Intent Signals: The Pathway to Accelerating Pipeline Results
What did sales and marketing teams do before the advent of intent signals? Probably wasted a lot of time and resources in an attempt to reach their ideal prospects.
Contact intent shows which prospects are actively conducting digital research for a specific topic. As they search for the solution they are interested in, the data is aggregated, moved through the True Influence Relevance EngineTM (machine learning AI). Raw data is not contact intent. Only when it is put through the Relevance EngineTM do you have contact intent. This information is then used to let sales and marketing teams know when their targeted prospects are preparing to make a purchase. The combination of intent with the corresponding researched keywords provides a solid map of which accounts to pursue with a distinct sense of urgency.
Information derived from intent signals and researched keywords is extremely valuable in crafting a relevant and personalized message that is sure to attract the most reticent of “surging accounts.” However, be sure to follow best practices for contacting customers and prospects. In other words, try not to frighten the “fish.” For instance, your contact vehicle shouldn’t begin by stating “We saw you research widgets on the widgets-r-us website, and boy, have we got a deal for you.” Even at this early stage of your pursuit of the ideal account, it’s important to remember that this process is all about the customer, especially as it relates to relationship-building.
Another way to think of contact intent is that it is the holy grail of accelerating pipeline results. Contact intent signals are sort of like having a secret decoder ring that you can brandish with the might of Excalibur. With all the competition in the B2B marketplace today, and with more companies tapping into the power of contact intent signals, the intrepid inside sales team, direct sales team, and marketing must take advantage of anything that puts them in the path of their target account sooner than anyone else. In fact, I would wager that nearly 99% of all sales strategy plans include a section calling for the acceleration of pipeline results.
Provided below are a few suggestions on how to best accelerate your pipeline results via contact intent signals:
1. Start with the finish line.
⮚ In other words, work backwards in coming up with a strategy that will deliver your preferred end result. The measurement to evaluate effectiveness (for the purpose of this exercise) is pipeline development, where accounts are likely to entertain a phone call or sales meeting.
⮚ Make sure your contact lists are segmented appropriately and that you vary your content based upon persona and segment.
“Research conducted by Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association revealed that 44% of executives think their organization is ineffective at managing [their pipeline]. (The survey included 62 B2B companies, 39% of which have revenue greater than $1 billion and 37% of which have revenue greater than $250 million.) This statistic is discouraging because there is a direct correlation between effective pipeline management and strong revenue growth.”
(Source: Harvard Business Review)
2. Think of it as a marathon versus a sprint.
⮚ Build your database for the long haul in your quest to increase the pipeline. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of a long-term nurture process. Some products or services demand more time (usually based on price). Use engagement as your method of measurement for the short-term and an acceleration in pipeline results for the long-term.
⮚ When marketing to higher executive or managerial levels, focus on keywords that resonate with their strategic versus tactical roles and responsibilities.
3. Don’t only target the individual: remember demand units (AKA buying groups).
⮚ Sales isn’t the only group with skin in the game. An important part of the marketer’s role is to supply sales with high-quality leads, and best practice is to provide purchase intent information about specific accounts. This will not only help with developing account priorities, but in crafting the message as well. Marketers that monitor contact intent information for their ABM accounts can see who the decision-maker is and who the influencers are, as well as the ratifiers.
⮚ Understanding the nuances of buying groups or demand units provides a better understanding of a real opportunity versus a false start.
4. Remember that there is a correlation between the sales pipeline and the marketing funnel.
⮚ As you know, the marketing funnel provides a clear-cut strategy in the identification and engagement of demand. Behavioral data helps clarify the target accounts purchase intent, which can then be leveraged to accelerate the sales process without incurring unnecessary marketing expenditures.
5. Arm your inside sales reps with a data-driven approach to sales fueled by contact intent.
⮚ Make sure you segment your contact lists to work in tandem with your messaging strategy.
⮚ Timing is everything. Make sure you establish and adhere to a contact strategy that doesn’t overwhelm (or worse, annoy) your prospect account, but still manages to keep you, your solutions, and your company front and center.
⮚ Use contact intent signals to make your messaging more relevant to the prospect. Remember to personalize all of your emails and mix up your message.
6. Mix up your message delivery strategy.
⮚ In the past five years, can you think of a time when you didn’t face the morning with an inbox filled with every imaginable form of email? I.e. attend my webinar, visit my website, attend my trade show, buy my solution – the list goes on and on. It’s a wise strategy to continue using an email nurture campaign, but experiment with other vehicles: don’t place all of your sales eggs in one marketing outreach basket. For instance, include intent in all your marketing channel efforts, to include:
i. Social Media (Try to tap into the same social platforms your target accounts uses.)
ii. Display Advertising for ABM Accounts
iii. Retarget Display Ads
iv. Direct Mail
v. Appointment Setting
vi. Content Syndication
vii. Telephone Demand Generation
7. Take the bite out of the competition.
⮚ Driving prospect awareness is a key factor in developing an integrated marketing program.
⮚ The opportunity to displace your competition is a clear path to pipeline acceleration. With a serious contact intent solution in place, it is much easier to discern which accounts have an active pipeline.
⮚ Having an understanding of your competitor’s accounts puts a savvy marketer and sales representative in a better position to alter the sales pitch and win a deal.
Pipeline Results: To Wrap Up…
One of the many benefits of pipeline results acceleration via intent is that it is another opportunity for sales and marketing to work as a team, put the customer needs at the forefront, and win business.
“Companies that optimize the marketing/sales relationship grow revenue 32% faster.”
(Source: Aberdeen Group, Marketing/Sales Alignment 2016: Who is Agile Enough to Win?)
Another advantage is that real contact intent insights have been adopted by many marketing organizations to enhance demand generation performance. More advanced practitioners see both sales and marketing teams reap significant rewards in quarterly goals as well as an enhanced bottom line.