Insights From a Myth-Busting Millennial Business Study

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"They want to meet you. Almost 2/3 (61%) would prefer to conduct new business meetings face-to-face; and 76% would prefer to build a personal relationship with a vendor or partner. They are craving in-person contact, not digital isolation."

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Somehow, like our friends' kids that we only see every couple years around the holidays, millennials have grown up and are now 23-38 years old, reports Ketchum, in their new report titled Face Value: Connecting with B2B Millennials - Myth-Busting Insights About a Growing Generation of Business Decision-Makers—from which the above quote is taken from.

There has been a tendency to wince at the often overused "millennial." But the importance of a study like this skyrockets when you see that age range. These talented colleagues are now the people we want to subscribe to our newsletters, attend our events, buy our products, participate in our webinars, join our committees and, yes, sign on to be our speakers—in addition to everyone else.

Here are more conclusions from Ketchum's study:

There's really no down time. About 40% of millennials in B2B decision-making roles spend five hours or more looking at work-related content outside of working hours. "Nearly half say they always bring work home, and 68% say they feel like they are 'always-on' in their job, even at home... But 4 in 10 say they actually like that feeling and that being always-on is part of their personality." All of that may account for the fact that emails sent on Sunday evening do well for us and others, and Saturday marketing emails are becoming more popular as well. (30% say they prefer reading marketing emails outside of work.)

Purpose is important but price is priceless. About half (49%) think it's very important to work with a company that has a strong social purpose. In previous surveys I've seen, that number has been higher. Three-fourths (76%) prioritize cost and performance (81% value reliable service), items that can be measured and will help them get rewarded in their jobs.

(Still, it never can hurt these days to ally with a good cause. I just received an invite to a holiday Merry Mail Social from Beyond Definition, a member of AM&P, another division here. In addition to the usual revelry, they're asking attendees to "decorate cards for Operation Gratitude, Cards for Hospitalized Kids, and Sunrise Senior Living (Silver Spring)." That creates a good feeling.)

The value of face-to-face and... the phone (for talking). Sometimes we forget that we can even talk into a phone and believe anybody under 35 might not even know how. But 55% of millennials prefer phone calls when it comes to building relationships with new B2B vendors and partners. An even bigger 61% prefer face-to-face meetings while "real-time interrupters like instant messaging (15%) and texting (12%), and mass marketing tools like e-newsletters (7%) are a big thumbs-down."

"In my opinion, while millennials are true digital natives who value online and social media interactions as they go about their lives, they are humans, not robots," writes Melissa Kinch, partner and managing director of technology for Ketchum. "They still require that human touch, especially when conducting business. And the assumptions we make about them as consumers aren't necessarily the assumptions we should make about them as business people."

People who need people are the luckiest people... Millennials listen to people they respect—colleagues, industry experts, vendors, academics—over online channels. They even trust friends and family (56%) more than conventional sources such as vendor websites (49%), trade media (47%) or marketing materials (46%).

"Digital and social media tactics and purpose initiatives remain important influences on purchase decisions, but the real ROI comes when millennial decision-makers believe you understand them uniquely," writes Kinch. "Most B2B companies are not yet investing in that level of audience insight or high-touch engagement."

Get out of the office. Let's repeat how we started: 76% would prefer to build a personal relationship with a vendor or partner. That type of relationship will not happen on Instagram, email or Twitter.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…