Intent-driven marketing: how hard is it really?

Aryeh Sternberg
By Aryeh Sternberg | 21 January 2016

Massive amounts of intent data are available to marketers and now is the time to lean on this information to improve business outcomes. What type of experience can we expect from intent-driven marketing? Let’s take a look.

What is intent data?

To understand what you can expect from marketing with intent data, you should first understand what intent data means:

Intent data is live information about the activities and behaviours of your audience, creating truly dynamic and powerful signals about their preferences, their information needs, their propensity to take an action, and ultimately their intent to make a purchase.

Most marketers are familiar with search as an intent data source, but there are other important sources, including:

● site data

● off-site web activity

● point-of-sale, CRM

● social data

● content consumption data.

In essence, intent data is the digital footprints left behind when a user visits a website, downloads a whitepaper, engages with your website, interacts on social platforms and so on. Each of these interactions gives us an individual’s current and future intention, giving us a better picture of the individual as well as the account.

Individually these signals tell us a lot. When grouped together and in order, linked to individual people, we can uncover new ways to engage with those people while extrapolating engagement patterns to better interact with similar audiences.

Why It matters

So we have all of this granular data, but why does it matter to marketers? There are a few reasons jockeying for position here:

1. First, because marketers often fail to understand the modern B2B buyer environment. It is not a single-buyer process, but rather a large committee of decision makers who influence the final purchase. The individual buyers making up these committees generally have different roles within the enterprise and may come in at varying stages of the transaction. Intent data grants marketers the insight to reach these influencers and decision makers earlier in the sales cycle, with the creative experiences and content they need to influence or make a decision. This can actually shorten the sales cycle, which is traditionally longer for B2B buyers.

2. Second, intent data is important to identifying unknown prospects. According to 6sense, a B2B predictive intelligence platform, “because most sellers’ marketing systems capture only known website visitors – a fraction of these footprints – they miss the buying signals that unknown, anonymous prospects are leaving on their website and elsewhere.” With predictive lead scoring models, you can detect potential buyers, but only if you already have their email address or they are in your marketing automation system. Intent data picks up where lead scoring leaves off; by pulling together all of the other data signals indicating a propensity to purchase – opening up new opportunities with accounts that are researching products or services like the ones you sell.

3. Third, precision in delivering meaningful value-driven messages is critical in today’s B2B world. It is one thing to know when a specific audience is on a specific device and is more likely to engage with a specific type of media, it is wholly another when you know what specific content and in what context they want to consume it in. Being able to measure, evaluate, and then target based on the signals people share brings us closer to a customer's desires and to a sale, as opposed to pushing messaging that is untailored to broader unknown audiences.

Right, so how hard is it really?

So obviously, intent-driven marketing does more than generate demand; it actually allows us to capture demand from places previously untapped. With intent data, we can bring in more qualified leads into the sales funnel, to nurture and increase the value of leads as they funnel downward – and we can do it much earlier in the buyer journey.

To begin, marketers can engage a data provider to aggregate third-party intent data from social media, blogs, publisher websites, review websites, online communities, buyers’ guides, and so forth.

Next, marketers can employ programmatic media, which uses intent data along with internal, first-party data to specifically target individuals on the buying team within target companies, in real-time, wherever they are. Programmatic technology enables marketers to optimise content for a specific user, at a specific point in the buyer journey, on the sites they prefer and on their own terms.

After that, marketers can verify what works through testing and measurement. Because intent data is not static over time (that is, a user’s needs and influence can change within months), all testing variables should be analysed along with current intent data to determine what works and what does not.

Finally, marketers can use ever-advancing technology like data management platforms, advanced attribution, dynamic creative optimisation, and cross-channel media delivery to measure engagements from nuanced audiences that are continually being evaluated against performance and optimise towards ROAS and ROI.

The more data, the better

While adding another layer of data to the marketing mix may seem like complicating matters, what it really does is allow marketers to discover new business opportunities, establishing more qualified leads, reaching buyers earlier in their journeys, and closing more deals than is possible with traditional lead scoring models.

Intent-driven marketing is a change in process, which may be a difficult transition in the short-term. But in our view, it is a change worth pursuing.

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