The Latest from the ABM Experts
July 17, 2019
What Is Buyer Intent Data? (and How Can I Operationalize It in 2019?)
Written by Levi Olmstead
Your prospective customer is already somewhere within the buyer’s journey, and you have no idea who they are.
If you sell running shoes, there’s a 35-year old trail runner out there looking at worn out soles as you read this.
If you sell data security, there’s a CTO in a room, talking with a dev about their server backup concerns. And you have no idea. If you did, you’d walk into that room, stick your hand out, and introduce yourself.
The average B2B consumer is already 67% of the way through their buyer journey before they consider engaging with your sales team and 80% are seeking out professional services online when searching for services.
If you could get in earlier in the buying process – during the research stage, perhaps – you could beat out your competitors every time.
But how? The answer is buyer intent data.
This guide will give you a complete breakdown of what buyer intent data is and how you can operationalize it to get ahead of your competition and drive more sales.
What Is Buyer Intent Data?
Buyer intent data encompasses the signals which indicate a prospective customer is interested in buying. Buyer intent data tools examine your buyer’s journeys to learn what counts as intent and what is just normal behavior. Then those tools inform your marketing and sales teams, showing you opportunities to optimize the way you communicate.
Why do you need buyer intent data?
Let’s take a quick look at the modern buyer’s journey:
Those two stages in the middle (interest and consideration) are longer and more complicated and your buyers are doing more research and are exposed to more aggressive competition than they’ve ever been before.
Operationalizing buyer intent data shows your business which signals indicate a prospective customer intends to buy and which signals don’t. This enables you to more effectively advertise, market, communicate, and sell your business to the right people at the right time and with the right language, giving you an advantage over your competitors during the interest and consideration stages.
Internal Buyer Intent Data
Internal (or “first-party”) buyer intent data is data taken from your website, your automation systems or within your software itself.
There are two main types of internal buyer intent data: data which is submitted manually and data which is intuited by your CRM.
A few examples of internal buyer intent data are:
- Website visits: Pricing pages, frequent visits within a timeframe, etc.
- Downloads of bottom-of-funnel content: Whitepapers, case studies, etc.
- Job title: Entry-level employees rarely have buying power. Management-level employees usually do.
- Lead information submitted: Providing a phone number indicates acknowledgment that that number might be called, which could indicate buyer intent.
- Viewing bottom-of-funnel pages: Product comparison pages or “what people say about us” pages.
- Time on page: more time on a page generally signifies interest
- Registration for and attendance of webinars: showcases further interest
For instance, let’s say you sell social media tools like social media management software and you’re generating business leads with email-gated ebooks.
Some of those ebooks will be top-of-funnel ebooks (“How to Get More Instagram Followers”) and some will be more bottom-of-funnel (“How to Choose the Right Social Media Management Tool”).
When someone downloads the TOFU ebook, you wouldn’t say that was buyer intent data. When someone downloads the BOFU, though, you may. Alongside a few other actions, downloading that BOFU ebook may trigger your sales team to reach out manually. Doing so then, after they’ve shown intent, will result in a better win rate.
On a website, engagement factors can be used as direct buyer intent data. Let me show you an example.
Take this landing page on appointment scheduling software for plumbers. At first, users can engage with different on-page elements, seeing how those exact features (and more importantly, what specific features) work:
Next, potential buyers have multiple options to learn more information, like watching a case study video:
Each of these small moments on the landing page signifies potential buyer intent data.
Did they click on multiple feature selections? That’s a good sign that a given user is closer to converting.
Did they watch a video on your landing page? They are getting steps closer to buying, signaling a potentially perfect time to manually reach out.
Internal buyer intent data comes from these signals, and these signals can help you operationalize that intent into real, tangible sales.
External Buyer Intent Data (The Off-Site Advantage)
It’s all well and good to be tracking your visitor and lead’s behavior on your website.
But with such a complicated buyer’s journey, you need to be tracking prospective customers not just on your website, but on the rest of the web as well.
Above and beyond website tracking software, buyer intent data tools can see what prospective customers are doing around the web, not just on your domain.
- Are they visiting your competitor’s websites?
- Are they looking up your target keywords and finding the answers somewhere else?
- Are they checking out review sites?
With buyer intent data, your business can understand the sales funnel and expand accordingly.
You may not be able to control where they go or how they behave, but you can control how you respond to it.
How can you track prospective customer’s off-site behavior?
External buyer intent data is usually taken at the IP level or through browser pixels/cookies.
Here’s how buyer intent data tool Bombora breaks it all down:
“At a high level, intent data is observations drawn from web users’ behavior that can indicate what products and services in which they are interested. Take online content consumption for example: when users engage with online web materials, it represents their interest in the topic that those materials are about.
More specifically, marketers can employ ‘intent monitoring‘ which observes trends in this content consumption over time, amongst a group of web users. When there are spikes in frequency or intensity of these trends, Intent signals will correlate that to increased intent. Thus, indicating the propensity to make a purchase decision and proving to be very valuable to marketing and sales decision makers.
Bombora monitors consumption with a few important engagement metrics factored in, such as scroll velocity and dwell time on a page, which is packaged into actionable data points.”
Combining both internal and external data gives a more complete picture of your buyer’s journey than you could possibly get with standard website tracking or marketing automation software.
How Can You Use Buyer Intent Data?
“Customers care about their own problems – the needs, challenges, and opportunities that they think you can help them solve through your products, services and through engagement with your employees.” (Freshdesk)
What they don’t care about is helping you make a sale.
They’re not looking to buy out of goodwill or because they owe it to you.
