Individual users and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on the internet as a research portal. This has led to changes in the way brands market their products and services.
If you’re familiar with the B2B buyer’s journey, then your business may benefit further from understanding the age-old but somehow underutilized concept of buyer intent. With a holistic understanding of buyer intent, your business can improve the lead qualification process and enhance sales conversions.
Buyer intent comes down to knowing what makes a great lead. And this means putting your customer’s needs, wants and interests at the center of all your sales and marketing campaigns.
Decades ago, it was all about how awesome your business is, how valuable your product is, and how brilliant your service is. Nowadays, it’s about how well you can deliver what your target market wants in terms of communication, products, and customer service.
This is the customer-centered approach that businesses and organizations aim for. Providing the right products and services, for the right people, at the right time, using the right channels, to address the right needs or wants, is what customer centricity is all about. The customer, their buyer’s journey, the sales funnel, and user behavior are at the core of a customer-centric approach to any marketing campaign.
So, What Is Buyer Intent?
These days, marketers use data analytics tools to measure the success of every marketing effort. Keyword searches, engagement rates, email open rates, behavioral data, and demographic information are some of the metrics that contribute to buyer intent. Simply put, buyer intent data is a collection of information about a company (or individual users in B2C cases) and their online activity.
With this data, you can get a clearer picture of where buyers are in the linear marketing funnel, a better understanding of how to keep their attention, and how to convert them into paying customers.
Directly, it refers to the intention of a user (or buyer) during the process of purchasing a product or service. With the help of modern data analytics tools, marketers can map out buyer intent and determine where buyers are in the buyer’s journey, which helps improve targeting.
Customer Touch Points
Gone are the days when buyers approach a company for services with little knowledge about their options. Pre-packaged sales solutions no longer work. These days, buyers do a lot of research and educate themselves about their problems and available solutions even before making an initial inquiry.
In doing so, buyers leave digital footprints called intent data. Every website they visit, every article they read, and every other online action can give you tidbits about their motivation and purpose. Businesses who capitalize upon and utilize this intent data gain a competitive advantage over those that do not.
According to Forrester, the first vendor who makes contact with an interested prospect closes the deal over 85% of the time. By determining buyer intent through these digital footprints and customer touch points, marketers can focus on engaging prospects who are most likely to buy.
Uncovering Buyer Intent
To uncover buyer intent, it’s important to trace the process that B2B buyers go through before committing to the actual purchase. As mentioned, buyers nowadays usually enter the sales funnel at a later stage, after being made aware of and identifying their problem.
Thus, the B2B buyer’s journey begins with a change in the status quo or the need to address a particular problem. Commitment to that change then follows when someone approves the project. After which, solutions are compared, and avenues are explored through extensive research. Once a solution has been decided upon, the organization then commits to that solution before finally making a decision to purchase a specific product or service.
Image via Mintigo.
There are variations in this process depending on the organization and industry. But generally speaking, this is the usual process that any business goes through when securing a specific service.
The length of time it takes before a business makes an actual purchase depends on company size and the urgency of their situation. For some, it can take just a couple of weeks, while bigger companies can easily take months or years to finalize a major purchase.
During initial research stages, analytics platforms can gather data on search behavior, content engagement, and social media behavior to provide buyer intent insights. Now that you have this data in your hands, you can actually uncover buyer intent by asking the right questions.
Ask Why, Not What.
To uncover true buyer intent, it’s important to begin with the ‘why’ instead of the ‘what.’ Traditionally, marketers are used to analyzing from the outside-in:
“What does Company A need?” → “How do they achieve this?” → “Why do they need this?”
Image courtesy of Kissmetrics.
Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle tells us that when we “return to our natural, latent state of being from the inside-out,” we discover the true intent of ‘why.’ As B2B marketers, you need to ask yourself:
“Why is Company A visiting these web pages?” → “How did they get to those websites?” → “What are they learning from those websites?”
By first answering the question of why, businesses are presented with a much more accurate depiction of what motivates their buyers. With this actionable intent data, brands can personalize marketing future marketing efforts to increase relevance and value overall.
Using Buyer Intent
Imagine if you could capitalize on all the data that you have about a target company. It’s a bit like holding an ace in poker. You just have to know how to use it, and when exactly to play that card to win the deal.
With buyer intent data, you can improve your marketing tactics in terms of content marketing, lead generation, copywriting, and keyword optimization to actively engage with prospects at the optimal time:
Why are buyers reading your blog? Why are they downloading your eBooks? Why are they visiting your product/service pages?
