Purchase intent is a hot topic in B2B marketing. So naturally, everyone’s got something to say about it. The trouble is, it’s now at risk of becoming ‘just another buzzword’, when it has a lot to offer B2B brands that want to keep ahead in the digital age.
Strike While the Iron’s Hot
In a B2B context, intent data spotlights solutions or services an organization is likely to purchase in the near future. When a business is in-market for a big-ticket item, there’s usually a lot of preparation and thought involved. This leads to an uplift in employees’ online research related to the product category. So, tracking and analyzing online behavioral trends within a target account over time can give a good indication of near term and future investments. A baseline ‘intent score’ is established, and as it increases in relation to specific categories, it reflects a growing propensity to purchase.
Benefits of this data for marketers are manifold. It unlocks valuable insights, enabling account-based marketing activity to become more focused, effective and efficient. Efforts can be geared towards relevant accounts that are most likely to convert to a sale. It boosts the quality of leads in the pipeline and enables the warmest opportunities to be identified and prioritized. Intent-qualified prospects tend to move through the pipeline faster and convert at a higher rate than those who have visited a stand at an event or viewed a one-off piece of content.
Smart use of intent data can also generate better long-term win-rates. When you know which themes or issues companies tend to be preoccupied with at different stages of the buyer journey, you can hone content and contact strategies accordingly. Insights can be used to enrich ongoing sales and marketing, shaping investment to drive continual and tangible improvement in business outcomes.
How Do You Harness Purchase Intent?
There are three core ways to capture intent data. They all have pros and cons. And each method uses fundamentally different approaches to categorize online behavior and separate true intent signals from general noise. The secret is to find the right blend of data, then leverage insights intelligently to create an evolving view of purchase intent related to your organization’s offering. It’s an approach that demands true alignment between marketing and sales as it relates to account and lead scoring as well as wider ongoing communications.
- Content consumption
The various stages of a typical buyer journey can be linked to definitive research behaviors. So, tracking the consumption of content in categories associated with your products and services across third party websites and online platforms can be very revealing.
Firstly, you need to establish a baseline for ongoing consumption in a given category. From here, you can follow the behavioral patterns of specific accounts. Above-average consumption of relevant, contextual content could indicate that research is being conducted as a precursor to purchase.
This scalable approach draws on various publishers, blogs, peer-to-peer networks and review sites. It generates a good depth and breadth of intent data, as well as ongoing visualization of the buyer journey.
- Your own website
Another source of intent data is your own website. As with third-party content consumption, rolling up data for web visitors at the account level gives you a valuable seam of insight. Combine this with external intent data and you have the beginnings of a 360-degree view. This enables purposeful actions to be taken, ensuring messaging and campaign strategies are aligned with buyer needs.
Understanding what an account is doing on your site — and how they arrived there (through a campaign or organically) is invaluable. It establishes a knowledge base at the account level, which helps drive timeliness and relevance across all sales and marketing touchpoints.
However, using your own data in isolation has limitations. Since most online research is likely to happen on third-party sites, it will hinder your ability to make educated decisions about how to handle each account. It’s better to merge internal and external signals, then begin the process of building out a marketing/sales playbook involving marketing automation, inside and direct sales efforts.
- Registered users
When users physically sign up or register to access a website’s full functionality or certain pieces of content, every visit or download is deemed to signal intent. The titles of pages visited, or documents downloaded, determine the category in which the user is placed. If consent has been given to the website owner, they can sell users’ contact information to third parties.
The scope of this approach is quite narrow. It only extends to one website, or a closed community of sites, per user. So there’s no visibility of the buyer journey beyond the single act of registering for access or downloading content. Nevertheless, it can enable highly targeted marketing to individuals who are actively interested in relevant topics, and are therefore more likely to engage and convert.
Is it worth it?
Capturing intent data is the easy part. Tuning in to intent signals, and not getting distracted by irrelevant noise, is more challenging. You also have to filter out false positives, then find ways to leverage insights effectively.
An intent-led strategy is not for the faint-hearted. Unlocking value from the data requires dedicated, expert analysis and long-term commitment. But it doesn’t necessarily involve huge tech investments. Most companies don’t need new software. They just need to make existing software work better with intent data.
When it’s handled well, intent data can underpin better marketing. Tests at Aberdeen show it’s possible to determine which companies are in-market to buy a solution or service with up to 91% accuracy, and in good time to engage with them before they progress too far on the buyer journey.
Separating the wheat from the chaff at the front end of the marketing process ensures every marketing dollar is spent better and works harder.