Manufacturers spend millions of dollars each year on vaguely targeted advertising campaigns that miss their intended targets. One study found that as many as 70 percent of B2B marketers believe their digital marketing efforts fail to meet expectations.
Why? Because marketers have been conditioned to think that, based on plummeting per unit costs, it’s possible to target broad groups of prospects primarily using layers of demographic information, because with enough volume, at least a few buyers will be found. In reality, without a good understanding of whether or not these prospects are in a buying cycle, these efforts will have essentially zero impact on actual near term revenue. In terms of measurable ROI, the activity will not pay out.
Quite different from how things work in small-ticket consumer business from where this conditioning comes, big-ticket B2B transactions happen infrequently and are very hard to find using compiled profiling data alone. Furthermore, the B2B sales cycle is commonly long and complex. On the buyer’s side, it’s a collaborative process involving many players and might easily take a year or more. To be effective and deliver real ROI, marketers must make better use of data. To aid this effort, there are entirely new behavioral data sources that make finding real active buyers much more likely.
Savvy B2B marketers are turning to purchase intent data to fuel their efforts. Why? By adopting intent-driven marketing, they are transforming their approach from one of trying to sprinkle a little water everywhere to see if something might grow, to one of looking where healthy crops exist and try to harvest their share. Adopting an intent-driven strategy means using buying behavior to decide where to really focus and then doubling down. It means segmenting your efforts on those accounts where you can see active demand. It’s a focused approach which can reduce overall marketing spend and definitely drives up total yield.
Real intent-based marketing goes far deeper than buying the preferred Google terms in your category. It enables you to know when your specific buyers are in market (the accounts and the people), what their purchase drives, the features and functions they seek, even what competitors they are considering. To transform your company’s approach into an intent driven one and achieve best-in-class ROI, these are the four basic angles of investigation you’ll want to pursue:
Identity: Know Who the Buyers are
As every marketer knows, success sprouts from a strong understanding of your historical buyers. This is “1st-party” data. And beyond the profiling information you have, your past campaign successes are in fact a great example of intent data — buyer behavior — you already understand. But no matter how clean and complete your existing data is, when you want to use marketing to power growth, you’re going to want to add in new prospect accounts, titles and names. And so you’ll need to look for other sources to augment what you have. You will need to source information from 2nd or 3rd party sources. The first key to finding a good potential source for your company is to make sure that the provider can clearly explain why their data will work for you. They should be able to show you in an easy to understand way why their contacts are the right contacts for you to go after. And the most obvious and natural explanation is that these contacts match profiles that have worked for you and that they have exhibited exactly the types of behavior that you have seen in response to your own successful campaigns.
Interest: Know What Real Buyers are Doing
Second party data suppliers are those who will share data with you from their own source. While this can make sense in some situations, for example, if you sell a complementary product to something they sell like, say their cheese and your wine, for many B2B use cases, this is quite unusual. More commonly you’ll be looking for 3rd-party sources who are making or compiling data about exactly the right target profiles that you seek. The important thing to remember though is that it’s not just the profile you need for your intent approach to work well. For your outreach efforts to be really effective, you need the target individuals to be exhibiting the right behaviors now.
So when looking for an intent provider, make sure to challenge them on the behavior they are seeing. Make sure their explanation of how they know that behavior is relevant, relates to what you know about how your buyers buy. Some providers of “intent” develop their data by scraping websites and networking sites like LinkedIn for information that could suggest a purchase is in process. But for many companies, the information is just not clear enough and the probabilities just not high enough to warrant putting a significant investment into it.
High quality 3rd-party intent data comes from suppliers who can show you not only that they have the right profiles, but also exactly what their behaviors have been, the content that is being consumed and more. These behaviors should match what you have learned from your past success as much as possible.
Enrichment: Is it Just Predictive Modeling Alone or Is it Modeling + Real Intent?
There are a variety of relatively new service organizations focused on helping companies analyze and “predict” where new business is likely to come from. While these “predictive” shops can do a very good job helping you model an account profile that should be a source of additional business for you, when it comes down to actioning the model, doing so productively can be difficult. This is because modelers do not necessarily provide you with three critical elements at the same time:
- The right account;
- The right current activity; and
- The actual marketable individual exhibiting it.
Before turning to a modeler for your intent-based approach you need to know if they can source data for you that will enable them to directly tie the behavior indicating who is in market now with the exact individuals who are exhibiting this behavior (and of course, as mentioned above, they need to show you that this is in fact, behavior that is representative of what you know has predicted purchase for you in the past!). Many predictive companies have started to source behavioral data from others, but unless this source contains those three critical elements together, what you’re getting is an attempt to match things that don’t really match up in a black box.
“Predictive” alone is only based on 1st-party data, and it is only modeling past purchasing behavior to try to make a prediction of what might occur. A true intent-based approach uses current behavior — what is actual happening now — as the action trigger. Predictive models can and should leverage intent data, but the resulting insights are only as good as the intent source involved. Predictive models which include a fuzzy match between the account and prospects obtained from somewhere else, with behaviors observed from yet another source, won’t be powerful enough to deliver the ROI you want.
Activation: Acting On Purchase Intent Insight
The fourth angle you’ll want to investigate when considering an intent-based approach is how easy it will be for you and your team to implement the data you get across as many of your marketing (and sales) use cases as possible.
You’ll need to understand both what forms the supplier can make its output available to you, how those outputs will integrate into your existing workflows and systems, and what services are available to help your teams learn the best ways to realize maximum value from the data easily and quickly. For example, how does the data map to your lead management and nurture concepts? Are there any “gotchas” related to numbers of users, records, updates? How easy is it to automate list pulls, segmentations and so on?
The bottom line is that purchase intent data is right now achieving a level of ROI for demand generation and pipeline contribution beyond any previous data type and it’s being used to drive integrated programs that can combine the best effects of digital display and demand generation together seamlessly.
So it’s very clear that for competitive marketers there’s no better time than right now to stop casting wide untargeted marketing nets that are having little effect. Instead, use this new data to build an approach that focuses on targeting the behaviors you seek rather than the profiles.
Garrett Mann is Corporate Communications Director at TechTarget.