The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of account-based marketing (ABM) from 77% in 2019 to over 94% in 2020. That trend is probably not going to change in 2021 and beyond. However, to be successful, ABM requires knowing which accounts to target, who to target within those companies and where those target accounts (including key individuals) are on the customer journey. Effective ABM requires data to understand potential B2B customer intent. So, how does your business collect and use data to create intent-based marketing tactics that strengthen its ABM strategy? Let’s delve deeper into intent-based marketing and how it’s used to improve ABM.
When it comes to data, ABM and B2B customer intent, even just the basic information covers a vast amount of territory. This blog post goes over both basic definitions of key terms and moves towards how and why intent data can improve a business’s ABM efforts.
1. What is account-based marketing?
ABM is a marketing strategy that focuses on high-value target accounts and key people involved in purchasing decisions at those accounts. ABM success is measured in terms of sales revenue and not lead generation or conversions.
2. What is intent-based marketing?
Intent-based marketing uses intent data from target customer behavior to understand where your potential customers are in their buyer’s journey; it’s a useful tactic for improving ABM strategy and increasing sales pipeline revenue.
3. What is the relationship between the customer journey and intent-based marketing?
Intent-based marketing targets specific stages in the customer journey.
4. What is intent data?
Intent data provides you with valuable information on the behavior of the executives and employees at a target account or of the target organization in general. It includes both first-party and third-party data.
5. How to collect and manage intent data.
Effective ABM strategy involves collecting relevant intent data from different sources. Then, intent data must be stored, filtered and organized to identify high-value target accounts and personalize messaging specific to a particular stage in the target organization’s customer journey.
What is account-based marketing?
Account-based marketing is a highly targeted B2B tactic that aligns marketing and sales to identify and target potential clients based on their revenue potential. ABM flips the traditional inbound, lead generation marketing strategy that begins by identifying marketing channels and instead, starts by identifying best-fit accounts that will lead to the highest revenue. These best-fit accounts are identified by creating ideal customer profiles (ICPs). ICPs are semi-fictional, data-based profiles of your ideal target company. They aren’t about one person at the company although they do include buyer personas for each key decision-maker and employee who influences company decisions. Buyer personas are fictional, data-based profiles of target audience members within the ICP.
With ABM, B2B marketing teams can use technology, such as intent data, to deliver personalized messaging to decision-makers and gatekeepers at these best-fit accounts on the content channels they use. B2B sales teams can then deploy one-to-one sales outreach and personalized messaging to the same set of target accounts. ABM unites marketing and sales to align overall business goals throughout the customer acquisition process.
What is intent-based marketing?
To put it simply, intent-based marketing means delivering the correct message to the correct customer at the correct time. Intent-based marketing refers to using customer actions and behavior to identify their reason/purpose (their intention) at a specific phase in their customer journey. This approach delivers highly targeted content, messaging, advertising or another form of marketing. It’s most often used to determine when a person is ready to make a purchase decision. However, intent data can also be used to identify when a client or paying subscriber is considering canceling their service and then deliver targeted messaging to convince them to stay with a particular business.
Intent-based marketing is most valuable as a highly targeted form of ABM that utilizes data from a variety of sources about a target account’s intent to convince them to become a customer.
What is the relationship between the customer journey and intent-based marketing?
When combined with intent-based marketing, ABM uses that sales and marketing alignment to send extremely targeted messaging to high-value target accounts at crucial stages in the customer journey.
In the B2B space, that customer journey is arduous and complex. According to Gartner, as of 2020, the typical B2B decision to buy involves between six and 10 people who come from different departments and have all gathered information independently of each other, and 77% of B2B buyers shared “that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult.” The COVID-19 pandemic added more complexity to the mix and this year, research from Forrester uncovered that over 63% of B2B purchases involve over four people, up from 47% in 2017.
Furthermore, your marketing and sales departments shouldn’t just guess at what an individual account’s customer journey looks like or assume a target customer’s intention. Instead, to succeed, intention-based marketing requires intent data.
What is intent data?
Intent data is the data that relates to the behavior of an organization’s target B2B buyers and/or target accounts. It comes from a variety of sources and can be first-party data that a business owns or it can be data from third parties.
1. First-party intent data
First-party intent data is data that a company collects directly from its audience and customers. It’s data a business gathers from a variety of online and offline sources they already own and control, including privacy compliance, such as GDPR compliance. Examples of first-party data sources include:
- Webinar signups and attendance
- Website visits and interactions
- Account demographics
- Purchase history
- Customer interests
- Sales calls
Collecting first-party intent data is cost-effective because the data is often already being collected by your marketing teams as part of your SEO, CRO or sales strategies. You’re also probably already using tools such as Google Analytics, HubSpot, Zappier, SharpSpring and other applications that collect data. You own this type of data and have complete control over how you gather it, what types of data you collect, how the data is filtered and segmented, and ultimately, which data to save in your database.
2. Third-party intent data
There are two ways to look at third-party data and what it is. Most people think of third-party data in terms of intent data that any other company gathers and that your organization can purchase, e.g., if your business hires another business to gather data for you. The other way people sometimes think of third-party intent data is as data your business collects from any source that you don’t own or control – for example, data from social media activity.
