What if you had the power to read minds? Especially at work?
It would make your life so much easier, right? You’d be able to anticipate colleague’s moods, say just the right thing at the right time, and be able to win big with clients. After all, you’d know what they were thinking. You’d have an unfair advantage and be able to write your own ticket.
If what I’m describing sounds like a superpower, it isn’t. Not really. The truth is, your clients are already out there, and their behavior can tell you what their needs are, where their pain-points are, what they might be looking to buy. You just have to be able to spot the signals, in that ocean of data out there, as they demonstrate what’s increasingly being called — especially by B2B marketers — their intent.
Intent marketing has become an important category within B2B, even though trends in B2C marketing (think predictive offers) track it closely.
In B2B, of course, instead of targeting consumers, you’re targeting companies, or accounts, and more specifically, the decision-makers within those accounts. Naturally, decision-makers are going to conduct a lot of research before making a significant B2B purchase. In fact, they’re going to conduct a lot of research in channels you don’t own, and before ever making contact with you. How do you read someone’s mind without actually reading it?
There are two parts to the answer. First, you need to know with some confidence that the decision-maker is actually in market, and not just keeping abreast of products or services out of general interest. Second, if they are in market, it helps to know where they are in the purchasing journey. The same way a regular person leaves footprints or indications that they are moving in a particular direction, your future clients are already searching for you, even if they don’t know it.
In other words, what’s important is understanding the behavior potential customers are exhibiting. Using intent data (there are number of specialist vendors which supply this), together with SEO and social listening, you can get big clues as to who they are, and what they are looking for. Even without personally identifying data, you can detect personas: for example, a CMO, a director of operations, or an IT professional looking for a SaaS product.
It’s critically important that you find out who these people are to more specifically target them. You aren’t casting a wide net. These aren’t top-of-the-funnel B2C leads who are browsing unsystematically. These are people who are looking for something specific to solve their business problem.
They’ve already got the awareness of the space they’re researching (whether they know your brand or not) — what they need is the right product positioned in front of them by a marketer who has taken the time to get to know them and their needs. It’s possible to match intent data with detailed personas.
Once you’ve done this, it’s easier to tailor your approach. Do they need education? Send along whitepapers and blogs to nurture their curiosity. Are they struggling to decide on a product? Don’t overwhelm with information, maybe set up a call to hear their frustrations. The data is critical, but the human connection is essential. Data informs, but the fundamental nature of business is a human-to-human connection. By showing a potential client that you care about them and their needs, it will be easier to show them you know how to solve their problems (with your product!)
The B2B sales cycle is long, which leaves a lot of room for error, distraction, and prospects falling off the grid. But if you strike the right note early on, and nurture it with appropriate messaging, you may be able to delight your enterprise your customer. “They knew exactly what I needed! It’s like they read my mind!”
The B2C angle
Let’s be clear: intent marketing doesn’t have much relevance when it comes to routine, high volume retail sales. You don’t need to know someone’s intent if you’re selling socks or toilet tissue. But there are many B2C purchases which are expensive, considered, and even show long purchase cycles. And while we wouldn’t refer to a family as a buying committee, there may be a number of stakeholders.
Houses and cars are obvious examples, but the list is extensive. Nursing care? Insurance? Even travel? This is where we see fuzzy lines between B2B intent marketing a such, and very similar targeting and re-targeting based on behavior in the B2C space. If I’m searching for hotels in D.C. in September, I’m exhibiting intent.
This is just yet another way in which B2B and B2C marketing increasingly resemble each other. — Kim Davis