Millennials may get a bad reputation — lazy, entitled, attached to their phones and responsible for killing the napkin industry. But stereotypes aside, this generation is playing a greater role in the workforce and needs to be taken seriously.
Early on I was often hired as the “Token Millennial” to consult or speak at events because organizers knew they needed a millennial speaker but didn’t really care why. I’ve been working hard at changing this narrative focusing on switching the conversation away from “marketing to a generation’ and towards understanding the aspects of today’s digitally plugged customer.
Thankfully that narrative has changed over the years and especially in the B2B space no doubt led by the increasing power today’s digitally plugged customer has in the buying process.
In fact, 73% of Millennials in the workforce today believe they play a critical role in B2B purchase decisions in their company, according to Brian Fanzo, Millennial keynote speaker and founder of iSocialFanz.
“For the first time in history, we have four generations in the workforce,” said Fanzo. “We have to understand Millennials and also bridge the gap to connect all the generations, capture their attention, and maintain their attention.”
Most importantly, Fanzo said we should forget about thinking about the differences between generations and focus on two groups of people: the digitally plugged and the digitally unplugged. Because no matter what generation is in the workforce, we’re all evolving in the digital age.
During his keynote, Fanzo shared four characteristics of the digitally plugged consumer:
- Disruption and change are the new normal.
“We’re in a world of constant disruption and change, but the digitally connected generation does not care that change is hard and that your business doesn’t want to change. You have to be agile,” said Fanzo.
- Community is the future of business.
“Community and being a part of something is everything,” he said. “It must extend internally, outside to customers and further to prospects. It matters — people want to be involved. It’s about empowering and connecting with that community because no one trusts a brand or a logo, [they] trust our community.”
- The future of innovation is collaboration.
“Collaboration is everything,” said Fanzo. “It’s no longer about what you know, but about knowing and sharing with others.”
- The future of marketing is reliability.
“Every business is in the business of trust,” Fanzo continued. “We have to think like a fan. We need to put yourselves in the shoes of your consumer and look at it from their point of view. If your own employees don’t feel it is valuable enough to follow your channels, why the hell would your potential customers. We must shrink the gap between ourselves and our consumers. Today’s consumer doesn’t trust anything they don’t know. Our job is to be relatable with what we do online.”
“Stop talking with a logo, talk with your employees.”
For example, Cisco has a microsite completely run by its employees. They do “Instagram takeovers” of their employees, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories. This leads to the development of trust and reliability between the company, its customers and even its prospects.
Putting It To Action: Fanzo’s Tips To Stand Out To Digital Natives
Fanzo said digital natives want to understand their voice is heard. “It’s not about solving their problem, it’s about acknowledging that they’re heard.”
B2B organizations must be where their customers are having conversations today. If you’re not, out of sight, out of mind. You become something they no longer care about, according to Fanzo.
“Content is not king,” said Fanzo. “Great content is king. We as marketers believe that everything we create is great. Our audience determines what great content is. Shrink the gap by doing something innovative and way out there.”
Fanzo suggests thinking out of the box: turn your white papers into podcasts, or add interactive elements to your content, and don’t worry about attention spans.
“Leave the damn goldfish alone,” he said. “It has nothing to do with goldfish — today’s consumer has no time for crappy content. Great content doesn’t matter around attention spans. Now it’s about getting content in front of the right audiences.”
If your content is exciting to audiences and is available where they want to consume it, the length won’t matter to them. Fanzo, for example, as busy as he is, makes time to watch numerous podcasts a week — some that even last up to two hours. But they are delivering messages he wants to hear, so he makes time for them.
Fanzo concluded by sharing a few tips to achieve this:
- “Personalization is a fairytale. Default to authenticity. What works now is real-time, authentic content.”
- “We need to give our community a window to who they are. Transparency is powerful and scary. But it is different than over-sharing — [audiences want access in a window to who you are, what you do and why you work there.”
- “What works is content where someone is writing the way they would [talk with someone], not at them.”
- “If you do not know what your customers are saying about you, you’re not willing to look. Look on Reddit; people tell the truth on Reddit. Be willing to ask your audience, take their feedback and listen to it.”
- “If your content is not mobile-ready, it’s a loss.”
- “Field of dreams marketing is over (if you build it, they will come). This year, if you build it, nobody cares. You must go to where your audience is and have a conversation on their channels, connect and build trust, and inspire them.
- “Look beyond current customers and understand who influences them to make decisions.”
- “If you want to build a reputation with your audience, it’s not about talking yourself. It’s about collaborating with others. This grows audiences.”