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How to leverage buyer intent to maximize marketing campaigns

Wouldn’t it be great to know which buyers were researching your company? Or were about to take a specific action? Well, you can. Intent marketing is a type of behavioral marketing. Using intent data, it seeks to understand the behavioral patterns of customers both potential and actual. Although we have been hearing about it for some years now, only a quarter of businesses were using intent marketing at the beginning of 2020. 

Intent data offers a company knowledge about why its marketing efforts do or don’t lead to conversions and how to change a marketing program to correct any issues. An intent-based marketing strategy is impossible, however, without intent data.

What is intent data?

Intent data is a form of behavioral information. It presents the behavior of customers throughout the entire digital environment, which includes not just your digital presence—website pages, social media posts, and other marketing efforts—but other spheres too. 

Intent data tells you the things your potential customers do and whether they are about to make, or have declined to make, a purchase. That could include something like viewing a review section on a product page, clearing a shopping cart, or any other way in which a user interacts with their digital environment. 

Intent data is processed by marketing automation tools and user analytics to build a picture of how customers behave on a website and try to work out their intent. This technique can also increase work productivity by adding automation. 

There are three types of intent data available.

First-party intent data. First-party intent data is the first line of intent marketing as it picks up data from users interacting with your website. This you can easily and legally track.

Second-party intent data. This kind of intent data is from other sources adjacent to your business, such as review sites, second-party social listening, and so on. 

Third-party intent data. Third-party intent data is captured from across the entire internet. It is the most limited type as collection methods are still in their infancy, but it offers a vastly different kind of data from first-party.

(Source: Gartner)

The advantages of using intent data

The benefits of intent data go a lot further than simply knowing what your customers are doing, although this in and of itself is valuable. Here are some other major advantages:

  • Nurturing leads. Using artificial intelligence and automated systems, intent data lets you know exactly what stage of the process each customer is at. You can therefore decide how to intervene with those customers, what to offer them, and when to make your approach. Live chat is a particularly common way of using intent data to nurture a lead, but it’s still in its infancy and can be annoying to some. (More on that later.)
  • Prioritizing leads. With leads who are already invested in your website—who have visited multiple times, spent a long time browsing or reading, and so on—interaction can be prioritized on an automated system. 

    In other words, you can prioritize the customers closest to making a purchase. If you sell customer support software, for example, then you can prioritize leads that you know have been looking for that software.
  • Discovering new leads: Especially by using second- and third-party intent data as part of an intent marketing strategy, your business can discover new leads by informing marketing and sales teams about the kinds of searches made by the types of customers you want.
  • Personalizing your leads: By gathering intent data you learn more about your customers, their habits, and their place in the buying cycle. You can apply that information to personalize your relationship with them.

These are four primary advantages of intent marketing in finding, accelerating, and converting leads. 

Leveraging buyer intent to maximize marketing campaigns: how it works

(Keywords and content occupy 80% of web presence. We discuss how to use buyer intent data to leverage that below. Source: Visual.ly)

Remember your customers are human

Although the information you get from customers comes in data form, it’s important to remember that the people you get that data from are still just that—people. 

They still have human impressions and hold human biases. If navigating a page is difficult for them, they’ll quit out of frustration and go to a competitor. 

Adverts that interrupt a person’s customer experience, such as loud pop-ups, can also cause a customer to walk away from a product even if its technical specifications and price point are exactly what they need. 

Take live chat, for example—although it’s now becoming more and more common, up to 39% of customers find live chat annoying. This is where intent data comes in. 

When you see the points of the buying cycle where your customers are leaving, consider whether there is a human reason for doing so, rather than pure business logic behind it.

Think beyond the click-through rate

Traditional marketing may have been all about getting people onto your website and into the buying cycle, but intent data shows the importance of maintaining the interest of customers throughout the entire cycle. 

There is functionally little difference between a person who never goes on your website and a person who goes all the way through the buying cycle but cancels at the last minute. 

Buyer intent data helps you to think about the entire buying cycle. At what stage do customers normally leave? Can you use buyer intent data, such as the amount of time customers spend deliberating on a purchase, to change the way your buying cycle works? 

For example, if from page to purchase, your booking appointments software has too many steps and your buyer intent data suggests potential buyers leave at one of these steps, you could find a way to shorten the process.

Optimize your keywords

Researching the keywords of potential customers allows you to see what your customers are looking for. Especially with the use of third-party intent data, an intent marketing strategy can help you develop keywords that match much more closely with those that potential customers use to find the products they want. 

For example, a person searching for Zoom competitors uses certain keywords that a Zoom competitor could incorporate into their search engine optimization.

Since keywords govern search engine optimization, this is an excellent tool to help you place your product in front of customers. 

Since 2015, Google’s algorithm has been able to capture the overall intent of a search as well as the specific words used in it. This is further information for an intent marketing strategy to capture and use.

Update your content strategy

Content strategy is one of the simplest ways to implement intent data. Without this kind of data though, it’s impossible to tell whether a customer spends two minutes reading a sales pitch or two milliseconds. Intent data is how you determine which content is effective and which content isn’t. 

By using intent data, you can observe what content your potential and real customers consume the most, what videos they watch, what links they click, and what pages they stay on. If a customer watches your video on inbound call center software and then makes a purchase, you know it was effective.

Replicate the content that works. Discard the content that doesn’t. Be ahead of the curve.

(Source: Enabler Space)

The takeaway

In 2015, Google made changes, called RankBrain, to its search algorithm, which for the first time included user intent in a search. That was the very beginning of the gathering of intent data, and it has become even more sophisticated and useful since. 

This technology offers a marketer, whether B2B or B2C, knowledge that e-commerce sales and marketing teams haven’t ever had before—the intent of a customer. It allows a marketing strategy that targets customers who are actually in the process of making a purchase. 

That’s an advantage that, in the future, fewer and fewer marketers will be willing to pass up, but that today, a majority still don’t practice. Don’t be among them. Be ahead of the game and use this to the benefit of your business.

About the Author

John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and Contact Center Solutions provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Multibriefs and OneHub.

Profile Photo of John Allen