By Terry Arnold, Vice President, Sales Enablement at True Influence, powered by MeritB2B
B2B marketing is about engaging prospects in a digital conversation that often lasts six months or more. And marketers seldom get to start that conversation. Buyers have already researched your market, and likely your specific service or product, before you send them that first email. Just butting in with a mistimed whitepaper offer can come off as clumsy and, well, a bit rude.
That’s where intent data comes in.
When True Influence, powered by MeritB2B helped define the intent data category more than a decade ago, it was a breakthrough in helping identify accounts that were in-market, a fundamental qualifier for when and where to put your marketing spend.
Now, intent has become an essential element in not only finding prospects who are talking, but also understanding what they are saying, and the perspective they are bringing to the discussion. Accelerating marketing campaigns with third-party intent data helps you understand how you can insert yourself into the conversation as an enthusiastic peer, or as a useful resource – whomever the prospect is interested in talking to at the moment. And intent helps you listen in on what the prospect is talking about with other sellers, and their community at large, so when you do reach out, you have something useful to add.
Without intent, you’ll just come off as interrupting an otherwise productive conversation. And that’s not going to result in a lot of closed deals.
The Buyer Is in Control, and You HAVE to Listen
Here’s a data point for you: In its 2021 B2B Buying Study, Forrester found that the number of content interactions a single buyer has during a purchase decision jumped to 27 touches during the pandemic. That’s up from an already daunting estimate of 17 touches just two years ago.
Obviously, all 27 of those touches are not with the same selling organization. Buyers are constantly interacting with sellers on social media, via email, and through independent web-based research. Most experts agree that about 70 percent or so of the B2B purchase decision process is now based on digital content consumption. And the overwhelming majority of purchasers, about three-quarters, want to have a general understanding of your market and product before agreeing to talk to sales.
Buyers dictate the conversation. Fortunately, purchase intent monitoring technology lets you listen to what they are talking about.
Taking Intent To the Next Level
You’re probably familiar with some of the statistics I just cited. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve already incorporated intent data in your B2B marketing operations. Gartner recently predicted that by the end of 2022, more than 70 percent of sellers will use third-party intent data to target buyers.
Targeting is a great place to start with intent, but it’s only a start. Just using intent data for audience segmentation no longer sets you apart from the competition. You need advanced intent analytics technology, and you need to inject that intelligence into every phase of revenue operations, from personalizing high-funnel content to product strategy.
Taking intent to the next level was a major factor in the recent decision for True Influence to join forces with MeritB2B. As a leader in the space, MeritB2B has developed its own intent data tools, as well as gaining additional capability with the acquisition of best-of-breed companies, including 180byTwo.
Our combined efforts in the coming months will focus on elevating three key areas of intent data technology and implementation.
One of the key assets we bring to the table for the new True Influence, powered by MeritB2B is our Identity Graph Triangulation® technology, which helps us map intent activity across multiple devices and channels to an individual prospect.
Identity resolution gets pretty sophisticated. It’s a complex web of intersecting data points; but every data point helps paint a clear picture of exactly who is researching a purchase.
Contact-level intent mapping is essential to fueling ABM and other B2B marketing strategies that rely on content personalization to engage prospects across the buying organization. (Forrester lead analyst Jessie Johnson recently discussed this topic with our Tricia Wiles Ruiz.) When you know who is having the conversation, you can personalize content to match their role in the purchase decision. (I’ll go a little deeper on this in my next post.)
Other teams within the MeritB2B organization have been working on similar tech, and we are looking forward to combining what we’ve built into an even more advanced solution.
In addition to knowing who is engaged in purchase research, you also need to know what that research activity really tells you about the upcoming purchase. It goes well beyond simple keywords and URL strings – a publisher might employ tags and H2 headers to advertise that a post is about security. But it might really be more about privacy regulations. That’s a big difference in context, and when it comes to joining the B2B marketing conversation, context is everything.
Using data science, we introduced a methodology of accurately resolving for topical intent more than a decade ago, and since then we’ve continuously improved its machine learning and regression analysis capabilities. We basically read the page ourselves. We know what a piece of content is about, and when it’s coupled with a contacts’ role in the B2B buying group and their other purchase research behavior, we can build a pretty clear picture of where the conversion stands with them.
Again, as part of the MeritB2B organization, we are going to pair these methodologies with similar technology to create a best-of-breed solution to advance our combined capabilities even further.
Analytics & Business Intelligence
Intent is incredibly powerful for campaign targeting and execution, but that’s just part of the picture. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of our growth in the next years as an intent data provider is in the area of analytics, where MeritB2B has long been established as an industry leader.
By overlaying intent on customer histories and market-wide data, you can distill incredibly powerful insights on current and future customers. Are current customers exhibiting interest in other products where they don’t necessarily match our ideal customer profile or named accounts? Are they showing attrition behavior? Should you be looking at building out new products and services, based on research topics being exhibited by your best customers?
We’ve had some requests from our own customers along these lines, and it will be gratifying to build out these services. It’s a chance to use intent to extend an ongoing conversation into a deep, growing relationship.
Intent Makes You a Welcome Addition to the Conversation
Connecting with B2B prospects in a meaningful conversation is a real challenge. There’s an enormous number of channels and opportunities, but you don’t want to clog up those 27 touches with untimely or just useless information. In my next post, I’ll go a little deeper into how third-party intent data, along with rich demographic and firmographic contact data, can help you read the room and be a welcome addition to the conversation.