B2B sales leadership in 2020 will face challenges with the onset of COVID-19. To help sales and marketing teams conquer the challenges arising as a result of the pandemic, understanding the power of Intent data in creating effective Account Based Marketing strategies is a must.
It’s likely that, at some point today, you engaged in an online search. You may have even conducted that search with the intent to take a specific action on a new piece of information that led to the final destination in your digital journey.
According to Oberlo.com, Google processes an average of over 40,000 queries per second. While some of those searches could be frivolous in nature or the result of mindless scrolling, a significant number of them will lead to interactions or transactions with businesses like yours.
Often times this customer behavior gives businesses actionable insight into the activities of key decision-makers. Their actions may start in search and end on an organization’s website can leave a virtual breadcrumb trail with many stops on the way to their intended decision. For B2B firms, this Intent data helps them know who is currently in an active buying process, and to better understand the lifecycle of the buying decisions. With that kind of insight into customer behavior, an organization can intentionally design online experiences to send their buyers down that inviting path towards conversion.
What exactly is Intent data?
Intent data is information collected about a web users’ observed behavior – specifically web content consumption – that provides insights into their interests. This insight often indicates potential intent to take a specific action. For businesses, that means understanding who might be inching closer to a buying decision or the nuances of the most common path towards a sale or conversion.
Where do you find it?
First-party Intent data can be captured via your own website or content libraries, while third-party Intent data providers monitor which of your potential customers are actively searching elsewhere online. This data is usually collected via a data co-op or through the Bidstream.
The buyers’ activity is scored based on the actions they take while navigating through various websites, looking at what topics are being researched and to what extent. The data is then translated into actionable insights for the sales and marketing teams.
Typically, these teams are alerted when their target clients are taking action online that would suggest their readiness to invest in the products their organizations offer. If leveraged correctly, Intent data can help convert customers and drive sales more quickly and efficiently.
What are the different types of Intent data?
Intent data uses activity indicators like IP addresses and browser cookies to track customer activity. There are two types of Intent data to understand as you look to leverage it for your own sales and marketing efforts.
First-party Intent data
First-party Intent data is what you would most likely think of when you imagine tracking valuable insights about buyer activity online: what’s happening on your website. You likely already track first-party data through analytics tools, marketing automation platforms, or the backend of your own website.
This data can often be anonymous and not tied to a specific buyer, or you might be able to identify the business and individual thanks to IP identification or previously submitted forms. The downside to depending solely on first-party Intent data is that you’re only gathering valuable customer data during one part of the buyer journey, and you could be overlooking ideal prospects that never make it to your website at all.
Third-party Intent data
On the other hand, third-party Intent data observes buyer research everywhere else, so you can gather a more holistic view of your prospect’s activities. After all, rarely do customers make one visit to one website to make a sophisticated buying decision. It’s likely a series of events over time, with the majority of research happening before a buyer even visits the provider’s website.
While first-party intent data offers the visibility of one important stepping stone in the buyer journey, third-party intent data gives organizations a view into the entire path and each misstep, leap or backtrack along the way.
Leading organizations pair first and third-party data as part of a holistic of the buyer-centric journey. Often the third-party data surfaces research first, which can help businesses get a jump on their competition and create a more personalized experience when the buyer actually arrives at the business’s website. If businesses only leverage data from prospect visits to their own assets, they may not capture customers who are only researching their competition.
How is Intent data used?
Intent data can be used to launch and run much savvier sales and marketing programs. Think about it: if you are able to better understand the pain points and interests of your target audience from the moment they begin the evaluation and research process of their buying journey, you can tailor your interactions to those needs and build more valuable connections.
From a tactical perspective, most businesses start using Intent data to help their sales development teams prioritize a list of target accounts to call on. More advanced organizations can create unique groups and targeted lists based on specific activities, and reach audiences in more personalized ways. If you can identify a prospect’s place in the sales cycle, you can feed them the highly-relevant content they need to overcome the next big hurdle in the buying process. When you are able to understand the struggles of your audience and provide a solution, it’s easier to build more meaningful and trusting connections that lead to sales.
Is Intent data right for your business?
If you’re considering Intent data for your business, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do we have a long or complex sales cycle?
Intent-based marketing can be used in almost any sales cycle, but the real value comes in with those lengthy or complicated buying journeys. When a significant barrier to entry like a high price point exists, it can offer more challenges in the connection and value building stages of the buying decision. Intent data is valuable in knowing when and how to meet those challenges and move towards a win.
2. Do we have the right systems and processes in place to act on additional Intent data?
Most B2B organizations benefiting from the powers of Intent data have at least a CRM and marketing automation tool in place, so they can keep track of top prospects and aggregate and take action on the data about those buyers.
3. Are our marketing and sales teams working to reach a defined set of accounts?
Intent data providers can help you build and continually prioritize highly targeted prospect lists for more personalized and appropriately timed outbound efforts. It can speed up the sales cycle and help teams avoid spending time or energy on accounts that aren’t ready to engage. With intent marketing, businesses can re-market to competitors’ prospects based on the known needs that those firms may be unable to fulfill.
While organizations have depended on marketing analytics for years to drive their most critical sales decisions and activities, Intent data has opened new doors for increasing demand generation through account prioritization. The way customers move throughout their journey when making significant investments and buying decisions is a sophisticated process that requires a unique Intent data set to more easily relieve prospect pain points and in turn optimize conversions.
By combining individual and deep behavioral data, you’ll gain a better understanding of how your leads behave and a clearer, unified view of your B2B customers’ purchase intent and timing.