“Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.”
Greek philosopher Plato is our oldest (albeit unintentional) B2B thought leader. Thousands of years later, human behavior hasn’t changed much. Desire, emotion, and knowledge continue to drive human behavior … including purchasing decisions.
Think about the last few significant purchases you’ve made, both personally and professionally. First, you had the desire to take action, which is why you spent your valuable time learning more. And, as much as we all might like to think otherwise, emotion inevitably plays some kind of role in the decision-making process — whether it’s a car or a Marketing Automation platform. At the end of the day, we trust our gut to make the decision that’s best for us.
As marketers, we categorize the various signals prospective buyers give us (their behavior) as intent data. I think of intent data as a consolidation of digital and offline behavior — opening an email, attending a webinar, downloading a white paper — as it relates to knowledge gathering and sharing.
Intent data can be sliced and diced a number of ways, but I see the majority of marketing and sales teams using intent data to improve the following six areas:
The biggest way I see DemandGen clients use intent data is as a campaign trigger. When a prospect’s online behavior (such as consuming relevant third-party content, using key search terms, or viewing several pages on your website) provides a certain indicator or signal, intent data can trigger an automated outbound message to keep the conversation going.
- Target Account Identification & Prioritization
This is the second area of focus I see being used most by our clients. It is, without a doubt, a core ABM capability. Through AI and machine learning-based algorithms, intent data can inform Sales on target accounts and help prioritize their efforts by showing them, with some level of conviction, who is “in market.” Podcast fans can learn more about this topic on DemandGen Radio’s Leveraging the Power of Intent Data, during which our CEO David Lewis interviews one of the pioneers in this field.
Predictive. Account. Lead. Intent data can influence whatever flavor of scoring model you have. Use intent data in aggregate with some sort of simple range — low, medium, high. Scoring models desperately need more third-party data (what happens through search and external content consumption) in addition to first-party data (campaign/inbound).
- Sales Enablement
Account-Based Marketing (and sales) is — and has been — a focus for many of our clients. The ability for account managers to see key account interest across the web (not just first-party data) can be extremely powerful.
- Customer Experience
My colleague at DemandGen, our excellent Marketing Ops leader Sabrina Killian, talks about data-driven decision-making and using data to improve the customer experience in her recent blog post, Improve Your Data, Improve Your Customer Experience: 6 Steps to Reach Data-Driven Marketing Nirvana. There is a ton of good material here, but one experiential recommendation stands out: “Deliver personalized messaging and content.” Which leads us to…
- Content Consumption Insights
I love content marketing and am informed daily by those who are good at it. The pain point I see intent data helping with is around building out an editorial calendar and keeping content fresh. Most marketers are still figuring out which content works best; intent data can provide another proof point on what their target accounts are engaging with during the buying process.
I could argue that customer acquisition should be on this list, but I’m not sure we are there just yet.
Here to stay
I believe the list above will continue to grow and that intent data will revolutionize marketing and sales capabilities.
At the last few industry events I have attended, the overcrowded sessions have been — without a doubt — on topics with “Intent Data” or “ABM” in their title. Like ABM, I do not think intent data is just another shiny object, though. It can provide demonstrable value by aggregating and providing tangible signals that can strengthen outreach and benefit the business.
Intent data does require context, though, and that’s only possible when you have a solid lead management framework, smart integrations between your various MarTech applications, and high-quality data.
Plato had it right; he just couldn’t begin to imagine how, millennia later, sales and marketing teams could benefit from his wisdom.
Will Waugh is a consultant for DemandGen focused on helping clients with demand generation, lead management and leveraging marketing technology. He genuinely believes that data can change the world. Follow him on on Twitter. Other articles by Will Waugh: 7 Essential Marketing Technology Categories: How’s Your Stack Looking?