There is a lot written about the impact of five generations in the workplace. Organizations of all sizes are trying to read the generational tea leaves to attract and retain talent. A big emphasis has always been on understanding what drives Millennials. While it’s true that Millennials are the biggest age cohort in the workforce (35%), there is a significant mix of Generation X (23%) and Baby Boomers (25%). And each of those groups requires different care and feeding.
Let’s extend this line of thinking to the buying center – the formalized team of stakeholders evaluating B2B vendors, platforms and services for their companies. Sometimes referred to as a DMU (decision-making unit) or buying committee depending on the organization, the buying center is typically a cross-functional team of anywhere from three to twenty people. This group has gotten more digitally sophisticated over the years and have transformed the B2B sales process as a result.
Generally, a buying center is made up of a budget owner, technical experts, functional leads, direct and indirect end users, influencers, procurement people and project managers. These are the visible ones. On top of that sits a layer of hidden stakeholders that come in and out of the process. Sales can be blindsided late in the game, often because of these stealth players.
Sounds complicated? It can be. Let’s now consider the added dynamic that multiple generations bring. As you can imagine, members of the buying center find that reaching consensus is a difficult path to navigate. From various marketing studies, we know that Boomers, Gen X and Millennials behave differently; they want and need different things to help make a purchase decision. Each of these three generations have distinct:
- Personality traits
- Research methods and sources
- Engagement preferences
- Attitudes towards sales
- Content sources, formats and delivery
- Feature requirements
- Search methods
- Messaging dos and don’ts
Age doesn’t equal authority either. A Millennial can be a budget owner or an end user. So could a Boomer. A Boomer could be the technical decision-maker on the team and thus more technically savvy than their younger colleagues. Go Boomer!
What does this mean for content marketing and digital strategists? It means you need to create content and experiences that appeal to multiple roles AND consider the different generational preferences. You need to provide information that helps teams reach consensus. You need to determine what messaging in which format and in what channels appeals to the key individuals and what appeals to the entire team.
To help you get started, here is side by side comparison of how the different generations vary in terms of workstyle, media consumption, trusted sources and their overall decision-making mindset. All of which can be baked into your thinking about message development, editorial planning and content distribution and amplification.
We understand these next-gen challenges firsthand. ComBlu has been in the thick of all things buying center for companies like Cisco, VMware, Sitecore and Capital One for many years. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to know more about how these brands approached the buying center dilemma. Check out a few other resources we’ve created on the topic you can access at your leisure:
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to a Content Journey 2: The Buying Center at the End of the Universe
- Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer 2020
- ComBlu Perspectives: The Buying Center
Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.
Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.
She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.