Marketing to Millennials: How Manufacturing Can Make the Shift

Posted by Matt McCoy on Mar 27, 2018 1:23:52 PM

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Manufacturing, although an industry with a long history, isn’t stuck in the past. Its operations have embraced artificial intelligence, robots and other technology, which has propelled accuracy and efficiency forward. Unfortunately, manufacturing lags behind in other areas like marketing. It hasn’t adopted modern marketing practices like content, inbound or social media marketing. Thus, it’s struggling to connect with millennials, who, according to a Forrester Report, are involved in B2B purchasing decisions 73 percent of the time. They are also, per the Pew Research Center, the largest living generation in the U.S., numbering over 75 million.

For manufacturers to retain and grow clients, they must start focusing on the millennial buyer.

What Resonates with Millennials

Yes, millennials love social media and video, but it’s not that simple. One good starting point is to look at what brands millennials admire. The Enso agency recently shared data that scored 150 different brands and looked at the differences in the opinions of baby boomers and millennials. The results were not great for older brands. It’s not always because older companies don’t understand how to relate to millennials. Some of it is relevance. Younger people aren’t going to have high esteem for Pfizer because it’s not applicable in their life. Even in industries where brands are known for speaking to a diverse group of buyers, like packaged goods giants Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, there is still a big gap for millennials. What brands do millennials love? Not much of a surprise here: Snapchat, Spotify, Honest Company, Chipotle, Kickstarter and Starbucks.

What do these brands have in common? Well, many have been disruptors in their industry. Many of these brands don’t shy away from taking a stand on social and environmental issues, which matter to millennials. Over 80 percent of millennials rank making the world a better place a priority in life, as determined by consumer goods manufacturer Unilever. Unilever also understands that millennials want a more personal relationship with brands. The company is using this approach to win them over, as demonstrated in their “Find Your Magic” campaign for Axe. These same preferences in the B2C world translate to millennial B2B buyers.

What Manufacturers Can Do to Create Relationships

Millennials want to know your brand—not just its features, but rather what it means to their lives. How can you tap into this sentiment?

  • Focus on the millennial as a digital native, a person raised in the digital age, who according to a Google and Milliard Brown study, start with a generic search in their research of products and services 71 percent of the time. This approach to research means buyers have gathered lots of information prior to engaging a brand. These digital natives also prefer short bits of information that is visual in nature per a Forrester Research In response, marketing and sales must interact with these buyers differently. Websites needs lots of educational information, and it needs to be apparent to them the benefits of doing business with the company.
  • Use content marketing to tell stories that are relevant to them. Your content should not be a commercial for how great your products are. Rather, it should follow a narrative flow that educates and offers solutions for their challenges. This allows millennials to see you as thought leaders and experts, making it more likely they will trust you. There is no better way to build trust than content marketing.
  • Be visual in how you represent content. It’s not that they all prefer visuals over words, but they have grown up with instant access to YouTube. Use video to bring millennials into the story. Show them how your operations work. Take them out into the field, demonstrating how your products fit the need. Animoto found that 80 percent of millennials consider video content when researching purchase decisions.
  • Communicate with them in the channels they prefer. Most millennials prefer email over in-person meetings, per an IBM They also aren’t a generation that will respond to cold calling. Millennials are texters, with 68 percent admitting they text a lot in a Gallup Poll. Then there is the wide world of social media, which they also use in researching brands, products and services. A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study found 51 percent use Facebook in this way, 52% use Twitter and 59% use Pinterest. Be where they are and engage on their terms.
  • Take a stand on social or environmental issues that align with your company’s values as well as those of millennials. Not saying anything or trying to evolve your own internal culture will immediately be dismissed by millennials as signifying a company that doesn’t care.

Packaging Solutions Manufacturing Company Gets Millennials

Tetra Pak manufacturers packaging solutions for food and beverage. They introduced a new product with an ergonomically-oriented design that has a tilted cap for easier drinking. Then, the company sent samples to targeted leads. But these weren’t simple cardboard boxes. They had a stunning design with an Instagram-inspired foldout showing how the packaging would enhance the brand and offered links to more content online. A DMNews article championed it as a millennial focused campaign, and it worked, with the company generating over 500 inquiries with just 72 packages.

Millennials Are Your Current and Future Buyers

Marketing is always evolving. Internal and external elements have changed the world and buyers. It’s a great time to take advantage of creating that connection with millennial buyers. Speak the language they speak. Engage them where they are. Realize the benefits of this new age of marketing. It could be the shift that yields new deals and a bright future.

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Topics: Building Management, MarketScale B2B Marketing, Manufacturing, Millennials

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