When it comes to marketing your business, you may feel as though there’s little need to consider Gen-Z. After all, the generation that unleashed TikTok and K-pop on the world isn’t exactly your target market – right?
Thing is, the generation born between 1996 and 2015 is more central to your business’s success than you might think. The first Gen-Z graduates have already been out of university for a couple of years now, while those who went straight from school to employment or apprenticeships have now been in the workplace for half a decade.
More ambitious than Millennials and better educated than Gen X, Gen Z is likely to climb the corporate ladder quickly – so you’d be well advised to get them onside now, while you can. Many of these 20-somethings are on the verge of becoming serious, budget-wielding B2B buyers – if they’re not already.
B2B marketing has a tendency to aim itself squarely and solely at C-suite employees. According to research by Google, however, less senior employees – i.e. Gen-Zers – have an increasingly large influence over . Around 81% of non-C-suite employees have a direct say in B2B purchases, while 24% of non-C-suite employees have the final say on such purchases. Ignore this shift at your peril.
So who are Gen-Z, and how do you reach them with yourB2B buyer-focused marketing? Well, naturally, they share a lot of characteristics with the Millennials who immediately preceded them. In fact, they could be very broadly generalised as Millennials-plus – kind of the same, only more so.
One key difference is that Gen-Zers are the world’s first true digital natives. No Gen-Zer can recall a time before social media or always-on connectivity. It’s likely most of them can’t even recall the days before virtually everyone had a smartphone (not that they’d ever use the phrase ‘smartphone’).
Shaped by online culture like no other generation before them, Gen-Z are readily reachable by digital means. You just need to know a few basic dos and don’ts before reaching out.
DON’T BE TOO SALES-Y
The slick sales patter that Gen-Xers and Boomers half-expect from their B2B suppliers is not going to fly with Gen-Z. A one-way sales pitch is a waste of time: as Forbes bluntly states, Gen-Zers do not want to be ‘sold to’, in the traditional sense.
In response, many B2B businesses are adopting B2C sales techniques in order to engage the under-25s. Experiential and influencer marketing are gaining a foothold in B2B, as is marketing centred around steadily building relationships on social. Gen-Zers trust their peers more than they trust brands, so you’ve a better shot at gaining traction with them if you reach out via a mutual online connection.
Forget chasing clicks – focus on connecting
DON’T DISCOUNT THE POWER OF FACE-TO-FACE
Gen-Zers are the purest of digital natives, and they spend, on average, 10.6 hours a day online. As a 2019 report on Gen-Z from Accenture puts it, “They’ve grown up in a connected world where humans and machines have coexisted for as long as they can remember.”
So you should be reaching out to them solely via digital channels, right? Well, perhaps surprisingly, Gen-Zers still place a huge value on face-to-face communication – particularly when it comes to serious professional matters, or considered purchases.
“Generation Z want to be able to use any and all technology tools to enable every aspect of their lives, from work to personal; scheduling to planning social events,” says Jim Link, chief HR officer at Randstad, one of the world’s largest recruitment companies. “But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of really getting down to work, they want to have those conversations face-to-face.”
DO BE 100% AUTHENTIC
It’s well-established that Gen-Zers expect a certain level of corporate social responsibility (CSR) from brands they support financially. So if your business ‘gives back’ in some way, don’t be backward in coming forward about it.
However: if your business lacks any kind of CSR policy – or pays only the shallowest of lip service to CSR – then definitely don’t attempt to fake it. When it comes to Gen-Z, the brand-damage caused by a flaky or inauthentic CSR commitment is worse than the damage caused by no CSR whatsoever.
A lightning-fingered Gen-Zer will speed-research your business and clock any chicanery before you even know what’s happened. And once your brand is seen as inauthentic, there’s no coming back.
“What I understand is actual commitment to something,” says a 22-year-old interviewed in a 2019 PR Daily piece on Gen-Z attitudes to business. “One thing I get really turned off by is when it appears that what companies are trying to promote, or what they are saying, is not aligned with their actions. Commitment, action, follow-through and transparency matter to me.”
DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING SUPER-GLOSSY
The much-maligned ‘Instagram aesthetic’ – perfect hair, surroundings, lifestyle etc – is on the wane. Gen-Zers are rejecting the super-slick, ultra-aspirational content that Millennial influencers popularised. The unstoppable rise of TikTok – a platform dominated by Gen-Z – has instead created a hunger for realness, imperfection and goofy humanity.
So: don’t get overly fussy with your content and comms creation. Better to seem slightly raw around the edges than suspiciously and unnervingly impeccable. As we’ve already seen, Gen-Z has an inbuilt mistrust of brands – B2B and B2C alike – and that mistrust is unlikely to be softened by, say, an overly corporate and painstakingly scripted video.
DO HARNESS SEGMENTATION
Of course, none of the above means all that much if you don’t segment your marketing. After all, the most skilled copywriter in the world wouldn’t be able to write an email that truly speaks to both a Gen-Z B2B researcher and a Boomer CEO. So if you really want to target those increasingly influential 20-somethings, you can’t afford to take a one-size-fits-all approach.
Yes, it’s a little extra work. You need data and insights, and recalibrating your comms and content for different demographics and channels takes time, skill and research. But that extra work will, in the end, pay dividends – and Gen-Z will thank you for it.