Pull up any marketing guru’s blog and you’re sure to find at least one mention of intent marketing as the next big thing for B2B brands… and with good reason. Instead of guessing or using past results to try to predict what target customers want and need on any given day, we can see what they’re actually doing online — which terms they’re searching, which blogs they’re reading, which resources they’re downloading, etc. By the time a lead is ready for the sales team, intent signals have already delivered the information your reps need to focus their efforts and convert leads into customers.
While intent marketing offers a huge array of benefits, it’s not a plug-and-play solution. To get the most out of the technology, sales and marketing teams have to know what they’re doing — how to give your platform the right inputs, how to gather and manage your data, how to manage prospects as they progress through your funnel, etc.
Brands with successful intent marketing programs are winning not just because they have the best technology, but because they know how best to use it. With this in mind, we identified the five biggest challenges around creating and implementing a successful intent marketing program — along with tried-and-true approaches for overcoming each one.
1. Understanding Your Buyers
To get the maximum benefit from your intent monitoring program, it’s vital to understand the targets whose intent signals you’ll be following.
Far too many B2B marketers have only a vague concept of the companies they want to target. Or they’ve built a company profile but lack a clear picture of the people within those organizations whom they want to engage. As a result, they spend a considerable amount of time and effort trying to engage accounts that have a slim-to-zero chance of becoming valuable customers.
While your sales and marketing teams may have a general idea of who your target companies and contacts are, creating documented buyer personas will help clarify your understanding and focus your efforts. They also make a difference in your bottom line: In a 2016 survey, 71 percent of B2B companies who exceed revenue and lead goals reported having documented buyer personas.
If you don’t already have clearly drawn buyer personas representing your target accounts, bring your sales and marketing teams together to start clarifying the accounts and people you want to target. Remember to include the following characteristics:
- Size (employee count or annual revenue)
- Geographic footprint
- Job title
- Level of seniority
- Key responsibilities
- Role in the buying process
- Time challenges
- Money challenges
- Quality challenges
- People challenges
- Reputation challenges
You’ll also want to include any characteristics that are important to your product or service. If, for example, you advise clients on data security, you’ll want to add a characteristic such as “Manages highly sensitive data” to the company profile.
As you begin filling in your buyer personas, you’ll probably encounter a few question marks — areas where you need more information. Fortunately, you have several resources available to help fill those gaps:
Current customer data: Look at your current client base and see if you can identify some common traits.
Your sales team: Schedule some time with your sales reps and see what you can learn about the prospective clients they speak with on a daily basis.
Surveys: Conduct online or face-to-face surveys with current and prospective customers to learn more about who they are, what their challenges are, and what they need the most.
Industry news: Find out what’s going on in your targeted industries and identify opportunities related to your product or service.
2. Ensuring Data Quality
Data is the fuel that makes intent signal marketing run. Without ensuring that your data is top-quality, you risk wasting time with the wrong targets at best — and possibly damaging your reputation at worst. Whether you work with an outside partner or gather data internally, be sure to address the following questions:
Is your platform using the right inputs?
Ever heard the expression “garbage in, garbage out?” Even the best intent monitoring platforms will be of little use if they’re not set up to monitor activity from the right sources. Go back to your persona profiles and make sure your intent monitoring platform is taking those characteristics into account as it looks for activity from companies that could be potential customers.
Where does the data come from?
Make sure you know exactly where the data comes from and how it is gathered. Using information obtained through sketchy practices could put your company at risk for violating anti-spam laws, running afoul of GDPR with European enterprises, or at least wasting time on companies with little chance of becoming customers.
Is the data from business accounts only?
A good intent monitoring platform will be able to distinguish business and personal accounts and will only send business contacts your way. If you find yourself having to weed out a large number of non-business leads, it might be time to consider switching platforms.
3. Managing and Modeling Data
Having good data is essential, but in order to make it useful, you’ll need to interpret and organize it in a way that supports your overall sales and marketing goals. Once you’ve created your buyer personas, you’ll need to design probability models that can predict which accounts are most likely to become customers, then apply those models to accounts already in your funnel as well as those you want to identify.
Remember, the goal is to obtain the contact information of individuals who can either make or influence the decision to buy your products or services — and not just the ones at the accounts you already know about. Not all platforms will track activity outside of the accounts that are already in your system, so make sure your system is capable of helping you discover new prospects.
4. Aligning Sales and Marketing
Years ago, sales was sales and marketing was marketing, and that was that. In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive environment, no organization can afford to have either team working in a vacuum. Those who understand the value of alignment between the two groups are reaping the rewards: In one study by the Aberdeen Group, organizations where sales and marketing are aligned achieved 20 percent annual revenue growth.
Intent signal marketing only works if sales and marketing teams see themselves as part of one continuous process, beginning with lead identification and ending with a sale. While each team has specific roles to play in the process, close collaboration is vital for guiding prospects successfully through the marketing-sales funnel.
What marketing needs from sales:
- Input for buyer personas based on sales conversations
- Regular updates on prospects moving through (or dropping out of) the sales funnel
- Close-the-loop communications when a deal closes or a prospect walks away
What sales needs from marketing:
- Quality leads based on actual intent data
- Details on each lead’s intent-related activity (which terms they searched for, which resources they downloaded, etc.)
- Details on each communication that occurred before the lead was handed off (emails, phone verifications, etc.)
5. Managing Your Timing
Another aspect of using your intent data wisely is related to your timing. Bombarding your target contacts with back-to-back-to-back messages could cause irreparable damage to your relationship. On the other hand, disappearing for weeks at a time could lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” situation that puts your momentum on ice.
As you build automated messaging campaigns for the leads in your system, remember that the goal is to get in front of them just frequently enough to keep your brand top-of-mind, but not so frequently that you become a pest.
While there is no magical formula for timing your marketing communications in a way that guarantees a positive response, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Look at your unsubscribe records and see if you notice any trends. If, for example, people tend to drop out after automated email number 4, it could be that email numbers 3 and 4 are timed too closely together.
- Consider your target contacts’ work schedules and experiment with scheduling your emails at times when they’re less busy. For example, in many companies, most meetings take place during the morning and early afternoon hours, so try sending messages later in the afternoon.
- Ask for input from your sales team. They know your prospects better than anyone, and they may have some clues that could help fine-tune your approach to timing.
- As always, keep track of your results. Every audience is different, so it’s important to know how well your approach is working for the people you’re trying to reach.
By adding intent marketing to your strategy, you leverage the power of the latest technology to gain unique insights into the minds of your target contacts. To set yourself up for success, it’s essential that you make your team aware of the challenges involved and create a plan for addressing them. The combination of current intent signal data from the right prospects and the savvy to use it wisely enables you to get the most out of your platform and accelerate your progress towards your sales and revenue goals.
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.