Connecting with B2B Millennialsis the first research released by Ketchum’s newly expanded B2B specialty, led by partner and managing director Melissa Kinch. The specialty team offers the industry’s broadest range of B2B communications and marketing capabilities under a single roof, including analytics, influencer relations, digital strategy, earned and social media, advertising and paid media, video and digital content creation, issues and crisis, and executive visibility.

Read more about the study here.

Ketchum’s Analytics specialty polled 1,001 current full-time U.S. employees with decision-making and purchasing power, ages 23 to 38. Conducted between Sept. 4, 2019 and Sept. 13, 2019, the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 at a 95% confidence level.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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