In sales and marketing, intentions matter
Like so many buzzwords, it’s hard to know what to do with ‘intent.’ Haven’t marketers always tracked intent? Isn’t that what marketing systems like Marketo do?
Well, yes and no.
Intent data, simply, is data collected on a prospect’s content consumption or ‘observed behavior’ that provides insight into their interests and from this, indicates their potential ‘intent’ to take an action. There are two types of intent data.
If you’re talking about first-party intent data, meaning it comes from contacts who are downloading your content, then yes, you probably already have it. It’s called engagement data and it comes from your marketing automation system.
But if it’s third-party intent data? That’s new, and it’s what sales and marketing teams are referring to when they talk about ‘peering around corners’ and knowing which companies are in buying mode.
In this article, we’ll break down intent data and share six ways sales and marketing teams can profit from it.
Do you know what your accounts are thinking?
These days, there’s a lot of excitement around third-party intent data because it can qualify your accounts marketing automation-style, even if you’re not aware of them.
Take third-party intent data provider Bombora, for example. Bombora’s technology tracks a network of some of the highest trafficked websites and scores your accounts based on the topics they research there. If that sounds too good to be true, other providers can do the same for video and social. More on how it works later.
Intent data gives sales and marketing teams the ultimate weapon: the ability to predict what leads and accounts are about to do next.
Fit + Intent + Relationships + Engagement
Intent data has earned a marquee placement in the Fit + Intent + Relationships + Engagement (FIRE) qualification model used here at EverString. For those unfamiliar, this framework is an effective way to qualify accounts for both ABM and demand-gen.
If Fit is where your players are, Intent is where they’re going.
It basically says that all scoring models should begin with fit data, which tells you which accounts are a good fit for your product. Fit helps you filter out all those ‘hot leads’ from Bangalore and companies that have no chance of buying. But once you’ve reduced your market to a list of high-fit accounts, how do you decide among them? You sort them by intent.
To borrow a sports analogy, if fit data tells you where all the players are on the field, intent data shows you where they’re going.
Intent data from the web can tip your teams off when an account downloads a relevant white paper on someone else’s site. Video intent data can tell you which contacts rewatched the important parts of a video. Social intent data can detect when prospects ask their community for recommendations. All these are critical insights into the intention of buying committees.
If you’ve got two equally qualified businesses and one has been searching for a new ERP, CRM, or whatever it is your business sells, you know which deserves higher priority.
There are six ways companies typically apply this knowledge. They use intent data to:
1. Speed up deal cycles
The first thing most sales and marketing teams want to do with intent data is find fast-moving deals. To do that, they simply need to use intent data to build a list of fast-movers.
If they’re using EverString, they can simply select ‘Intent Data’ and filter by thousands of categories from ‘application infrastructure’ to ‘security software.’
How can EverString know what topics accounts are interested in if they’ve never visited your site? EverString has an integration with intent data provider Bombora which operates a data co-op of thousands of high-value sites including publishers like Forbes, analyst sites like Gartner, and review sites like G2Crowd. Each of these data partners report when accounts perform research and Bombora scores them on thousands of topics.
When Bombora shows accounts ‘surging’ on valuable topics, the CRM or marketing system can add them to a fast-mover list sometimes known as a FIRE dashboard.
The team at IBM’s Watson has used Bombora intent data to reduce its marketing cost-per-registration by 41 percent.
See intent data for yourself: Get a free intent assessment with EverString.
2. Prioritize existing accounts
Sales and marketing teams can also apply intent data to their scoring model to refine what counts as a high-fit account. Sometimes it can fill gaps where engagement data falls short.
For example, many marketing automation systems can only report on a limited set of visitor actions, and only on one web property. If two prospects happen to download the same white paper from your site, they’ll be scored equally. But if the marketing team has access to intent data, they’ll be able to tell that one prospect has researched that topic elsewhere, is more educated, and deserves higher-priority.
The same is true for video. With a video platform like Vidyard, which offers video intent data, teams can tell the difference between an account that simply watched a video once and one that shared the video internally and replayed key segments.
The social selling platform Socedo helps marketing and sales teams expand their intent monitoring to social media. Most buyers do most of their research online, and Socedo helps capture social intent signals that normally go unincorporated.
With intent data, teams can better prioritize their existing accounts and make better use of their time.
3. Supercharge predictive scoring models
Machine learning algorithms are only as good as the data they’re trained on. If their predictive scoring algorithm only has fit and engagement data to work with, it’s going to find companies that look like buyers who are high-fit and likely to engage. But by supplementing your database with intent data, teams can add a new dimension to their model.
An intent-powered algorithm can track down companies who are high-fit and have clear intent, even if they don’t display direct engagement. That is, it can find companies which have only researched your competitors, but not you. The algorithm can plumb untapped interest amongst new verticals and surface buyers for use cases for which the marketing team doesn’t have much content.
4. Content personalization
Most marketers probably don’t do as much personalizing as they should, but intent data offers an easy way to start. Marketers who know each account’s intent know precisely what topics they’re searching and engaging with and can match up their nurture content with the questions being asked.
A key advantage here is that most leads begin their buyer’s journey well before they engage with your marketing content. With intent data, marketers can see the account’s research history upon the first form-fill. Teams who are short on spare time can start with top tier accounts and personalize low-effort but high-impact properties like their website homepage.
5. Field marketing
For most businesses, deciding where to hold events is a political and logistical decision, not a data-driven one. Field marketers are often forced to survey sites based on population density, proximity to business-friendly airports, and whether the sales team has active deals, rather than where the greatest demand actually exists. With intent data, they can flip that equation.
Intent data helps field marketers identify geographic hotspots where lots of prospects at high-fit accounts show buying intent.
6. Ad targeting
Intent data brings a new balance to the marketing-advertising trade-off. While marketing campaigns typically have higher conversions because they target known individuals from the CRM, they lack reach. And while advertising campaigns can reach well beyond the CRM, they lack high conversions because they’re less discerning.
Ad platforms like Terminus, which allows teams to target by intent, gives marketers the best of both worlds. They achieve the broad reach of advertising with the precision of marketing: ads that reach anyone, as long as they display buying intent.
Putting it all together
Intent data is a lot more than just a buzzword. Third-party data is an entirely new source of insights that helps sales and marketing teams peer around corners and focus on accounts that are already in buying mode.
For sales and marketing teams that don’t have a lot of extra time (and who does, really?), intent data is an easy way to speed up deal cycles, prioritize accounts, supercharge scoring, plan field marketing events, and personalize content and ads.
See intent data for yourself: Get a free intent assessment with EverString.