If you’ve been noticing a lot of buzz around intent data recently, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most exciting topics in the B2B marketing and sales world today, and with good reason. B2B organizations are discovering in intent monitoring the solution to one of their longest-standing riddles: “How can we get in front of the right prospects at the moment they’re ready to buy?” And that’s just one of the ways this high-performance solution is turbo-charging B2B marketing across industries.
B2B Lead Generation: The Old Way
For years, using firmographic data (company size, industry, geographic footprint, etc.) was the standard approach to B2B prospect targeting. While this can be a useful first step in identifying firms that could be a good fit, it offers no insights on whether an account was in the market for the brand’s solutions.
Technographic data offered some improvements by uncovering which tools, technologies, and applications a company uses, offering deeper insights into what they buy, how they operate, and what they might be looking to do next. Likewise, predictive analytics use past experience to predict buying activity through algorithms and mathematical models.
As helpful as these approaches are in identifying accounts that could be a good “fit,” the timing issue — discovering where prospects are in the buyer’s journey — remained unresolved… until now.
What Is Intent Data?
Every time you interact on the web — read a blog post, watch a video, download an ebook, attend a webinar, etc. — you generate an intent signal. Your intent signals add up to create a sort of “digital footprint,” which says a lot about you, your interests, and the problems you’re looking to solve.
Intent data monitoring tracks the intent signals business users generate as they research a specific topic online. If, for example, a company is in the market for a new cybersecurity solution, people within the organization might be doing some the following:
• Conducting Google searches on “preventing data breaches”
• Registering for a webinar on the year’s top 10 cyberthreats
• Downloading a white paper on cloud security
• Reading a blog post about how ransomware works
B2B marketers are no strangers to using first-party intent data, which tracks and analyzes intent signals aimed at their own websites, landing pages, and other online assets. If you track visits, engagement, and conversions on your lead-generation landing pages, for example, you have experience with first-party intent data.
Advanced intent monitoring platforms bring in the element of third-party intent data, tracking intent signals generated on sites across the web. That means whenever a target interacts with content around a specific topic on any website — not just yours — they generate intent signals that you can track, monitor, and leverage in your marketing and sales activities.
Using an intent monitoring platform, your sales and marketing team can gather buyer intent data and use it to fine-tune their strategies. The result? A stream of high-quality leads, plus the ability to create targeted content, improve conversion rates, and much more.
How Intent Data Became the “Swiss Army Knife” of B2B Marketing Teams
Part of intent data’s appeal to B2B marketing and sales teams is the multitude of use cases in which it adds value to prospecting, sales, and customer care. From identifying new prospects to fueling hyper-targeted content marketing campaigns to retaining customers, intent data’s many uses have made it the the “Swiss army knife” that B2B organizations have been waiting for. Let’s take a look at the top seven use cases for this game-changing solution.
1. High-Octane Prospecting
Unlike the old-school approach using only firmographics to generate leads, B2B intent data lets you identify organizations whose people have shown an active interest in your solutions. To put it another way, intent-based targets have done the digital equivalent of “raising their hands” to indicate a potential buying cycle for your product — before they even go to your website.
Using buyer intent data, your teams avoid wasting time on leads who fit a profile but have no active interest in your product at the moment. They can use that time to focus on prospects who have, through their online activity, given you a head start on the qualification process.
To cite one example, Salary.com leveraged intent data in replacing a time-consuming, manual procedure of identifying new sales opportunities through Google searches, LinkedIn lookups, and other traditional research methods. After they switched to using intent data for identifying prospects, a process that used to require a sales rep sitting at his computer for five days (taking time away from sales calls) now takes only one hour.
2. Laser-Focused Content Marketing
Most marketing automation platforms rely on user-defined lead scoring for engagement with existing content and assets. While this is a useful practice, it does little to tell you which other topics your customers are interested in. Most content nurturing programs — aside from cursory “fill in the blank” customization features — apply a “one asset fits most” nurturing model.