There are advantages to third-party data to consider as well.
- It saves time. Unlike some first-party data gathered as part of your teams’ job duties, third-party intent data is collected by a company with a team of employees and/or tools dedicated to gathering the intent data.
- It bolsters targeted ABM strategies. Knowing what key decision-makers at potential high-value accounts are looking for helps guide your content and messaging, as well as the timing of when and where it’s delivered to them.
Furthermore, as long as you’re purchasing intent data services or the data itself from reliable data providers, you usually don’t have to worry about data privacy compliance issues. That’s because these businesses painstakingly follow global privacy regulations.
How to collect and manage intent data
For ABM strategy, it’s crucial to filter and save data on high-value target accounts. However, don’t make the mistake of collecting every possible type of data and hoarding it because you think it could be useful someday. Instead, focus on your ABM goals to gather and filter relative intent data and eliminate the data you don’t need or won’t ever use. Remember, when you use ABM, your company’s marketing and sales teams must have a top-down focus on pipeline creation, revenue generation, meetings with potential new business, your target account pipeline and marketing qualified leads rather than leads and lead generation.
1. Gather different types of intent
Besides looking at data in terms of first-party data vs. third-party data, it’s helpful to gather and analyze different types of intent, again, focusing on the types most relevant and useful to your business.
- Psychographic – This type of data includes information about account purchasing behaviors. Information collected often includes account buying history, account interests, concerns, values, goals and motivations, how customers interact with brands. This data can be further filtered by everyone on a high-value account’s decision team. Psychographic data is useful for finding and prioritizing new business and for determining the timing of marketing and sales messaging, including when a sales representative should initiate contact with a target account.
- Technographic – This type of data includes information about the types of technology used by a target account. Technographic intent data helps identify target accounts that are using a competitor’s solution that might be coming up for renewal. It also helps to find companies that are using a technology that is similar to your organization’s or to predict the future technology needs of a target account.
- Hiring – This type of data provides information on current and recent job openings at target accounts. Using hiring intent data helps your sales and marketing teams personalize their account outreach based on how long key players and people who influence them have been with the company. It tells you when a high-value account is on-boarding new people into decision making roles. It can also help your business predict what a sales target is focused on in the future, including investments, expansion, new technologies, etc.
- Research – This type of data is best collected by reliable third parties (for example, Gartner, Bombora, et al). Intent research includes information on the types of content that target account employees are interested in and consume. Knowing this information helps you create a content calendar based on those topics. It can also help you perform competitive research to identify the competitors that your target accounts are also considering and to identify accounts that are at the decision stage but unaware of your brand.
- Engagement – This type of data provides information on the level of interaction between your brand and a target account. It’s best used as comparison data with another type of intent data. Perhaps a high-value target account is showing technographic intent but low or no engagement intent. Use that information to target paid messaging to them, e.g., advertising.
- Relationship – This type of data is based on the number of one-to-one interactions between your employees and the target account. Meetings, phone calls, emails and chats are examples of relationship intent data sources. Relationship intent data helps identify the strength of relationships between your brand and a target account so you can identify problems and act before losing new business. It can also tell you if an existing account is in danger of canceling.
2. Create intent data profiles
To make intent data actionable, your company needs to organize the data it collects into intent data profiles. Intent data profiles are compiled from data that is based on behavioral signals that convey an increased interest from target accounts and that indicates they might be at the decision stage of their buyer’s journey.
B2B companies can also create intent marketing profiles to target accounts and key decision-makers wherever they are in the customer journey, including to indicate if a customer might be on the verge of canceling their account with your company. Use intent data tools to help segment and organize all your various types of intent data into intent data profiles and lists of high-value accounts to prioritize your ABM efforts.
Some solutions can store and filter all the data your organization gathers in a fraction of the time a person or team can. Alternatively, you can invest in developing your own system. Again, whether you create your own system or subscribe to a software as a service (SaaS), don’t fall into what Harvard Business Review (HBR) describes as the “shiny new object syndrome.” Instead, keep the top-down ABM focus on relevant solutions that solve specific business problems and align to your business goals. HBR also recommends creating a martech matrix (made up of marketing technology tools) to not just break the customer journey into phases and deconstruct strategies into tactics, but also to identify how each technology solution supports your company’s goals and tactics and how those will be connected. It also will help your teams to weed out any weak points, such as gaps and duplications, and to understand if and how each marketing technology integrates with the other to form a fully functioning martech stack.
A final word on how to use intent data to boost ABM
Intent data and intent-based marketing improve your account-based marketing efforts in a variety of ways. Intent data helps your company increase the efficiency of its new business teams to close more deals with highly targeted campaigns and to use personalization to deliver the right messaging to the right people at specific high-value accounts at the right stage of the customer journey. Furthermore, by collecting the right intent data from key decision-makers in high-value target accounts with a focus on pipeline revenue and ROI rather than lead generation, your organization will see a significant increase in revenue from your ABM programs.