Leveraging a solid understanding of leads, what they need, the problems they are facing, and the solutions they are looking for is arguably the basis for any kind of successful endeavor in the B2B marketplace.
Intent-based marketing, combining organic (free) and paid for website research, analytics, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and social media, is providing tech savvy companies with huge quantities of the digital world’s new currency; data.
However, the true challenge lies in identifying the right data and knowing how to apply it to craft personalized and compelling campaigns.
Successful campaigns and content need to be calibrated to match how target markets think about products, how they search for them, and how wider external societal or market forces may influence buying decisions.
The goal of intent-based marketing is to fully understand the buyer to predict purchasing decisions and use this information to improve on the product or service and its delivery to boost sales strategies.
In theory, intent is fantastic tool for guiding strategies. However, for companies to successfully implement intent-based marketing and to understand the real scale and limitations of its potential, the question must first be asked: is intent really the B2B marketing Holy Grail it’s made out to be?
To consider its pros and cons, uses and misuses and address the hype vs reality of intent-based marketing, below are five common myths or misconceptions about the power of intent.
The interpretation of intent can have many utilities, and an equal number of challenges, when it comes to accurately informing strategies.
Although commonly misidentified as demonstrative of bottom of funnel leads (BOFU), intent data originates from prospects at various stages of the consumer journey but is often more indicative of leads positioned at the top of the funnel (TOFU).
This is because most intent data is collected from prospective clients and others performing cursory research into a company’s products and services.
Differentiating genuine intent data from data generated by competitors and marketers researching topics and products with zero intent to purchase is the real challenge of identifying leads from intent.
This where additional data is crucial. Distinguishing between qualified leads and false positives is a continuous process and requires more information than intent signalling alone can provide.
To avoid over-enthusiastic SDRs pushing prospects away, it’s important to remember at this stage that intent does not mean the buyer is ready to make a purchase immediately. Once teams have identified genuine buyer intent there is still some way to go.
Intent data, as a digital footprint of online behavior, can be unreliable and requires filtering and finessing before concrete conclusions can be drawn.
But with it, marketing and sales teams can begin to craft databases to help manage qualified leads, build successful nurturing strategies and pursue follow-ups for each target account more successfully, boosting ROI and ultimately revenue.
Intent scoring is the attribution of value to intent data and varies depending on the source of the data. The more sources marketers use the better.
Credible sources of first-party data can be derived from measuring interactions and interests such as internet searches, white paper downloads or webinar attendance. Different scores can be attributed to different types of interactions based on pre-defined criteria to better inform marketers.
However, the utility of intent scoring is often called into question due to the amount of configuration required. For effective intent scoring, several factors need to be considered based on demographic and firmographic market segmentation variables such as job title, number of employees, or seniority level within a company or organization.
The issue of scoring with these factors is that they are often static and fail to reflect the more fluid nature of modern B2B roles. Job titles can be particularly misleading and may not accurately reflect the responsibilities of the position. As such, intent data based purely on these variables can be unreliable.
Relying on only one source of information to score intent will probably result in leads being misunderstood and incorrectly segmented, leading to misguided marketing campaigns, irrelevant nurture efforts, low take-up and poor ROI.
As such, the functionality of intent scoring is often debatable and prone to human error. Values accrued to different interaction metrics with the objective of indicating buyer intent can be seen as arbitrary, leading to unreliable scoring systems and algorithms.
Multi-touch systems are far more effective given that they track data from multiple, easily identifiable sources. They are often automated too, measuring interactions faster than a human can and automating responses like discounts or offers means they can capitalize on interactions faster.
Scoring intent, while a worthwhile endeavor, can easily become muddled.
Intent data is often compared with the effectiveness of inbound marketing and fully paid for search. While the end goal of all three is the same, they are distinguishable by their different methods and merits.
Paid search and Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns allow marketers to get in front of a target audience (with adequate keyword research) and determine which strategies have the best reach and potential for investment. This can consequently also be used to further identify buyer intent and to better understand which campaigns are appealing to specific target accounts.
While intent and paid search aim to identify prospects at the TOFU stage, inbound marketing is more complex and often more successful in attracting new leads and nurturing relationships with them.
Inbound marketing works by applying a ‘needs centric’ approach to a variety of content covering solutions and information about common problems. Any interaction with content can be measured via web analytics and gated content procedures.
By informing leads with free content marketers can establish and nurture relationships with brand new prospects while generating demand for future purchases. With the inbound method well produced content has the potential to snowball in terms of outreach as satisfied consumers form part of the distribution network by sharing it through their own channels.
In the interest of capitalizing on time-sensitive opportunities influenced by trigger events and additional factors it is imperative for marketers to at times act quickly.
Intent data is often viewed as an easy, budget-friendly catalyst for rapidly determining sales and marketing strategies for target accounts.
Marketers looking for information that will help them identify intent often seek second and third-party data to avoid passively waiting for data from proprietary websites to be collected.
However, due to the nature of intent data and the sheer volume of it available from third-party sources, analyzing intent for useful insights can be a time-consuming process.
Second-party data is collected by companies directly from target audiences and then sold on. In other words, it is another company’s first-party data. Examples of this type of data include website activity, in-store purchasing history, review sites, apps, social media and surveys.
Third-party data originates from sources often with no connection to the person or organization from which information is collected. It generally originates from vast data pools like those compiled by resource or platform controlling entities such as governments, social media providers, subscriptions and surveys.
Examples of third-party information includes names, addresses, phone numbers, browsing activity and other personal details. Correlating this type of data against in-house objectives can be time-consuming and prone to error.
One of the most common misconceptions of intent-based marketing is not only that it is enough by itself to guide a campaign, but also that it can guarantee success.
As we have seen, intent data does not mean the lead is ready to make a purchase, let alone a purchase from your company as opposed to a competitor.
As data, it needs to be interpreted and like any other marketing strategy it cannot be implemented and then left unmanaged.
Utilizing intent data is not a new strategy, and it’s not a fail-safe one either. To gauge the success of an intent-based marketing campaign results need to be measured against the competitive nature of the market.
When analyzing the effectiveness of an intent-based marketing strategy, marketers should also consider the price and quality of their products as well as how efficient their salespeople are in following-up with leads and nurturing them through the sales funnel.
No matter how insightful the intent data is, if the quality and price of products are not competitive and not being effectively marketed by sales teams then success is unlikely.
Rather than being thought of as a Holy Grail for sales and marketing strategies, intent data should instead be viewed as a useful tool for segmenting broad audiences primarily at the TOFU stage.
Relying purely on intent data can be naïve, leading to high expectations and subsequent disappointment and poor ROI when sales fail to materialize.
To ensure success, it is essential to find the right intent-based marketing partner that understands how to leverage the information it generates effectively, keeps companies informed of progress and changes, and has extensive reviews and case studies to prove their credibility.
For more information join INFUSEmedia’s webinar here.