Welcome to the second part of our blog on avoiding intent signal mistakes. To set the tone: according to Forrester, 63% of B2B buyers prefer to research on their own, up from 53% three years ago. From an intuitive perspective, this may seem like an extremely negative statistic – but actually, thanks to intent signals, this is pretty good news. As long as B2B marketers understand how best to use intent signals to reach in-market prospects at the first sign of interest, they will have a significant leg up on the competition. Reaching the right prospect at the right time and with the right message as they begin their buyer’s journey is the key to exceeding sales and revenue goals. Provided below are a few warning tips on how to avoid making mistakes when developing intent signal strategies.
6. Not all challenges are technical challenges; don’t forget the human factor
Accurately analyzing data is one area of responsibility that probably gives the C-Suite cause for many a sleepless night. (Well, in the top five at any rate.) Analyzing intent signals puts another layer of complexity in the mix, as other factors need to be introduced.
Marketing and sales executives are only human, like the rest of us. In making the difficult strategic decisions that they face each day, what are the primary factors that help them arrive at their decisions? When it comes to staff pitches, there always emerges a winning strategy, and then the “dead pool” of various and varied strategies, ideas, and concepts. Never forget that in addition to the facts and figures their marketing and sales staff provides, they also take into consideration their cultural beliefs, perceptions, and prejudices. The persuasive pitching style of the presenter doesn’t hurt either.
Make sure to use objective analytics that clearly connect ideas to revenue. Point out relevant trends that the industry is taking, intent signals, buyer personas, and sales facts while introducing your ideas. Try to avoid purely anecdotal information or social media buzz, as that won’t get you to the promised land. Convincing the C-Suite to adapt a strategic direction should reflect shareholder values and be firmly rooted in hard numbers, i.e. revenue, operating expenses, and profit margins.
Don’t go for the easy emotional route of comparing social media buzz as another way to measure intent, or you may just find yourself stepping into a great big pile of steaming…rejection. In fact, you may be accused of manipulating “false news” as your supposition is probably based on faulty assumptions.
Prospects who generate buzz and those who generate revenue aren’t always the same. Now, if the buzz is connected to revenue, that’s different. This shifts the playing field, as revenue is the connective tissue for all members of the C-suite, especially as it removes human obstacles from the equation.
7. Apply intent signals at every stage of the funnel
B2B marketers that apply intent signals have experienced success in leveraging this information to better identify in-market prospects, prioritizing accounts and providing a relevant roadmap in the development of messaging and content marketing strategies.
According to Demand Gen Report’s annual ABM Benchmark Survey, only 25% of B2B companies said they currently use intent signals and monitoring tools, while 35% said they plan to use intent insight within the next 12 months. This spike in interest is being driven in part by the increased flow of successful use cases from B2B marketing and sales teams that feature the use of intent signals to deliver demand generation, digital and social media campaigns only to companies that are likely to engage. Intent signals also help to connect the right stakeholders within target accounts, including demand units. Intent signals are also extremely useful in serving relevant content based on the spiking topics and pain points of in-market prospects.
B2B marketers are turning to intent signals to identify spiking accounts and engage them with targeted messaging at the right time. The best practice for incorporating intent signals is to apply it at every stage of the sales funnel. This helps in the pursuit of leaving no stone unturned. In addition, make sure your “intent by the funnel” applies to target sales accounts, potential prospects and customers that might have escaped your radar. Finally, don’t forget to include intent signals within your ABM strategies.
8. Don’t confuse causation with correlation
It’s easy to confuse causation with correlation. To help establish terms, if one action causes another action, then they are probably correlated. However, just because two things occur simultaneously doesn’t necessarily mean that one caused the other. (Although intuitively this might make sense.)
Let’s suppose there is a relationship between revenue and website traffic. You may determine that there is a definite correlation between high website traffic and robust revenue gains. However, don’t assume that website traffic is the reason for high revenue. There might be a common cause for both, or even no relationship at all – that’s the frustrating part.
To determine causation vs correlation is to eliminate the variable(s) that you think may be causing the confusion. Let’s suppose you found a high correlation between the number of leads generated and the number of opportunities gained; you might conclude that a high volume of leads will lead to a high number of opportunities.
To prove that a high volume of leads causes a high volume of opportunities, try to eliminate the variable (note: the variable is not leading, but a high volume of leads). Change the volume drastically and see if it has an impact on the number of opportunities. You might find that the number of opportunities doesn’t change, which will, in turn, allow you to cut costs on lead generation initiatives.
9. Establish ideal campaign outcomes first
When using external intent signals, it’s critical that there is a clear definition of the desired use case or the intended campaign result. Admittedly, this seems like a no-brainer for seasoned marketing and sales veterans. However, it’s that confidence in “knowing” what outcomes can be expected based on past experience that sometimes gets us in trouble.
For maximum impact, start with clearly stated criteria for measuring success, and then work backwards. For instance, with net-new use cases there is a genuine possibility of a tremendous gain in intent signals. The questions to be addressed are varied. For instance: how many leads can be generated, what is the estimated time and effort that it will take sales to realize projected outcomes, and is prospecting at these accounts actually worth it? Establishing this kind of framework provides an objective way to compare intent signals with other lead sources, list purchases, or other campaign tactics.
10. Don’t be automatically seduced by the lure of surging accounts
For sales and marketing professionals, the promise of a surging account is too juicy to ignore. However, the question is whether or not the information is accurate. Is a surging account correlated with an in-market prospect? There is a possibility that using intent signals, if not clearly defined, are no better at predicting positive outcomes than throwing spaghetti against a wall to see if it sticks.
As a campaign strategy, combine tried and true methods, such as using third-party intent signals to personalize emails, videos, and other advertising tactics with surging account outreach. As always, test, test, and test again. This method has an upside of increasing click-through rates, which is also a great way to generate more first-party intent signals.
The bottom line…
Throughout the dawn of history, marketing and sales professionals have anguished over how to capture in-market prospects. Today, thanks to technology, statistics, research, and intent-level signals, data-driven B2B marketers are able to make more direct, insightful decisions in the pursuit of capturing in-market prospects early in the buyer’s journey.
According to Google, B2B buyers conduct an average of 12 searches before they visit a company’s website. This fact demonstrates the importance of using intent signals to prospect in-market B2B buyers ASAP. Specifically, it’s important to be first in reaching that prized prospect, as they have already done their due diligence before contacting potential vendors or even visiting their site.
In 2019, the promise of “big data” is now, at last, being realized. B2B marketers have the tools, skills, and abilities to articulate the importance of capitalizing on prospect personas and using that information to reach net-new prospects in a more impactful way.
For more information on Intent Signals or other relevant intel, read more of our blogs at www.trueinfluence.com/blog.