Today’s B2B buying journey begins online, even for senior executives at the largest and most sophisticated companies.
The challenge for B2B marketers interested in having an impact on that buying journey has been how to recognize that individuals within a given prospect organization have begun that online research process and are currently gathering information about a given product or product type.
Internet research that prospects conduct generates intent data. Already well established in the world of B2C marketing, the use of intent data will be a familiar but entirely new capability for B2B marketers.
The primary benefit of intent data is that it informs marketers when individuals within a given organization are exhibiting more interest in a particular product or service category than is typical for that organization. This surge in interest can indicate to marketing that the time is right to engage with these organizations in a sales-focused manner, perhaps by sending product-specific messaging as opposed to softer, “nurturing” messaging.
Intent data (and surges in interest levels) will be useful both in identifying new prospect organizations and in better understanding the interest levels of current targeted/known prospect accounts.
Intent Data Use Cases
In most use cases, marketers are looking for and will react to surges in interest as indicated by a spike in Intent Signals™.
Intent data can help marketers deliver product-specific email to prospects at the Internet research stage – the very beginning of their buying journey. Intent data indicate when individuals at a given organization have been visiting web pages pertaining to a certain keyword more frequently than is typical for that organization. Such a surge in interest is a valuable early indicator that the organization might soon be in the market for the product it is researching.
For example, Company A sells cloud-based disaster recovery products. It can choose the types of organizations it wants to target with an intent-signal campaign, either uploading a list of target companies or defining its target companies (using firmographic criteria such as industry, company size, location, technologies used, etc.).
Company A will receive the names of the target organizations showing a surge in visits to pages pertaining to cloud-based disaster recovery. It may receive this information either via direct integration with Eloqua, Marketo, or Salesforce, or in Excel spreadsheet format.
With an Eloqua or Marketo integration, a surge in intent signals can automatically trigger prebuilt email campaigns dedicated to cloud-based disaster recovery. The emails will be sent to the appropriate contacts at the target organizations in the company’s prospect databases.
For Company A, this use of intent data means that whenever individuals at a target organization begin their buying journey by conducting Internet research, all relevant titles within Company A’s marketing database will receive marketing messages that speak directly to their interest.
Intent data also can be used to time and target display advertising campaigns. A range of vendors offer account-based Internet display advertising, which allows B2B marketers to tailor the messaging and calls to action of banner advertisements that their prospect companies see when they are visiting websites that are part of the vendor’s network of web-based advertising exchanges.
For example, Company B sells cloud-based disaster recovery products and can create an intent data campaign for cloud-based disaster recovery. The company can choose the types of organizations it wants to target with this campaign, either uploading a list of target companies or defining is target companies.
An intent data product will alert Company B to companies surging in interest each week, allowing Company B to display relevant banner ads to those companies. This is a much more efficient and sustainable usage of display advertising.
Google AdWords also offers the ability to identify prospects at the Internet research stage, and its pricing demonstrates the power of this information. The Google AdWords cost-per-click for a typical B2B keyword rose 40 percent between 2012 and 2014 and now exceeds $50 for the most highly sought-after terms. This is despite the fact that there is no guarantee that the paying company will receive any information whatsoever as a result of a click. Paying for a click does nothing more than take a presumed prospect to a company landing page, as it is up to the paying company to entice the prospect to fill out the form on that page. If the prospect doesn’t (and the overwhelming majority don’t), the paying company receives no information. Even if the presumed prospect is not part of a targeted organization, the company pays full price for the click but receives no benefit.
Companies are willing to participate in this high-risk model because they recognize the enormous value in knowing that a given individual is currently exploring a given topic on the web. But intent data can provide this type of intelligence using a different (and perhaps more cost-effective) model.
Because intent signals are collected on a company-wide basis, it allows users to maintain an ongoing understanding of specific companies’ interest levels in specific keywords or topic areas. These companies could be high-priority prospect organizations, current customers, or even competitors.
Account-based marketing (ABM) initiatives derive tremendous benefit from this monitoring ability, and intent data can alert users to significant changes in interest on a company/account basis. This information may be used to trigger internal alerts as well as external outreach programs.
When reviewed on a keyword basis, intent data make it easy to identify companies that previously had not been perceived as prospects but that, based on their surge in interest in a relevant keyword, might be prospects today.
Intent data also make it easy to monitor the collective interest of a group of companies in specific keywords or topics. These groups might be certain industries, prospect clusters, competitors, customers, etc. Seeing the collective interest activity of a target group can provide meaningful insights into both the current and future intentions of that group.
Those of us using marketing automation systems are accustomed to monitoring visits by prospects to our own websites. When a given individual (John Brown of Company X) has opened one of our emails and a cookie has been dropped, we recognize that the visitor was John Brown specifically. If a cookie has not been dropped, we won’t know, specifically, who the visitor was, but we can use ISP information to recognize that the visitor came from Company X.
In either case, we can track each individual page this person visited and use this information to develop an understanding of the interests of this visitor from Company X.
Intent data offers these same extremely valuable insights, not only for visitors to our own websites, but anywhere on the Internet. The goal for each of us is to think through the exciting possibilities afforded by this new capability and to harness it to help achieve our 2016 marketing and demand generation objectives.
Shepherd Smith is an accomplished B2B technology marketer who has exceeded lead generation goals at American, British, French, and German companies in both Europe and the United States. He is an early adopter of marketing technology (such as Eloqua, Marketo, Act-On, Kenshoo, HubSpot, and many more) and is committed to helping True Influence lead the exploration and incorporation of account-based intent/intent data into the campaigns and successes of its clients.
Shepherd has an MBA (with a Services Marketing concentration) from the Thunderbird school of Global Management and is fluent in English and German.