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Intent data is the future of B2B marketing

Targeting the right audience is key to success in a competitive market. Having the right data is central to gaining insight into who you should be targeting and when, but relying only on customer data is no longer enough to be successful.

Using intent data to gain a better understanding of your audience is fast becoming the future of B2B marketing. 

One of the main barriers when it comes to utilising intent data is that it’s hard to define its true value. Intent data provides a deeper understanding of the buyer journey and how customers make purchase decisions. This article covers what intent data is and outlines how you can use this information to implement better lead generation strategies.  

What is intent data? 

Intent data provides businesses with insight into the process users go through when looking to buy their product or solution. It does this by tracking intent search terms through a combination of IP addresses and cookies and is collated using a range of digital sources. Intent data notifies businesses that their customers are in an active buying journey, allowing them to focus their marketing strategy on those prepared to purchase and boost conversions.  

Types of intent data 

Intent data can be either first-party or third-party. Third-party data comes from sources and websites other than your own; there are several third-party data providers that collect data from thousands of high-value analyst sites like Gartner, as well as publications like Forbes, and bucket this data into relevant audiences.  

Other third-party tools, such as Google Trends, SEMRush, Answer the Public, and even social platforms can be used to gain insight on search intent.  

First-party intent data has been around for over a decade and as a result most marketers already use it. Often referred to as engagement data, first-party intent data comes from tracking user behaviour on your own website to gain insight on the customer journey. 

Examples of first-party data include: 

  • Data from behaviours or actions on your website 
  • Data in your CRM 
  • Data from your social media profiles 
  • Data from subscription-based emails 
  • Data from surveys 
  • Data from reviews and customer feedback. 

Both first- and third-party intent data provide companies with valuable information that can help to refine their marketing strategy. With this data, content can be personalised towards the user to help drive conversions.  

Types of search intent  

Search intent refers to what it is users want to be shown when they make a search. Understanding the intent behind a search helps you to better understand what will help to push a person along the sales funnel, which makes it easier for you to create a strategy that hits the right customers with the right message at the right time. 

  1. Navigational:  Users who are looking for a specific page or site. These searches are dominated by branded keywords, an example would be someone turning to Google to search ‘YouTube’, rather than going straight to the site. 
  2. Informational: Users looking for the answer to a specific question, these are often queries beginning with ‘what is’ or ‘how to’. 
  3. Transactional: Users who have the intention of buying or completing an action. This can be purchases, email signups, form submissions, store visits or a phone call.  
  4. Commercial: Similar to transactional, commercial intent is a place to offer free or reduced products to help you catch your customers’ attention. 

You can find out the types of searches your audience makes through third-party tools like SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner and Answer the Public.  

How using intent data can improve your B2B marketing strategy 

According to the Demand Gen Report’s ABM Benchmark Survey, only 25% of B2B companies are currently using intent data and monitoring tools. Using customer intent data is the key to building a successful digital marketing strategy - here’s why: 

Increases your content’s relevancy  

With so much content available online to choose from, internet users have become less tolerant of unnecessary, outdated, or inaccurate information.  

Intent data allows you to combine customer demographics with purpose, using the insights you have gained to inform each aspect of your content strategy, including theme, buyer personas, buyer journey maps, content form, and keyword strategy.  

Information gathered through intent data allows you to understand what searches users make at each stage of the customer journey. Using these insights to shape your content strategy means you can relieve any potential concerns and pain points and guide prospects down the sales funnel.   

Understanding what your buyer is searching for also means you can tailor your content, ensuring you provide useful and comprehensive information for their needs. Targeting customers with relevant content that will get much better results than if they were to just see generalised, one size meets all content which skims over or ignores the answers they are looking for.  

Intent data can also be used to develop more in-depth buyer personas, which can influence your content strategy. Companies who understand the buyer’s needs and pain points can make more informed decisions about site navigation, CTAs, product descriptions and more. For example, if you know that your users are looking for a product which delivers X, you can make sure to include this in the product description.   

Boosts organic visibility 

Optimising for search intent is integral to increasing organic rankings. Google aims to deliver the most relevant content when a user searches and over the years they have got much better at understanding why the user makes a query, or the intent behind the search. Delivering content which answers a user’s search intent is therefore regarded more favourably by Google.  

Collecting and analysing intent data allows you to segment keywords according to intent and use this to shape your SEO strategy, increasing organic rankings long-term. One example of how this might look is including certain benefits of your product in the meta data and page titles as you know it is a key element your audience is interested in finding out more about.   

Increases landing page conversions 

Understanding a customer’s intent when they land on a page on your website means you can tailor specific pages to match their needs and drive them to the next stage of the customer journey.  

For example, if you find customers land on a certain page during the research phase of the buyer’s journey – when their intent is to understand a product or service more – populating the page with useful information will convert much better than CTAs such as ‘buy now’; these will be better placed on the landing pages users go to when they are ready to buy. 

Improves the ROI of paid media 

Targeting users with ads that do not match their intent is less likely to lead to a conversion, resulting in wasted budget.  

Tailoring paid media campaigns to search intent can help to improve performance as it allows you to use your budget more effectively while increasing the rate of conversion.  

The types of ads you choose to deliver, and how much you choose to bid on them, can all be informed by search intent. In B2B, this might look like using display campaigns to drive whitepaper downloads for users at the early stages of the customer journey whose intent is to gain more information on a topic, and using PPC campaigns to target high intent keywords with product or service pages.  

You might also choose to target high intent searches more aggressively to maximise the use of your budget.     

Improves email marketing campaigns 

Businesses can use intent data to create email campaigns that reflect where their customers are in the customer journey.   

Transactional emails can receive up to eight times as many engagements compared to regular marketing emails. Intent data provides companies with knowledge on when their customers are ready to convert, and therefore when they should be targeting this demographic with personalised transactional emails. 

Intent data can be used to inform marketers when their customers have re-entered the sales funnel and may be more receptive to transactional emails; for example, sending personalised emails to someone who has abandoned the checkout can be all the push they need to complete the sale, and can be much more effective than sending blanket emails to cold prospects.  

Why intent data is the future for B2B marketing 

B2B purchases often have multiple decision-makers involved, each who have different needs and intents. Using intent data can help you to understand the different wants of each decision-maker and ensure that you can deliver the right content at the right time and push users along the sales funnel.   

Understanding prospective customers’ and clients’ behaviours and triggers allow you to reach them with the right content at the right time. With this knowledge, you can target a specific profile who are in the ‘ready to buy’ stage of the customer journey, massively increasing the likelihood of a purchase decision. Generic marketing campaigns delivered to a random audience will simply be shut down by users who now expect to see content that’s valuable to them.  

Not only is intent data the key to providing better answers and solutions than your competitors, but it also allows better use of marketing budgets, both which lead to more conversions and ultimately more revenue.  

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