The Z Factor – How to Prepare Your Marketing to Survive the Gen Z Invasion

If You Thought Millennials Were a Marketing Challenge, Meet Gen Z!

The Millennials were the impetus behind what was perhaps the most significant shift in how companies market themselves to attract, engage and retain both clients and employees.

The Millennials were very different from the previous generations and also very tough to figure out. In fact, many companies are only starting to crack the code on how to market to and work with Millennials effectively.

Now they have an even bigger challenge on their hands: Gen Z.

Although Gen Z shares certain attributes with the Millennials, it’s a generation that promises to be much more challenging to engage and will require completely new marketing approaches.

Gen Z is starting to enter the workforce and soon will become an influencer in business buying decisions, which means now is the time to invest in getting to know them and starting to develop and test branding and marketing strategies and campaigns that will earn their attention and capture their business.

Our primer on Gen Z will help your company get ready to take on this new generation.

The Gen Z Dossier

Marketing to Generation Z infographic

Gen Z Marketing Mandates

With Gen Z entering the workforce, future-forward marketing approaches move out of the “things to think about … later” category and into “must act on … now.”

Here’s what you need to know to reach, connect with and convert your new customer base – internal and external – called Gen Z.

Relevancy Rules

Gen Zers are not only adept at finding the information they need but also instantly discerning whether or not something is relevant to them. Immediate relevancy will be essential for making certain your company lands on their radar.

Personalization is essential for capturing Gen Zers’ attention and earning their trust and preference. There are many strategies and tools that enable the more targeted and personalized approach, including Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and omnichannel marketing.

The biggest challenge for many B2B/services marketers will be Gen Zers’ expectations of more and more B2C-like experiences. Marketing tools and technologies that have proven highly successful in the B2C space – hyper-personalization, predictive marketing and retargeting, just to name a few – will continue to make their way into services marketing.

B2B marketers will have to get better at capturing information and learning more about the individual behaviors and preferences of this new generation in order to make tailored data-driven decisions that improve the effectiveness and accuracy of brand communications and marketing content and campaigns.

Purpose Attracts

The purpose-driven nature of Gen Z means they want to do business with – and work for – companies, people, and brands that seek to create a meaningful impact on the world around them.

Although the Millennials paved the way as the purpose-driven generation, the underlying differences between Millennials and Gen Z is in companies’ ability to demonstrate the impact they claim to create.

The highly skeptical Gen Zers will hold companies to a higher standard, demanding transparency and accountability – in other words, demand that companies walk the talk. If Gen Zers sense that a company’s claims are false, that company can give up any hope of building trust with them – in fact, all companies trying to reach Gen Zers will find it very difficult to recover from scenarios such as this.

Although most companies have already come to understand the importance of having a purpose-driven brand (including its positive impact on the bottom line), if your company is not one of them, there’s no better time to start than now.

Related content: The Bigger Truth About Purpose-Led Brands

Authenticity Builds Trust

Trust is key for Gen Z, and authenticity is the path to building trust with this generation.

However, a brand’s ability to live and act authentically – and to be seen as authentic – begins with a clear definition of its voice and personality.

Begin with refining your company’s brand platform (or developing one) and then making sure that your external brand expressions (identity, communications and customer experience) and internal culture (policies, practices and employee experience) are fully aligned.

You must craft all marketing communications so that messages continually reinforce your company’s brand voice and personality – in other words, so that your company is always speaking through its authentic voice.

And while there’s no “right” brand or culture that’s guaranteed to attract Gen Z, they both must be uniquely and authentically yours.

Creative Counts More than Ever

Digital agency’s Deep Focus Cassandra Report found that two things in particular capture Gen Z’s attention: humor and great music.

Whether humor or music specifically align with your brand and marketing, the key takeaway is that capturing Gen Z’s attention calls for raising your game when it comes to creative execution and for developing unique marketing communications that engage.

To succeed with Gen Zers, you must develop a deeper understanding of their expectations and unique characteristics and address them through marketing message and content, but you must do so using your company’s authentic brand voice.

In other words, although your company should strive to address this new audience’s needs and preferences, no company should ever do that at the risk of deteriorating its brand (or being seen as a fake) by simply jumping on a trend.

