B2B Marketers’ New Job: Listen

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By Marc Johnson, CMO, Bombora

The past year dramatically accelerated changes to the B2B buying process. The loss of trade shows and networking meant that businesses had to use new, fully digital ways to find their customers. This led to the rapid rise of new data sources to uncover prospects and drive marketing and sales efforts.

One of those is intent data, which will be used by more than 70% of B2B marketers by the end of 2022, according to Gartner. And while intent data is certainly garnering more interest, there are still big questions on how to put it into use.

To better understand the rise of intent, B2B marketers need to think about their core function: listening to what their prospective buyers are looking for.

Growing adoption

Prospects generate intent data as they scour the internet along the buyer journey. This research activity, combined with a specific context, engagement and topic information, helps marketers parse what businesses intend to buy.

Intent data was already a hot topic, but interest took on greater urgency as the pandemic forced the B2B buying process to go digital. With the massive amount of product information available online, buyer committees – which may now have five to 15 members – have never been so informed. The trend isn’t likely to subside in lockstep with the pandemic: Digital channels are expected to account for 80% of B2B sales interactions by 2025.

There are other factors at play in driving intent data interest. One is both unfortunate and all too familiar: People are suffering from advertising fatigue due to the sheer volume of sales and marketing messages they’re bombarded with every day. But intent data can address this advertising backlash by helping marketers target their messages to those who would find it most relevant.

Finally, the growing demand for sales and marketing teams to perform better has led them to look for new tools that work. Intent signals can help these teams more effectively market and sell their products by narrowing the field of prospects most likely to convert. Otherwise, companies are wasting their time and money on targeting irrelevant ads to people who will never be interested.

Different flavors of data

Intent data can be collected via third-party and first-party sources. First-party data can be collected from a company’s owned-and-operated websites and engagement with customers. Combining both types can give companies powerful insight into their prospective customers’ needs.

There are three types of intent data within the third-party bucket. One type can be sourced from independent websites that either produce their own content or host user-generated content. These sites run the gamut from the likes of reviews sites such as G2 to pure publishers like TechTarget. This data is high quality and consent-based, so it complies with national or global privacy regulations. The volume, however, can be limited.

A collection of individual publishers takes the form of a cooperative, aggregate intent data from multiple content websites. This data is high quality and consent-based if the intent provider has direct relationships with the sites and is in the user consent string.  This data is high volume but exists at the account level, so adding contacts is an additional, yet fairly straightforward step.

Another category of third-party data can be found in the bidstream, which refers to the log-level data that is passed downstream during real-time digital ad auctions. The real-time nature of this data can add value and is available in very high volume. But there are questions about commercial use and consent compliance.

Big results

While many companies may use intent data as a lead gen initiative, companies both small and large can deploy intent data across the entire buyer journey, from awareness and consideration through to post-purchase and loyalty.

The results of intent-driven sales and marketing are impressive. Intent data can help companies achieve up to 120% lift in marketing engagement and drive down the cost per lead by 20% to 40%. Intent data can also improve marketing budget ROI by as much as 300%. A Gartner study of 300 marketers found an average of 13% lift in their pipelines, with 35% enjoying 15% lift or greater.

Intent data allows companies to listen to the needs and wants of their prospective customers. The more they can listen and understand prospects, the more they can help these customers can succeed.

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