By understanding their intent, you can identify which stage of the buyer journey they’re in, and create the right piece of educational or informational material to give them a little push towards a desired action, which is usually a purchase decision.
Buyers with the intent to learn usually search for generic and broad terms. For example, they might search for “content marketing strategies,” “content marketing best practices,” or “how to create a content marketing strategy.” Keywords used won’t typically indicate intent to purchase.
Meanwhile, buyers with the intent to compare will look for specific products and solutions. They might then search for “content marketing agencies” and look for “reviews,” “benefits,” and “recommendations” to help them find and choose a specific solution.
Further down the funnel, buyers with a clear intent to buy will search for a specific product, service, or company. These buyers are very focused in their search queries and very rarely look at other sites. This means that they are most likely ready to buy.
To capitalize on this knowledge, it’s important to use relevant headlines and keywords for your content that clearly indicate your target’s intent. This way, buyers know that the specific content will address a need that’s relevant to them.
Which leads us into mapping your keyword strategy to match buyer intent:
Why is the buyer using specific keywords? Once you have the data to answer this question, you can better map out your content with specific keywords that you have assessed and prioritized.
Buyer intent and keyword metrics can help you map keywords to specific B2B buyer behavior. This makes your SEO efforts more effective in reaching the right buyers who are closer to a purchase decision.
Define your keyword opportunities and prioritize them using buyer intent. These keywords are essential in determining the best pieces of content to create for your buyers at each stage of the sales cycle.
Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool can help you analyze your competitors’ rankings for a target keyword. If you’re just starting out and it’s a pretty competitive industry, it’s probably a good idea to target long-tail keywords because they’re easier to rank for. There will always be alternatives that the competition isn’t necessarily focusing on.
Work closely with your sales team to determine which keywords generate more leads further down the sales funnel. This will help you streamline your SEO efforts with sales and marketing initiatives, potentially driving your sales conversion rates through the roof!
With buyer intent data, content and copywriting should no longer be based on trial and error. You can easily determine what types of content and writing styles are suitable for specific stages in your funnel. Creating content backed by buyer intent data cuts through the noise and makes your brand stand out.
In the awareness or discovery phase, people usually have the intent to learn. At this point, blog posts, guides, how-to articles, and resource lists are ideal content formats you can create for your buyers. Buying intent is probably low, so you should be helping visitors understand their problem to position your brand as a trustworthy industry source.
In the next phase, buyers have the intention to compare and explore solutions to their problem. They already know what their problem is, so the goal at this stage is to highlight the specific benefits of your product or service to set your brand apart from the competition. In such cases, videos, presentations, product reviews, testimonials, and product images are appropriate to include in your content.
In the last stage, buyers are ready to purchase. They already know what solution they want for their problem. They don’t need any more convincing. So, you should offer the quickest possible way for them to purchase your product. Landing pages, sales pages, and product pages are the best possible avenues during this stage. Lead them there, and let them make that “oh so desirable” purchase decision.
With comprehensive data about a target company, B2B marketers can enhance the qualification process, determining whether they’re in-market and ready to buy so they can be targeted more effectively. Intent data is a great asset to take advantage of when designing and developing your lead management strategy.
Marketers can now prioritize the best leads according to how well they score during the lead qualification process. With buyer intent data, rather than wonder whether or not your leads will buy, it becomes a more of a question of when they will buy. You have the information in your hands to decide the most effective way to pursue that particular lead.
Targeted advertising and marketing automation are also more accurate with intent data at the helm. You can better personalize ads and messages for the right buyer, at the most opportune time. Segmentation and qualification highly increase your chances of converting that lead.
With intent data, marketers don’t necessarily have to focus on generating a massive amount of leads. It’s about targeting specific leads who have a higher potential of purchasing. The sales team now has the advantage of approaching buyers with a higher purchase propensity, thereby increasing conversion rates and minimizing the cost of acquiring customers (CAC).
It’s a no-brainer. Your business needs to take intent data seriously for a performance-driven marketing strategy. Sure, there’s that age-old marketing technique of broadcasting to everyone you can think of that fits your buyer persona, but with intent data, you’ll have a much better idea of what basket to put your eggs in.
Is your business effectively using buyer intent data to qualify sales leads? Check out our Complete Guide to Data-Driven Marketing to find out!