Hey Marketers, F*ck Millennials!

By Mansi Kothari, Product Marketing Manager at Kinnek

If you search for marketing tips on the Internet, you’ll uncover troves of advice on how to market tech to millennials, while marketing tech to other parts of the population is largely overlooked. Here at Kinnek, we are trying to reach a different type of audience and want to share some insights.

M2M Marketing: Millennial to Millennial

Many startups are created by millennials for a certain type of millennial — urban, educated, tech-savvy. Think Blue Apron, Snapchat, The League. If their products are B2B, they’re created by tech startups for other tech startups: think Slack, Lever, Intercom. These companies are creating products that they would use themselves — and marketing them in their own image. Just check out this ad from Slack:

As a millennial working at a tech company myself, I instantly understood the product. The message is funny and creative. But when I sent my mom the same ad, this is what happened:

The fact is, it’s natural as a marketer to easily get inside the psyche of someone similar to yourself. If you launch something that you believe is funny, witty, and enticing in your eyes, you can be confident that your target audience will feel similarly.

It’s also intuitive to sell your tech product to millennials and startups — the adoption curve isn’t so steep. Millennials are on their phones and laptops all day. They use technology in their personal lives, and they work on building tech products or know people who do. Because of this behavior, we know with certainty that they can be reached through trackable, digital channels. One survey found that marketers are spending 500% more on millennials than all other segments combined.

B2EE: Business to Everyone Else

Let’s not discount the rest of the population too soon. To do so would be losing out on a big opportunity. According to Nielsen, 70% of the country’s disposable income will be controlled by adults aged 50 or older by 2017. They are movers and shakers, budget and decision makers.

Traditional businesses are still around too. Figuring out how to reach these audiences and get them interested in new technology can unleash huge potential. For example, B2B equipment suppliers in the U.S. make $2.2 trillion in sales every year. That’s huge.

A Bit of Context

Kinnek is a B2B marketplace where small businesses go to research products and find suppliers. On the supplier side, we offer a suite of software tools that help suppliers market their company digitally, gain customers, quote more efficiently, and win more business. One of our challenges is figuring out how to communicate the worth of our tech product to suppliers. Here’s what a typical Kinnek supplier might look like:

Comic Sans and a fax machine

The Problem Statements

B2C question: How can a less “plugged in” audience get excited about new technology?

B2B question: How can businesses steeped in the traditional way of doing business get excited about new technology?

Our Solution

To put it most succinctly: Marketing = Education.

Here are six insights I’ve gathered so far:

  1. Start with the Big Picture

Too often marketers fail to explain how their product fits into the broader context of their target audience’s business. In other words, as Simon Sinek explains in his famous TED Talk, they answer the “what” but not the “why.” If you are trying to sell suppliers on an online marketplace that completely disrupts their word-of-mouth, handshake way of doing business, then you have to show them why doing it another way will be better.

In our case, we simply tell them the truth. Small businesses are researching products and purchasing online just like consumers do — 50% of B2B purchases were made online in 2015. Suppliers who don’t keep up will get left behind. As any good teacher knows, getting a student to invest in learning semicolons and dangling modifiers will be much easier if you get them to first understand how the ability to write well will have a lasting impact on their future.

Handout for Kinnek suppliers

2. Don’t Assume Anything

Good teachers also build up a lesson from the ground up, starting with the ABCs. If you want your users to interact with your product in a particular way, you have to show them how and never make (uninformed) assumptions. Here’s an example of a product tutorial we put together for Kinnek’s Supplier Academy:

Video tutorial from Kinnek’s Supplier Academy

At Kinnek, we learned not to assume the user would instinctually “get” any part of our website. Since then, we’ve been discovering ways to teach the product step by step.

If you want to connect with the user, you also have to empathize with them. Understand their worldview, knowledge base, hopes, aspirations, and frustrations. By crafting user personas based on real user data and deep-dive interviews you can construct effective messaging that speaks to their real lives.

3. Experiment with Non-Digital Channels

Each student has a different way of learning, and it often takes a combination of methods to get the message to resonate: lectures, discussions, readings, homework, etc. Just because your product is digital doesn’t mean your marketing has to be. Inform your user in a combination of ways, including the ways they are already used to receiving information, such as phone calls, printed handouts, and direct mail. Approach these channels as opportunities for experimentation, helping you arrive at the optimal mix of digital and non-digital outreach.

Kinnek uses print ads, direct calls and direct mail

4. Show Them Peers Who’ve Succeeded

There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition. Seeing that peers are keeping up with the times by adapting to new technologies can be one of the most compelling reasons for potential users to get interested and get active. In a marketplace, competition is an especially powerful force. Off product, we’ve developed case studies that demonstrate tangible, quantifiable ways that Kinnek has improved business for suppliers. In product, suppliers can see how they rank against peers through leaderboards and ratings.

Kinnek shows suppliers how they fare against their peers in the marketplace

5. Use the Product as a Teaching Tool

One of the most undervalued marketing channels is the product itself. Users are most likely to be responsive to your messaging while they are actually using your product. This is when you have their utmost attention, so take advantage of it. Onboarding joyrides, in-product behavioral cues, and product announcements can be good educational uses of your real estate if they’re done well.

Examples of in-product behavioral cues for suppliers

We use Intercom to converse with customers in product, and find open rates there average at 80% and clickthrough rates at 20% (as compared to 30% and 2% respectively through email). Users love the ability to reply, chat, and ask questions while the product is top of mind.

6. Approach Users in Familiar Territory

People tend to be more responsive to new ideas when they’re in familiar territory. At Kinnek, we learned pretty quickly that trade shows are where our suppliers feel most comfortable — so we went there. At the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium and Craft Brewers Conference this year, we went all out by sponsoring the events. These were important moves for us to establish build awareness of our company. We also gained the opportunity to observe traditional business environments in action — and brainstorm which elements we can try to recreate digitally.

Mansi Kothari oversees product marketing on the supplier side of Kinnek. A native New Yorker, she studied Global Health and History at the University of Pennsylvania and Law and Management Science at Stanford University before pivoting into the tech world.

Mansi enjoys new food experiences, crossword puzzles, and challenging hikes.