Have you ever noticed that B2B marketing trends come and go as quickly as cars around an Indy racetrack? From “narrowcasting” to “snackable content” to “growth hacking,” B2B marketers have been subjected to an endless parade of tips, tricks, and tactics — each promising to explode their email lists, make their content “go viral” (whatever that means anymore), and build a social following that Taylor Swift would envy. While each of these trends had its merits, many had little or nothing to do with the reason for marketing’s existence: driving leads to the sales organization for the purpose of closing business.
Upon first glance, some may be tempted to view intent monitoring as just another B2B flavor-of-the-week. But, look a little deeper, and you’ll discover a proven strategy that delivers the one thing every marketer is seeking: results. By tracking the “digital footprints” of people within targeted organizations, intent monitoring gives us a view into their actual needs and desires, delivering vital information that lets us target our content in the direction of solving pain points, pinpoint our timing, and capitalize on opportunities as soon as they arise.
B2B Marketing, Then and Now
For decades, finding and cultivating B2B leads online was a tedious, time-consuming process. Marketers had little more to go on than a combination of names, titles, company names, and location — if we were lucky. Sometimes cookies delivered the information we needed, and sometimes we just had IP addresses for a group of faceless “unknowns.” To fill in the gaps and translate our data to actionable insights, we had to do a lot of guessing.
To understand intent monitoring, think of traditional B2B methods on sophisticated steroids. We can now track individual users, in all their online activities. When they enter a search, we know it. When they visit a blog or news site, we know that too. And, when they take actions like downloading a resource that’s directly related to our products or services, we know immediately. All that data helps us paint an accurate picture of real-world audience intent, adding a power boost to our marketing, from the top of the funnel all the way to the sales close.
From Predictive to Descriptive
In the old world of B2B marketing, we did a lot of guesswork, usually involving predictive analytics. By analyzing past results, we built models that provided a measure of likelihood of specific outcomes. For example, we might discover that leads with a specific job title in companies of a certain size in a specific industry were twice as likely to convert as the average target, so we gave extra attention to those who fit that profile. Of course, we had no insights into what these people actually wanted or needed, so the qualification process involved quite a bit of time and effort — once wasted on those who had no interest or intention of buying.
Instead of using past results to try and predict future outcomes, intent monitoring examines what prospects are actually doing online — which blogs they’re reading, which webinars they’re attending, which resources they’re downloading. This groundbreaking technology enables B2B marketing teams take their strategy to a whole new level in two ways:
- Intent monitoring platforms can cast a wide net and “listen” for online activity related to your product or service. This function gives you the opportunity to find out about prospective targets who may not even have been on your radar, based on their actual online activity.
- These platforms also monitor your targeted accounts closely and set a baseline of the frequency and intensity of their online activity. Spikes in activity could indicate an active buying opportunity, signaling your sales team to step up their efforts and capitalize on the prospect’s acceleration towards a purchase decision.
One thing to note about intent monitoring: while it delivers tremendous value in itself, it will only produce results if you have the tools in place to capitalize on the opportunities that arise. For example, if the platform alerts you to a spike in activity, you need a playbook in place that’s ready to be implemented immediately.
Another advantage of intent monitoring over traditional predictive analytics is its simplicity. Since it doesn’t need to plug into your existing data, there’s nothing to install or integrate, and since it’s descriptive rather than predictive, there’s no need to build models or fine-tune algorithms.
Empowering Sales Teams
By the time a lead is ready to be passed on to the sales team, intent monitoring has delivered a wealth of information to help your reps focus their conversations and streamline their activity. They know immediately who within these organizations has been most active in their online activity, what they’ve been doing, and what their likely pain points are.
Once your sales reps are armed with this information, qualifying the lead is just a matter of getting the answers to a few simple questions:
- Who is the decision maker? The person doing the online research may or may not be the decision maker. Remember, most B2B buying decisions involve multiple individuals, possibly at different levels and even in different departments. Work with your leads to get an idea of how their decision-making process works and see if they can help you get the attention of the final decision maker.
- What is their comfort level with their current or related products? Get a sense of which products your target account is currently using that are related to yours, and dig deeper to find out what they like and dislike about each. You can use this information to guide the conversation once you’re ready for the presentation stage of the sales process.
- What is their timeline? Don’t be afraid to ask a lead what his or her organization’s timeline might be for making a buying decision. If they’re not quite ready yet, see if you can get a sense of when that decision might happen, then schedule your follow-up accordingly.
Another way intent monitoring can turbo-charge your B2B marketing is by providing information to help you refine the personas you use for categorizing leads.
Historically, the persona creation process has been part art, part science, part gut instinct. First we looked at the hard data we had available — purchase history, surveys, audience research, etc. — to create general frameworks. Then, we filled in the blanks based on what we know about current clients, and what our reps learn in sales conversations. With intent monitoring, we can bring that picture into sharp focus. By observing our prospects’ online activity, we gain unprecedented insights into their pain points, gaps in their knowledge, and their ambitions for the future. By applying this information to our personas, we can make them even more accurate and effective.
Trends may come and go, but the developments that reshape an industry are the ones that deliver results. By enabling organizations to shift from the guesswork of predictive analytics to the actual descriptive data, intent monitoring is changing the game of B2B sales and marketing. Marketing teams can efficiently pre-qualify leads before sending them to sales, thus enabling reps to focus their efforts on pinpointing the best way to close. And, by giving us the information we need to refine our personas, intent monitoring helps us focus our content and fine-tune our approaches, showing our credibility, as well as our understanding of our leads’ pain points, before a rep even picks up the phone. For marketing teams, sales teams, and the organizations that rely on them to generate revenue, intent monitoring streamlines the purchasing funnel by leveraging the best of modern technology and allowing your internal teams to focus on what they do best.
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.