If you knew what action everyone in your target audience was thinking about taking next, you’d be better able to create content and design marketing campaigns that make sure they take that next step with your brand. You’d also be in a position to nudge them toward your sales team and much closer to building those strong customer relationships at the top of your priority list.
That’s the basic principle behind intent marketing.
What is Intent-Based Marketing?
Before defining intent-based marketing, we have to understand the meaning of buyer intent. When users consume online content, they take a number of significant actions that help marketers better understand at what stage in the buying process they currently are. These actions are called intent signals. Determining buyer intent involves assessing and analyzing those intent signals to understand how close specific prospects are to making a purchasing decision.
Intent marketing, then, is a form of marketing that leverages the information gained from those intent signals to build highly personalized campaigns that are relevant to a prospect’s interests, challenges and stage in the buyer journey. Intent marketing helps organizations connect with prospects using marketing materials that are relevant to them, shortening the sales cycle and reducing costs of acquisition, benefits that have positive downstream advantages for the organization at large.
The Types of Intent Signals
How do marketers know when to connect a specific action to buyer intent? The advancement of digital technologies has vastly increased marketers’ ability to collect and analyze online user activity, and today, there are numerous types of buyer intent signals at their disposal. Not every intent signal will be relevant to your business, however. Knowing which ones to prioritize depends on your specific business needs and objectives and should ideally be hashed out in conversations between sales and marketing.
Some of the intent signals marketers use most often include:
Demographic and firmographic information
The basic demographic and firmographic information of your target audience is one of the core elements used to determine if a prospect is worth pursuing at all. Once the specific demographic and firmographic characteristics of the ideal customer are determined, marketers are better able to narrow their marketing campaigns to focus only on those who fit those predefined characteristics.
Demographic and firmographic information can be captured through online forms in exchange for valuable content that directly addresses the challenges and interests of your target audience. Ask users to share their basic company and professional information to help internal teams determine if they are leads worth pursuing.
Content consumption patterns
Users say a lot about their challenges and the buying intent of their organizations through their online behavior. For example, if a user who fits a company’s ideal customer profile downloads a buyer’s guide explaining the core features and key benefits of a specific marketing technology solution, there is a reasonable chance they are in the market for that tech product.
Other online actions that help marketing teams determine buyer intent include:
- A sudden increase in research activity: Users who don’t typically spend hours every day conducting independent research, but who have suddenly increased the amount of time they spend learning about new products, could be leaving a signal that their organization has initiated the buying process internally.
- Higher research volume from a single organization: If multiple people from the same organization (especially if those individuals are senior leaders or critical decision makers) are undertaking similarly high levels of research, that might suggest their organization’s internal buying committee is actively and aggressively considering making a purchase.
- Where they spend their time online: The pages on which users spend the bulk of their time also opens a window into their potential intent. Spending significant time on product pages suggests users are trying to learn about a company’s offerings, whereas casually sifting through the company blog probably points more to general industry research.
Marketers can use any combination of the above intent data to determine whether prospects are worth pursuing and focus their campaigns on those who have expressed clear intent.
The Benefits of Intent Marketing
Less than half of marketers today are using intent data to inform their marketing strategies, according to research from Intentsify. However, buyer intent marketing arms B2B companies with invaluable information about their prospective customers’ needs and challenges, which ultimately helps them improve marketing function and increase sales results.
Some of the main benefits businesses can experience by leveraging buyer intent marketing include:
- Healthier sales funnels: This form of marketing tends to increase the number of prospects marketers are able to attract to their sales teams in two ways: It connects the business with the potential customers that are more likely to be conversion-ready, while also delivering sales cycle-specific content to other users for a better ad experience. The result is a healthier stream of qualified sales and marketing leads in your sales funnel.
- Shorter sales cycles: Funneling more qualified leads to your sales team from the very beginning means sales representatives are more easily and productively able to address the needs of prospective clients. This gives them the tools to close a higher volume of deals in a shorter time span, saving their bandwidth and resources so they can focus more of their energy on other prospects.
- More personalized brand experiences: Today’s digital customers expect brands to deliver highly personalized content and marketing ads. Buyer intent marketing enables marketers to build marketing campaigns that are tailored to the specific needs and challenges of each prospective customer. This helps to increase engagement throughout the sales cycle and delivers deeper, more profitable customer relationships.
- Reduce customer acquisition costs: One of the great benefits of buyer intent marketing is that marketers are able to identify and connect with customers much later in the sales process. That means they’re building relationships with customers long after they’ve already decided they want to make a purchase, which helps businesses drastically reduce the budget needed to win new customers.