And if you don’t get in touch at the right time, your competitor is always waiting to pounce.
That’s why it’s so essential your business implements buyer intent data processes:
- Your marketing team needs to be creating content which drives prospective customers into and through the buyer’s journey.
- Your sales team needs to be engaging at the right time and with the right messaging.
- Your customer success and retention teams need to be watching your existing customers, reaching out when they’re indicating dissatisfaction, lack of value, or a desire to change providers.
How to Use Buyer Intent Data in Content Marketing
The content you create is written to interest your prospective customers. For instance, if someone reads this piece, we can assume they’re interested in buyer intent data.
But more than that, we can intuit an advanced knowledge of marketing. We could even assume they may be in middle management with at least a medium-sized business.
Readership of this post could start a profile of a prospective customer. Further articles, page visits, internet browsing, and a dozen other variables could expand that profile. This will help your sales team (down the line) start an informed conversation and increase the chance of them making a sale.
To get started using buyer intent data in content marketing, it’s smart to create, then tag, both TOFU and BOFU content, and assign different buyer intent values to each type.
Rather than focusing exclusively on search volume, focus at least 50% of your resources writing content which attracts people with an intent to buy. Brand awareness is valuable, but money in the bank is more so. Promote content (via ads and social) and ensure your buyer intent data tool keeps on eye on which type of content results in sales and should be invested in, and which doesn’t.
You can do this by looking at key metrics for your content and how they performed against the same audience, or flip it by testing that content to different audiences:
When creating your content, be sure to optimize your titles so clicking on them shows clear intent. For instance, “The 10 Essential Elements of a [Your Software Type].”
You can even play around with the phrasing and tone of the title to match pain points, too.
When generating leads, ask for information which informs your understanding of the buyer intent. Job title, for instance, can be a big indicator.
When promoting your content on social media, use language which implies intent when clicked.
For instance, create and promote a podcast on social media with the language “Are you struggling with [pain point]? Check out our most recent podcast on how we [specific achievement covered].”
You get the point: your content should be diverse. From starting a blog to podcasts and video content, everything should be utilized to draw new points of buyer intent data.
How to Use Buyer Intent Data in Sales
A good buyer intent data tracking tool will help your team identify what signals indicate a prospective customer is ready to buy. And once that signal is given, you need to have a system in place which triggers a response.
Not the next day, not the next week. Then and there.
As soon as a lead visits your product page for the second time in 24 hours (or you notice a spike in account-level activity), you need to send an email saying, “Did you have any questions about our tools?” When a lead tells you they’re the CEO of a business with a marketing budget of $50,000/month, you need to change that person’s path to one manually managed by your top closer.
From the moment a lead visits your pricing page and your main competitor’s pricing page in a single morning, you need to send a friendly email which includes a PDF of your “Us vs. Them” breakdown.
The automation stream might look like this (and continue ad infinitum to the right):
Buyer Intent Data and Lead Scoring
Many readers will notice the similarities between the strategies above and lead scoring, and you’d be right to do so.
The difference, though, is huge.
With lead scoring, you’re arbitrarily assigning values to the actions of your website visitors based on your own assumption and beliefs.
With buyer intent data tracking, you’re assigning values to the actions of your prospective customers on multiple platforms based on the paths which your successful sales have already taken. If lead scoring is shooting towards a target in the dark, hoping you hit, buyer intent data tracking is lying down with a sniper rifle in broad daylight with a target 15 feet away.
How to Use Buyer Intent Data in Customer Success and Retention
Buyer intent data tools can tell you both when a prospective customer is most likely to make a purchase as well as when they’re most likely to dissatisfied and looking to move on.
The same software which tracks a person’s visits to pricing pages can track visits to “cancel my subscription” pages.
The same software which tracks a person’s visits to product review sites before they buy can track them visiting those same pages after they’ve already bought. And why would they be revisiting those pages if they weren’t interested in switching to a new tool, service provider, or product?
Set up customer success triggers around frequency of use and any “success” indicators (shared accounts created, software elements utilized, etc).
Next, use email marketing automation to trigger email campaigns or phone calls to help those customers who seem to be struggling to find success or happiness with your software or service.
Utilize retention triggers around cancellation pages visited and emails unopened as well as competitor or “Us vs. Them” comparison websites visited.
Trigger email campaigns or phone calls to check up on “on-the-edge” clients.
Track the net promoter scores for each of your clients. Trigger a response when someone gives you a minimum rating.
Like any marketing tactic, tools can help you manage the process in a streamlined fashion.
But, with over 5,000 tools out there, it’s harder than ever to find ones that are actually worth the money:
Here are our some of the top-rated tools for monitoring and utilizing buyer intent data.
- Terminus: Account-based marketing tools to enable B2B marketers to see exactly how their efforts are affecting sales.
- Bombora: Buyer intent data tracking tool with internal and external data tracking.
- LeanData: Data tracking software which connects with CRMs to provide a comprehensive view of campaign performance (similar to Terminus Account Hub).
- Segment: Software which collects data about a customer from all sources (CRM, customer service app, website, blog, etc) and displays it in a single place.
- Hotjar: Tool which combines conversion funnel analysis with user feedback tools into a single platform to see and optimize buyer journeys.
- Reply: Email software which affordably enables your sales teams to automate and track customer communication.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of what buyer intent is and how you can utilize it effectively in your sales, marketing, and retention processes.
It is a complex thing, no way around it.
But with the right tools and a good team to help you implement it all, tracking and utilizing buyer intent data could be the biggest thing to happen to your business this year.