Let your brand’s authentic voice and personality determine what creative style and format will be true to the brand and also transfix Gen Zers.

Automation Solves Complexity

“Wait! What? B2B offerings are too complex to automate with a chatbot!”

That may be true in general, but automating marketing, sales and communication processes along the entire customer journey is a must and is worth challenging your assumptions about what’s possible. Especially since phone aversion is real for both Millennials and Gen Z, it impacts how businesses need to handle their customer interactions.

Start by asking: How can we automate our marketing and sales process in a way that enables Gen Z to connect and convert with less human contact?

For example, tactics such as providing self-directed online options for initial information intake; automating the new client onboarding process; and adding chatbots, messaging and context-specific online forms for customer engagement and support align perfectly with how Gen Z likes to connect, engage and conduct business.

And most of them are already standard in B2C, so B2B brands need to catch up – and fast. Fortunately, today’s technology makes it possible.

Related content: Gen Z is in the Building: How to Attract, Engage and Retain the Next Generation of Employees

Footnotes for Thriving with Gen Z

Content Needs to “Edutain”

This new generation of digital natives turns online both to research companies and educate themselves before making important life and business decisions.

Although providing relevant, expert content is more important than ever, with Gen Zers’ lack of attention span, lengthy and complex studies and reports won’t grab and keep them engaged. You will need a different approach.

Providing “edutainment” will form a stronger bond with Gen Z audiences. Prioritize creating video content (Gen Z’s medium of choice) and taking advantage of AR/VR for multisensory experiences.

And whatever you do, deliver it in sound bites!

Social Has to Evolve

Gen Zers increasingly favor visual channels such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Although it may be challenging for services companies to leverage channels previously perceived as highly youth or consumer focused, everything you now know about Gen Z provides a good starting point for strategizing about how to leverage these newer-to-B2B channels.

Keep in mind that there’s no standard prescription for which social channels to select, and this generation tends to be constantly on the move when it comes to channel favorites. Know where your specific audiences are and make sure to keep tabs on where they’re headed next.

If your audiences are on a channel, be there too. If they’re not, why would you be?

LinkedIn and Gen Z

For many B2B companies, LinkedIn has become the primary business network, but is it where you can expect to find Gen Zers?

Gen Zer’s strong entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make more money has made LinkedIn a natural choice for many in this generation. In fact, they’re using it to build their personal brands, as well as movements and communities (for example, the Gen Zer who transformed the #LinkedInLocal campaign into a global movement), and to make connections that will open doors and secure jobs and internships.

Although LinkedIn is not where you’ll find the majority of Gen Zers (Snapchat and Instagram still win), Gen Z is engaged on LinkedIn now, and all predictions suggest that they’ll only become more so.

Good news for those B2B companies that have made LinkedIn their central social media hub!

Social Listening Is Ground Zero

Social listening is a term for observing an audience group in its natural habitat. This is the best way to learn about Gen Z’s preferences for interaction and the types of messages and content that resonate with them and to gather other useful information that will help you identify the most effective ways to engage them.

Today’s marketing relies on data to make decisions and achieve results. The information you gather through social media listening, analytics and testing will help your team better understand what works in earning Gen Z’s attention, trust and, ultimately, business.

Diversity Must Be Front and Center

According to the Pew Research Center’s report, Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, so companies that wish to attract Gen Zers must demonstrate their own commitment to a diverse workplace environment.

The best way to communicate your company’s commitment to diversity is through your public-facing corporate communications. But remember that this generation is scrutinizing your company to make sure that it does on the inside what it says it does on the outside.

Take a look at your website, for example – especially your leadership page. What do you see? If you want to show diversity within your company to help attract diverse talent, this would be the first page to rethink.

There are many great diversity programs you can implement, but the most important one is the one that makes sure your team mirrors the workforce you want to have.

At Substance151, we help companies develop and execute brands and marketing campaigns that are relevant to today’s audiences and build connection, trust and loyalty. Contact us and let’s discuss how we can help you build your brand in way that will attract the generations that are now in the limelight and the ones that are yet to come.