Latest industry views and advice

January 8

Who are the “BETAs” – the new breed of B2B buyer – and what do they mean for B2B businesses marketing, communicating and selling to them in 2021?

Another year, another acronym but – thanks to Ty Heath, director of market engagement at the LinkedIn-funded B2B Institute – we have an explanation.

Research done recently by the institute is aimed at understanding the mindset of this group, essentially the first cohort of digital natives (including the oldest Millennials and Generation Z) to achieve decision making positions in their organisations.

So, to demystify the initials, they mean:

B = blurred boundaries

E = evolving professional identify

T = tech natives

A = activist

Influencing B2B buyer decisions

Among the elements that characterise this audience, according to Heath, are “caring about and using applications, using Peloton for spin classes, [being] conscious consumers and streaming vs buying”.

Simultaneously, the stats claim that 57% of BETAs are now making key influencing decisions for business and 40% are responsible for testing new vendors. This includes decisions about complex SaaS and other platforms; in other words, serious B2B buyer choices.

And, Heath said, while the COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated this development, the trend was already in place.

But what does each dimension of the BETAs’ B2B buyer brain, heart and soul mean for businesses marketing to them?

  1. Blurred boundaries

BETAs have a strong preference for work/life flexibility, including home working.

Smartphones are their number one tech platform, with 60 days’ extra use per year compared to other groups – and this means doing B2B business almost entirely from phones, according to Heath.

As users of applications such as Slack and services like Netflix, BETAs are seeking the same seamless user experience in B2B buying as they get in B2C. Heath calls this the “Netflixification of business” (not a phrase I ever imagined writing). 

Therefore, marketing and sales to this group requires more informal communications; adopting and blending the applications they already use for both personal and business purposes.

As business relationship building has migrated more from face to face to online, less formal messaging methods have evolved alongside email and includes an increase in “edu-tainment” content (another thing I never imagined writing).

However, for all their embracing the “new”, BETAs also have a high level of risk aversion according to the research. This means choosing to do business with companies they’re already familiar with and being mindful of who their competitors opt to work with.

What this means for companies selling B2B is “doubling down on things that build trust”, which ultimately boils down to brand building, including the importance of “social proof”.

  1. Evolving professional identity

BETAs have a “constant need to learn and improve”, Heath explained, with work and building a “professional brand” as integral parts of their identity.

So, B2B businesses need to consider how they can offer educational opportunities (sorry, it’s that edu-tainment word again) to support their interest in personal growth and help nurture their progression in the workplace and in moving their companies forward.

  1. Tech natives

 According to the research, BETAs expect “personalisation, convenience, flexibility and digital-first professional interactions, preferably via less formal communications media, such as messaging, video and social media”.

  1. Activist

BETAs expect the companies they do business with to invest in things that support the community – taking care of all stakeholders, not just shareholders. This means companies being bold and participating actively in social justice issues.

To address this, Heath said companies need to know their “North Star” – the thing that guides their vision and mission as a business and actively communicating to their own people and their customers about how that’s translating into specific actions and investment.

“Everything new can be uncomfortable, sensitive and difficult,” Heath said, for companies to do right by an under-represented group. However, if businesses can truly understand what a group is facing and what it’s like to “stand in their shoes”, it presents a “ton of opportunity”.

I would concur with this, on the proviso that the commercial opportunity is seen as a by-product of doing something authentically, socially conscious and which is a genuine reflection of the organisation’s world and purpose. Brands that have previously attempted to jump on a bandwagon – for example, companies “blacking out” their social media feeds during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2021 – without an underlying and tangible commitment to a cause risks their reputation.   

 Appealing to BETAs – action points

While adapting to the new generation of B2B buyers may take time, Heath reassures us that companies don’t have to do everything at once. She recommends:

  • Understand the “train has left the station” and these are the new B2B decision makers.
  • Think how you can communicate more informally and build relationships virtually.
  • What thought leadership content can you create to help BETAs shine?
  • How can you create a more seamless buying experience?
  • Invest more creativity and emotion in your website.
  • Be bold – “lean in to where things are going [in terms of] brands being responsible for impact on their communities”.

Get help with your brand building PR, communications and thought leadership activity with Metamorphic PR

Listen to the Marketing Smarts podcast – via Marketing Profs – featuring Ty Heath of the B2B Institute being interviewed by Kerry O’Shea Gorgone about the BETAs research.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash


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