3 data lessons that Millennials can teach B2B marketers

How millennial attitudes to data can transform your approach

January 20, 2016

Marketers spend a lot of time studying millennials. At LinkedIn, we believe in using some of that insight to act more like millennials ourselves, and nowhere more so than when it comes to working with data.

I’ve written posts previously about how millennials tend to defy generalisation – but this is one area where millennials as a whole represent a huge shift in mindset. For them, data isn’t a challenge; it’s not a conundrum that they struggle to make sense of; it doesn’t fill them with angst that their creative instincts will be constrained; and it’s never an excuse for being indecisive. Data is the stuff of millennial life; it’s how they function, the natural starting point for all of their thinking. They have grown up in a world where the answer to any query their imagination can come up with is usually just a click away, and they are inherently creative in the way they put such data to use. For millennials, data is a playground full of exciting opportunities that feel as natural as hopping on a swing.

There are lots of ways to tap into the millennial data mindset and use it more effectively in B2B marketing. An obvious starting point is, of course, to make sure you’re hiring your fair share of talented millennials and giving them the opportunity to contribute! However, there are also principles that marketers of any age can take from the millennial approach. Here are three of them:

1. Use Data to Enhance Your Creative Game

Millennials know there is no real divide between data and creativity. If you have the data available to inform the creation of your content and how best to promote it, then why wouldn’t you? After all, with data backing up your hunches about what your audience likes, you’ve got license to take more risks in delivering it.

One great example of data and creative working together is Netflix’s House of Cards series. Netflix’s own data showed that a large number of subscribers liked films by David Fincher, films with Kevin Spacey, and the original UK version of House of Cards. With that in mind, they commissioned a US remake, directed by Fincher and starring Spacey. Good data combined with great creative made the resultant series a game-changer for Netflix.

The lesson is simple: use data to predict creative effectiveness, then follow-through with killer creative.

2. Use Data to Test Everything

I can hear plenty of you groaning at that sub-title: another researcher committed to testing everything to death and squashing creative thinking! But that’s not how millennials use data in testing. There’s no more effective way to test than to put content out there, see how it performs, and iterate and improve as you go. This doesn’t restrict creativity; it unleashes it.

At LinkedIn, we do all types of A/B testing with our creative content: we test our wording and our calls to action; we experiment with headlines, formatting and images. This provides far greater scope for creative approaches to a brief. There’s less of a tendency to stick with the most conservative, tried-and-true approaches when you can test several different routes and determine very quickly which ones perform best.

That’s one of the reasons we’ve built A/B testing into our LinkedIn Marketing Solutions product suite. Direct Sponsored Content is a feature of Sponsored Updates, which enables you to test content for specific audiences without posting each version of it to your LinkedIn Company Page

You’ll notice a big difference between this list and the one above. Whereas established marketing skills are quite general, those that recruiters are paying greater attention to are very specific. As the digital marketing landscape becomes more diverse and more complex, expertise in connecting to prospects on specific social platforms becomes very important. Emphasising such expertise will stand you in good stead in 2016.

3. Use Data to Amplify and Personalise

Personalisation and amplification will be two of the top priorities for data-driven marketers in 2016 – and of course, they are closely linked. The more you customise content and create a better experience for the audiences you are targeting, the greater the likelihood that you will create content people love, and will therefore share.

With the amount of data available to us, there’s no excuse for marketing blind. Focusing on the people who are most likely to convert prevents you from bombarding others with irrelevant messages whilst getting far greater value from the engagement you create.

Want to get under the skin of millennials? Check out our recent research into Affluent Millennials, a generation that will drive major changes to the finance industry – and one of the most important emerging demographics for marketers more broadly.