For too long, business-to-business marketers have been relying on the same old trope when it comes to identifying the drivers of tech purchases in the office place. Right now, you’re probably imagining a bespectacled whiz kid, gangly and pale, and above all else — young.
But we’re too far along in the digital age for this worn-out stereotype to be driving our marketing decisions. After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both belong to the baby boomer generation. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook is a boomer at 56 years old, and he certainly isn’t stopping when it comes to changing the way we use technology. On a more macro-level, it’s boomers driving the growth of many “new media” enterprises – boomer women are the fastest growing segment on Pinterest, and 82% of boomers are active on Facebook, spending double the hours per week on the site than their millennial counterparts.
When we look at large scale B2B tech purchases, it’s still boomers making these decisions for businesses across the world. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon. According to the California Association of Business Brokers, Boomers aged 45 to 64 form businesses at a higher rate than any other age group, and the vast majority of the 12 million businesses expected to change hands over the next 10 years will be in the form of boomer-to-boomer sales.
So how can B2B tech companies most effectively reach these boomer decision-makers? It all boils down to reputation. Baby boomers are less responsive to sweeping marketing claims, according to research conducted by the Marketing Insider Group. With 80% of their purchases driven by practical reasons, boomers are far more likely to turn to industry analysts to make informed purchasing decisions compared to their millennial counterparts. As such, they want to see proof that their next enterprise system works well, from sources they can trust.
For B2B sales teams, this means investing in “surround-selling techniques” — that is, marketing your enterprise systems not just to the chief executive you’re looking to sell to directly, but also to the review sites and analysts who will be talking to these decision makers. Surround-selling also means developing a sales team that can do face-to-face meeting with prospects as well as analysts, while simultaneously investing in a robust digital presence with strong customer testimonials and an up-to-date website free of marketing jargon.
These tactics — focusing on educational copy and credible surrogates — work equally as well from the advertising side. Boomers are most likely to respond to sources they deem to be trustworthy, according to research from Synchrony Financial. This means traditional media buys in legacy newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal are probably a safe bet, along with established community sites and associations where your target audience actively participates in industry discussions. By marketing through online communities and associations, you can directly reach boomer decision-makers, while benefiting from the “trustworthy afterglow” that comes from linking your brand to dependable groups these boomers already trust.
Luckily, these types of advertising outlets lend themselves to a more in-depth style of ad, which boomers respond well to. A study by visual engagement analytics firm Sticky found that baby boomers engage with digital ads significantly longer than millennials, which means they’re more likely to be reading copy and considering claims, rather than simply glancing over flashy stimuli.
It’s time for B2B marketers to do better when it comes to targeting boomer decision-makers. This generation understands the critical role of technology in the workplace and wants to make a sophisticated decision that positively impacts their business. By utilizing analysts and associations, and placing educational advertisements on key legacy and industry-specific sites, you’ll be able to best connect with the hands that control the purchases of enterprise tech.