Collecting B2B Intent Data
There are numerous ways to collect buyer intent data. Let’s take a look at the three different types of intent data — which are distinguished by the methods used to collect them — to best understand the advantages of each.
Among the most effective ways for marketers to learn about their customers is to gather data straight from their own website and other online collateral. First-party data gives marketers deep insight into the people that already know their brand and are familiar with their products. It’s the most cost-effective way to build a buyer intent marketing strategy because it doesn’t require purchasing data from external sources. First-party data is the preferred form of intent data for many marketers, with 37% of brands using it exclusively to create personalized brand experiences for customers, according to a report from Twilio.
First-party data is, however, somewhat limited because it only provides insight into a business’s current site visitors. Marketers aren’t able to learn about prospects who might otherwise have an interest in the brand but who haven’t visited their website yet.
Some companies have data-sharing agreements in which they agree to exchange their first-party data to other companies with a similar customer base. This can give marketers access to new markets of customers with potential interest in their brand but who haven’t engaged yet, helping them to expand their reach and win new business.
The risk of second-party data is marketers are limited to the customer data collected by a single company (in addition to their own), which might overlap too much with their existing customer base and fail to open new business opportunities.
There are content syndication and other data providers that sell buyer intent data to marketers to give them insights into a much broader range of customer and market information. This form of intent data enables marketers to analyze customer behavior and market movements to a much deeper and more accurate degree, potentially opening significant market opportunities.
Third-party data, while extensive, might fail to yield the specific insights marketers want because it indiscriminately targets vast quantities of customer information, which might not necessarily be relevant (or useful) to the marketing team purchasing that data.
Using B2B Buyer Intent Data
Marketers can use intent data to optimize their marketing strategies and generate new results in the following ways:
1. Improve lead-scoring processes
In collaboration with sales teams, marketers can use intent data to build sophisticated lead-scoring systems that categorize users based on the content they’re consuming and other activity on their site. Done right, businesses are better able to identify the leads that are most likely to be interested in their products, allowing them to appropriately categorize specific leads and focus the bulk of their resources on the accounts that are closest to conversion.
2. Build relevant ad experiences tailored to the interests of customers
Intent data provides deep insights into the interests, preferences and challenges of the target audience. Marketers can use this information to create content that directly addresses the questions their customers are asking and the problems they are facing for more relevant content and ad experiences.
Marketing teams can also segment those customers based on interest and buyer journey phase, helping them fine-tune their email marketing strategies and ensuring customers are receiving emails containing content that are tailored to their unique circumstances.
As customers send intent signals that suggest they are moving further down the buyer’s journey over time (for example, if they begin engaging with more conversion-ready pieces of content), simply move them into a different email segment and send them new information that matches their changing needs.
3. Identify new markets for greater conversion opportunities
Businesses often base their understanding of customers on past sales experiences and conversations. Undoubtedly, this supplies excellent information about the existing customer base, but when they don’t lean on their data, businesses risk missing customers who don’t necessarily fit their ideal customer profile but who might be interested in their offerings anyway.
Harvesting intent data gives B2B marketers access to previously untapped market segments where significant business opportunities exist. This is especially true when businesses purchase intent data from other companies who have information and insight into market segments they didn’t even know existed.
4. Meet customers at the right time in the buyer journey
Intent data enables marketers to connect with customers at the appropriate stage of the buyer journey. Marketing campaigns that fail to discriminate between customers who are just browsing and those actively researching product solutions don’t just risk missing out on business opportunities; they also risk driving potential customers away.
It’s a myth that potential customers hate receiving marketing content. What they really want is marketing content that’s relevant to what their needs are right now. With buyer intent data, marketers can send general, informational blog posts to customers at the top of the sales funnel while supplying those closer to the bottom with case studies and other hard data about the value their brand offers.
This leads to happier customers and better outcomes for everyone.
5. Inform lead generation strategies
Content is at the heart of an effective lead generation strategy. To convince the target audience to exchange their personal information to gain access to content, marketers have to provide information they consider valuable and useful. Intent data will help inform what content is most attractive to buyers at different stages of the buyer cycle.
Marketers also have to be present in the right channels. Understanding where their target audience typically conducts its research (or learns about the brand for the first time) can help marketers determine where to focus their marketing dollars and start building campaigns that optimize the lead generation results they derive from those channels.
At CONTENTgine, we supply content marketers with an enormous volume of intent data captured from our massive repository of B2B assets. We’re in the business of using data to transform content marketing strategies.
Reach out to our team to learn more.