Gen Z are the generation born from the mid-1990s onwards*. You may have heard about this cohort as the emerging new breed of consumer to target (B2C), or in 2016 when they started trickling into the workforce. As we move into 2019 and beyond, Gen Z’ers are joining the workforce in larger numbers, a generation that’s surpassed Gen X, and already two-thirds the size of the notoriously large ‘baby boom’ generation (source).
It’s a generation that’s also referred to as: iGeneration, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives – all pointing towards their “instinctual relationship” with technology.
This leads into the big question this article aims to answer: is it time we started taking the attitudes, needs and motivations of Gen Z’ers into account in our B2B marketing strategies?
Depending on where you draw the generation cut-off line*, Gen Z are increasingly moving into decision-making positions within organisations; this natural demographic shift is coupled with the trend towards flattening organisational hierarchies to place Gen Z in your B2B target audience.
This article will cover:
- Characteristics of Gen Z and which marketing channels/messaging will resonate
- How the Salesforce Marketing Technology Stack can cater to their needs and expectations
- What additional considerations marketers should be making for the long-term
*Maybe Gen Z are closer than we initially thought. The start date of Gen Z is debated, some even saying as early as 1993… which would include even myself under that label!
Characteristics of Gen Z & How to Engage Them
What we know about Gen Z is mostly derived from the political and socioeconomic contexts they’ve grown up around. Plus, I have the advantage of B2C marketing insights from analysts and thought leaders, that I can piggy-back off in this B2B speculation. Here are 4 characteristics I believe are focal to how they will challenge B2B marketing in its current state.
As “Digital Natives”, members of this generation aren’t familiar with the world pre-internet. Safe to say, they take the internet and the cloud for granted.
Gen Zers have ‘digital footprints’, that is, the data trail created by internet users’ activity and data they share about themselves – according to Business2Community, 92% of kids in the U.S. have one! The resulting balloon in data is something marketers should be prepared to fully leverage; not only do Gen Z bring larger volumes, their data is richer in quality and longitudinal. This will feed the AI-driven MarTech stacks of the future.
Born digital, also born social.
Social Media has been gaining credibility in B2B marketing communications for some years, and Gen Z will play a big part in legitimising these channels.
Social Media forces marketers to convey their message in limited words, less common in traditional B2B Marketing. Messaging across other B2B channels should reflect this too; shorter attention spans will mean your carefully crafted copy won’t get read, as Gen Z-ers have an 8 second attention span, on average.
When asked, around 60% of Gen Zers stated that they want to have an impact on the world – but this isn’t dissimilar from the 84% of Millennials that rate impact above professional recognition.
Marketing messaging needs to catch-up. Maybe that’s unfair? Although most organisations do have some form of purpose-driven PR, they often miss the mark with authenticity. A good example of authentic corporate social responsibility is footwear brand TOMS, with their matched donation initiative for every purchase. New generations can see through empty marketing that was tolerated by other generations.
Having said that Gen Z rank making a difference over climbing the corporate ladder, they are however, actively invested in their personal development. They tend to be more intrinsically motivated, yet still seeking ways to advance in order to contribute.
Account-based Marketing approaches should work well to address this. This popular B2B marketing strategy target individuals at a granular level according to their role in an organisation – the prime way to speak to their personal motivations. If you position your product and service as one that promises to improve their productivity, they will bite the bait; Gen Z are not a passive generation that sits back and waits for their turn!
Being born digital, clunky customer experiences will stick out like a sore thumb. The most obvious to spot, is missing the mark on personalisation.
Personalisation relies on vast amounts of data being aggregated and triggering marketing communications through multiple channels. Personalisation will need to become more responsive and ‘elastic’, applying changes to the individual’s experience in real-time. This is also known as ‘omnichannel marketing’, using multiple channels without the experience appearing different. In the coming years, there will be less forgiveness for omnichannel not being executed perfectly.
The Customer Experience (CX) conversation is heating up.
I see CX being the foundation for building trust with B2B audiences of the future – as I have said already, there will be less forgiveness for a poorly executed omnichannel marketing approach. Worse still, silos will appear as inconsistencies and untrustworthy.
Known as one of the most innovative companies on the planet*, Salesforce has been gearing up to turn its ‘CRM’ platform into a ‘CX’ platform for some time. If you aspire to be an innovative brand, then Salesforce is your best bet.
*featured consistently in the Forbes “Most Innovative Company” list, including holding the #1 spot for 7 consecutive years.
This is how Salesforce is prepared for the Gen Z arrival:
Announced at Dreamforce 2018, Customer 360 is the result of the mega-acquisition of Mulesoft. It enables Admins to connect data from multiple sources, making it possible for effective, faster data syncing. Think back to the elastic marketing experiences previously – new data or behaviour should affect the next prospect touch point in real-time.
Gen Z digital footprints will be more extensive, and start at an earlier age. Gen Z will also test traditional digital advertising tactics, as they allude marketers across more channels and devices, while savvy with ad blockers. How can adverts continue to reach audiences in the most effective way? Salesforce DMP takes data your organisation collects on marketing channel interaction and device usage, then aggregates it with data from 3rd party partners.
DMPs will become increasingly key in lead generation efforts, to optimse when and where adverts are displayed to prospects – otherwise, your adverts won’t resonate amongst the noise.
Einstein Bots use NLP (natural language processing) to understand what your customers are typing and direct them to what they need. It’s quick and painless for all involved – that’s what Gen Z expect from even researching for B2B products and services.
Social Media – Monitoring:
Social Media Marketing will become more prolific. B2B companies should care about what their friends and foe are saying on various social channels. Social Studio enables marketing teams to tap into the conversation, meaning they are more responsive, and therefore perceived as a corporate brand authentically engaged with prospects, and of course, customer champions.
Social Media – Images:
Gen Z (and everyone else!) will begin to use images more than words. Technology like Einstein Vision will be able to decipher insights from images to keep up with the conversation even your B2B prospects are having.
With the average attention span being 8 seconds, organisations will need to lift their customer experiences beyond the two dimensional – even when using existing channels such as email. Although some industries are ‘sexier’ than others, there is no excuse for boring B2B experiences. Take Rebel, for example, a platform for creating “email that doesn’t play by the rules”. Even though this Salesforce acquisition will join the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (positioned for B2C Marketing), B2B marketer should aspire to find a similar tool.
However, some products are not quite there yet. Let’s take Pardot, Salesforce’s B2B marketing tool – it’s developing at breakneck speeds to catch up! Pardot recently transitioned onto the core Salesforce platform, in order to sit better with other Salesforce products, especially complementing Sales Cloud. This year we will see Pardot become AI-enabled (Pardot Einstein) and see Marketing Analytics uptake spread fast. Jumping on the latest development with the product will help you prepare a ‘future-proof’ B2B marketing strategy for when Gen Z dominate your target accounts.
Gen Z are going to challenge marketers, due to the communication preferences they bring into the B2B marketing stack. High-flying consumer brands have set the bar high with seamless consumer experiences, and soon B2B marketing will be required to match this standard.
The Salesforce Platform is solid technology you can place bets on. This post has covered what we know about Gen Z – what is interesting to them, and what is interesting for B2B marketers. I then delved into the Salesforce Platform products that will make a difference to B2B marketing as it evolves to cater for Gen Z professionals. Finally, I commented at how fast the Salesforce Platform is innovating in the B2B Marketing space to continue outperforming other vendors in the market.