Intent marketing is a data-driven approach to marketing that enables organizations to pinpoint potential customers that are most likely to convert, ultimately driving more qualified leads to their sales teams and creating better business outcomes. Highly effective and popular, Statista found that 70% of B2B vendors are now using intent data to prospect leads.
Using a series of signals collectively known as intent data, intent marketing monitors online user behavior to identify actions that could suggest an intent to buy, allowing marketers to adjust and fine-tune their campaigns to better target their ideal customer.
What is intent marketing and why is it important?
First, let’s define buyer intent. When browsing the web, potential customers routinely drop clues about the action they intend to take. For example, if a user is consistently making search queries like asking Google for information on the “best cybersecurity solutions for medium-sized businesses” one day and “why small businesses need to invest in cybersecurity” the next, marketers can reasonably conclude that this user is in the market for a cybersecurity solution.
Demographic information can also be used to determine intent. If a sales development representative makes a one-time visit to your product page, for example, it’s unlikely they’re in the market to make a purchase. If the CFO takes the same action, however, this might suggest their organization’s internal decision-makers have initiated the buying process. That behavior points to genuine customer intent.
The collection of all this information is known as intent data. Marketers can use this information to build marketing campaigns that are directly targeted at the users with higher intent and therefore higher conversion rates. To use the above cybersecurity example, marketers might create content detailing the information buyers should consider before purchasing cybersecurity software, and then encourage those potential customers to exchange their email information and download it.
The benefits of intent marketing
Intent marketing drastically enhances the accuracy and precision of your marketing campaigns, connecting you with the customers that are most likely to buy your offerings at the exact point in the buyer journey where it is most appropriate to reach them.
Here are some of the main benefits of intent marketing:
- Identify new market segments: Without buyer intent data in their arsenal, marketers sometimes misidentify their target audience (or at least focus too narrowly on a single market segment). Intent data can help you identify potential customers you didn’t even know might be interested in your products and begin building campaigns that target them specifically.
- Create more relevant content: Understanding where potential customers are in the buyer’s journey gives you the information you need to create content that directly addresses their particular interests and problems. Customers that have demonstrated a serious interest in your product, for example, will be better served with bottom-of-funnel content like case studies or video product demos.
- Build more effective content marketing campaigns: Intent data enables marketers to learn about the content types and subject matter that users find most valuable and engaging. They can use this information to revamp their content creation strategies and produce content that drives better customer engagement, which, in turn, helps to drive better brand recognition.
- Drive more qualified leads: The combined effect of targeting the customers that are most likely to buy, increasing brand recognition and creating more engaging content is a healthier stream of more qualified leads to your sales pipeline. Sales teams can engage these leads with the confidence that they have already demonstrated a sincere interest in the product or services, driving more conversions.
- Increase the ROI of your marketing spend: Incorporating intent data into your marketing campaigns brings you to your potential customers with fewer resources spent, drastically reducing your cost per conversion and cost per acquisition rates. This makes your marketing budget more efficient and gives you additional resources to devote to other areas of your marketing strategy (or business at large).
Gathering intent data
Of course, marketers must have systems in place to gather that intent data for all of this to work. Many organizations lean on their own websites to collect the necessary data, while others rely on external parties to share and exchange data for a much larger view of the potential customer base.
Here are the three different types of buyer intent data:
First-party intent data
First-party intent data refers to the user data you’re collecting from your website, social media posts and other online collateral. Using data tools like Google Analytics, you can easily track information about users’ online activity to learn about where they are in the buyer journey, including the web pages they’re visiting, the content they’re consuming and the amount of time they’re spending on your site.
Second-party intent data
If you don’t have the requisite analytical tools to gather your own data (or simply don’t have the time to analyze and interpret this data), one of your options is to leverage second-party intent data. There are numerous content syndication providers that house databanks consisting of thousands of pieces of content, from which they gather their user insights. The marketing team can purchase this information and incorporate it into their own strategies.
Third-party intent data
One of the most comprehensive and popular forms of intent data is third-party intent data. Gartner forecasts that by the end of the year, more than 70% of B2B marketers will be using this form of intent data. Organizations gather information about users and their online activity from a host of third-party sources, like the bidstream, which external marketers can then purchase. Third-party data provides a much wider view of your potential customer base, helping you build a deeper understanding of new and existing market segments, which you can use to create more precise and effective marketing campaigns.
Challenges associated with intent marketing
The main challenges associated with intent marketing center around the quality of your data: where it’s coming from, how accurate it is and whether it adds value to your marketing campaigns. In fact, according to research from TOPO, 67% of marketers struggle to make intent data actionable.
First of all, data has to be accurate. If your data is telling you potential customers are giving intent signals that they are not, you will end up wasting precious marketing dollars on users with little chance of converting. Beyond accuracy, your data needs to tell you something relevant and useful. If you’re a SaaS CRM company, for example, it doesn’t help to know the intent of buyers in the market for a car.
Beyond data quality, the marketing team needs to have the framework in place to properly structure, analyze and interpret data. Firstly, marketers have to understand what exactly they mean by intent. While the type of content users are consuming is one of the telltale signs of intent, marketers have to be able to distinguish real potential customers from those simply conducting research. They need to be able to analyze a complex set of data — some of which may seem conflicting — to properly determine intent.
Even after intent has been identified, some organizations will struggle to fit that intent into their marketing strategies and identify who qualifies as a lead. For example, what amount of content must be consumed before a user is considered a lead? How many page visits? Marketers need to align with their sales team to help nail these definitions down and ensure the right customers are being targeted from both perspectives.
Enhancing your intent marketing strategy
Successful intent marketing requires constant tweaking and adjusting to optimize your results. The following steps serve as a starting point to improve the performance of your intent marketing strategy:
- Select the right keywords: The success of your Intent marketing strategy ultimately depends on the quality of the data you’re gathering, which itself depends on the content and keywords you’re tracking. Select a series of high-intent keywords (meaning those that suggest a serious attempt to research the market or buy) to understand where in the buying process potential customers are.
- Use automation tools: Digital marketing teams are monitoring user behavior across several different sources. This data can easily get locked inside silos, making it difficult for marketers to connect their data and generate broader pictures of their leads. Automation tools combine data gathered across your ecosystem to create a single, comprehensive view of all your leads.
- Ensure alignment with sales teams: Marketing data is only as good as its utility to your sales teams. That’s especially true for intent data, which can be difficult to understand for users that aren’t steeped in intent data. Marketers should ensure proper alignment with their sales teams, coming to an agreement on what intent signals are meaningful and how to properly score leads based on that data.
- Adapt to new information: One of the great benefits of intent marketing is that it enables marketers to identify new market segments they didn’t know existed. Unfortunately, many marketers are too wedded to their traditional buyer personas and refuse to pivot to new realities. Marketers should be amenable to data-driven approaches and ready to adapt to changes in the market to get the most from their intent data.
Creating great intent marketing campaigns starts with having the right partner. At CONTENTgine, we manage a database of hundreds of thousands of pieces of B2B content, which our clients use to learn about their potential customers and build marketing strategies that drive more qualified leads.