Talent Brand Purpose B2B Marketing

Focusing on gen Z: how B2B brands can hook this new generation of customers & candidates

By Penry Price, vice president of marketing solutions

June 28, 2021 | 6 min read

While chief marketers and talent directors at nearly every brand have been laser-focused on what makes millennials tick in recent years, it’s now time for them to shift their attention toward the new generation of buyers: gen Z. This is especially true in the business-to-business (B2B) space. LinkedIn’s vice-president of marketing solutions Penry Price shares the essential tactics for targeting these up-and-comers.

Gen Z

Gen Z in the UK increased its live video viewing by nearly 60% at times during 2020

Gen Z, which was born between 1995 and the early 2010s, totals more than 25 million in the US and 12 million in the UK. What’s more, this group is now graduating college and will be entering the world on their own, representing a new crop of consumers with disposable income and technologically-savvy upstarts with career goals.

Much ink has been spilled over B2C companies trying to figure out how to court gen Z, so let’s instead look at what this generation means to B2B brands. First of all, the talent that companies attract drives the brand the public comes to know. So B2B marketing and recruiting go hand in hand – you need gen Z decision-makers to build a brand their generation will appreciate.

B2B marketers and recruiters honed their virtual chops, doing business nearly 100% online in the last year, but they still have plenty to learn around approaching gen Z. Consequently, here are three gen Z-minded areas they should focus on in the worlds of both work and play.

Lean into live video

Gen Zers are different from young adults of the recent past. They are more digitally native than their predecessors, having little to no memory of life before smartphones, and they are leading the charge for making live video a hot medium. For instance, gen Z in the UK increased its live video viewing by nearly 60% at times during 2020.

B2B brands, such as Salesforce, Automation Anywhere and Detroit Labs, have been laying the groundwork for superb live video engagement. Each company created an episodic live series to engage their target audiences and then followed up with personalized messaging, which is what gen Z expects out of brands. The brands also provided information that helped B2B pros do their jobs better and was easily viewable on mobile devices. For that last note, consider that 55% of gen Z use their smartphones for five-plus hours a day.

While marketers can rather easily borrow from these examples, recruiters can also take a page out of these B2B playbooks by holding live video sessions with employees to describe how their workplace has positively impacted their career development. Everyone likes a success story, and people tend to enjoy sneak peeks inside of brands – HR-based live video can capitalize on both favored activities.

Mix in audio

Social audio has become another favored activity with this generation thanks to the rise of Clubhouse and other apps for live banter. The apps have been getting B2B brands’ attention in recent months because tens of millions of gen Z members and other folks have been patronizing them. Therefore B2B brands need to mix in a dose of audio.

The audio-only phenomenon isn’t necessarily a flash in the pan with this group. In 2019, well before Clubhouse launched, 70% of gen Z members were already podcast listeners.

So strategic planning for B2B marketing and recruiting should include audio, whether it entails social apps or podcasts. For inspiration, they can look at GE, which seized on podcasts to reach its audience, creating audio content on everything from sci-fi to climate change. The B2B brand’s efforts have paid off: its 18-month-old Cutting Carbon podcast is reaching 10,000 listeners largely due to promotions via earned and paid social media.

Own your brand values

As a group, gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than what we’ve seen before, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet. They are particularly concerned with social issues, no matter what political party they belong to. Therefore brand values matter to them, and they will likely affect their B2B purchases and loyalty.

To be clear, B2B brands do not need to be politically to the left or to the right. Of course not. But to appeal to gen Z, they do need a purpose playbook with human values that they plan to stand by. The pandemic and racial justice movements in the last year should have prepared B2B companies for the next moments that cause our nation and world to pause, think and react. By standing for certain values, a B2B brand’s marketing and recruiting will do better with gen Z.

What do all of these B2B-minded themes have in common? They mirror what’s going on in the greater intersection of business, culture and technology – B2C, in other words. Consider that 80% of B2B buyers now expect the same buying experience as B2C customers.

Consequently, B2B marketers and recruiters need to evolve with the times. To appeal to gen Z, that means a lot of live video, more than a pinch of audio and standing for something.

Penry Price is vice-president of marketing solutions at LinkedIn.

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