B2B intent data helps you fill the topic-interest gap by showing which topics your targets are actively researching, particularly the long-tail search terms that are vital to your SEO, content marketing, and lead generation success.
For example, the marketing team at One Identity used insight data to identify content topics that were spiking at selected companies. Their creative team leveraged these topics to create targeted content and display ads aimed at target accounts. The result was a 50 percent increase in website traffic, of which 70 percent came from first-time visitors.
3. Strategic Account Prioritization
For B2B sales teams, the process of determining which accounts to focus on can vary from rep to rep. With intent monitoring, you can prioritize accounts strategically by designating a baseline level of online activity around key topics and setting up alerts for “spikes” that could indicate progress towards a buying decision.
When a spike occurs, it’s a cue for your sales team to spring into action — no need to wait for lead scoring or other qualifying thresholds. They have all the information they need to capitalize on the emerging opportunity before your competitors are even aware of it.
4. Focused Lead Nurturing Campaigns
For many B2B marketing teams, “one size fits all” is the standard approach to lead nurturing, only advancing into more granular segmentation after a lead takes a specific action. Buyer intent data lets you take a more focused approach to nurturing based on your target’s intent signals.
You can, for example, create segments for targets whose intent signals indicate an interest in your company versus those who are doing research on a product. For the former group, you may deliver messaging focused on customer testimonials, your brand promise, and your competitive differentiators. The latter group requires a more general approach focused on pinpointing their needs and highlighting the product features that can help them achieve their specific goals.
If your company offers multiple product lines, you can leverage intent data to personalize a target’s visit to your website by funneling them directly to a product-specific nurture stream. As a result, leads move through your funnel faster and your campaigns can realize a higher ROI than the old “one size fits all” approach.
5. Game-Changing Competitive Intelligence
Potential customers aren’t the only ones whose intent signals you can track; you can also use B2B intent data to find out what’s going on with your competition. By setting up campaigns to track competitors’ activity around specific companies, technologies, or topic areas, you could uncover intelligence regarding plans for an acquisition, infrastructure improvement, or category expansion.
In the same way that intent monitoring gives you a “fly on the wall” look at your targets’ interests, it can also enable you to respond to competitors’ moves before they’re even made public.
6. A New Approach to Cross-Selling and Sales Intelligence
Identifying cross-selling opportunities with existing customers can be a tedious process, involving multiple time-consuming touchpoints and varying rates of success. With intent data, you can monitor customers just like you do prospects, identifying spikes in product and service categories related to the ones they already have. Your customer care team can then reach out to offer add-on solutions, creating new up-sell or cross-sell opportunities.
Monitoring intent signals can also offer critical intelligence to help sales directors prepare for key pitch meetings. Your customer intent data can point you to the specific problems the target is looking to solve, enabling you to hyper-focus your presentation on their specific challenges. By setting up additional campaigns, you can also monitor for clues around whether the account has the necessary budget to purchase the product and tailor your approach accordingly.
7. Revenue-Saving Customer Retention
Finally, customer intent data can offer key insights into the needs and interests within your own client base; all you need to do is create campaigns limited to your customer account list. For example, you could create a customer campaign focused on your category name or on your competitors’ names or products. If you see an activity spike in one of your customer accounts, it could indicate that they’re considering other alternatives. Your platform can automatically send an alert to the account manager, who can reach out to the customer to find out the reason for the interest and offer a solution that keeps them in your camp.
Welcome to the Future
By leveraging intent data and incorporating it into their marketing technology stacks, B2B marketing and sales teams are discovering a solution to the age-old question of how to reach the right prospect at precisely the right time. Along the way, they’re finding a host of tactical uses to improve their ROI, offer new competitive advantages, and make the best strategic use of their time and efforts.
If you’re ready to learn more — and to get some practical advice on adding intent data to your marketing strategy, download a copy of our ebook Quick Start Guide to Intent-Based Marketing, or check out these other intent data articles: