Whether you sell products, services or advice, all B2B companies rely on generating leads – with the aim of being able to turn those leads into sales. But that’s easier said than done; selling to businesses can be hard work. In comparison to selling to consumers (B2C), B2B buyer decisions are often more complex, involve more people in the purchase chain and have a longer sales cycle.

In years gone, if a business needed to source a product or service they would simply contact a company, deal with a salesperson and receive a quote as to how much it would cost.

The problem businesses have now is that potential buyers behave very differently. Individuals are a lot more involved in the process and will take the necessary time to research the market and look at reviews and recommendations. According to a study in 2018, more than 70 per cent of B2B buyers fully define their needs before engaging with a sales representative.

As a result, the B2B marketing landscape is constantly evolving and coming up with new methods to try and generate leads and maximise sales efficiency. Let’s say you want to run a display advertising campaign for your brand. How do you know who to target? Why is that person going to click on your ad? And even if they do, how do you know you stand any chance of your sales team closing the deal?

The answer lies in intent data.

What is intent data?

Intent data is a way of businesses identifying prospects (potential customers) based on how a user/company interacts online. These interactions allow a business to see who is interested in their product or service and at which stage they are in the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey has three stages:

  • Awareness: Prospect is looking for information about a problem
  • Consideration: Prospect wants to research more thoroughly and compare products/services
  • Decision: Prospect has decided on a solution and is ready to make a purchase

When you target a prospect with a piece of content, digital advert or email promotion, you want to provide them with information that is relevant to their stage of the journey. Approach them too soon and it will put them off; too late and they may have already made their decision to purchase from a competitor.

Every time you search for a topic on a search engine you are expressing an interest in the page you visit. For instance, if you are interested in purchasing a new car and visit 10 different websites all about one particular make and model, it would be fair to say that you have intent to buy.

This is exactly the same process that B2B companies use to identify leads. Depending on the type of tool or software that is used to gather this data, there are a number of actions that a potential buyer will perform that can be recorded. These include

  • Clicking on ads for specific keywords
  • Time spent looking at an ad
  • Number of users in a business who have visited your website
  • Frequency of website visits
  • Which landing pages/content they have looked at
  • Length of time spent on a page
  • Comparing products or services on third-party sites

Using this information can help you to narrow your list of targets, focus on high-value accounts and use your resources on prospects that have the best chance of a conversion.

But how do you gather this information?

Types of intent data

There are three types of intent data, all of which can be acquired in different ways.

First-party data

This is data that you collect based from visitors to your website and digital media platforms. You can do this by using cookies on your website, CRM, email tracking and with social media tools to look at brand mentions and engagement.

Second-party data

This is data that has already been collected by another company (first-party data for them) that you purchase. It’s not as accurate as first-party data as it won’t relate 100% to your business.

Third-party data

Any data that is collected by a vendor that doesn’t have a direct association with a consumer is classed as third-party data. Essentially it is information that you purchase from data providers that they have gathered from other sources, including surveys, websites and social media accounts.

All of these types of data can be useful to your business but first-party data is usually the most valuable as it has come directly from your audience. At N.Rich we use your first-party data to track where the intent is coming from, so you can deliver the right advertising material to your most engaged accounts.

How does intent data work?

Simply having this data to hand isn’t enough to find qualified leads. You need to know exactly what you are looking for. This is where intent data can work alongside account-based marketing (ABM) and refine the process even further.

Account-based marketing flips the lead and sales funnel on its head. Traditionally, a marketing team would fill the funnel up with any leads they could find and the sales team would work through them – hopefully ending up with a customer making a purchase.

Rather than attract as many prospects as possible and then filter them to see who is interested or wants to make a purchase, ABM starts with a list of prospects most likely to be interested. This process is much more cost-effective and time-efficient as you don’t waste your resources filtering out a number of leads who have no desire to make a purchase.

By using intent data, you can create buyer personas, account lists and ideal customer profiles (ICP), so that you segment your prospects into specific target accounts.

How to generate leads with intent data

Target specific accounts

Using intent data, you can split all of your prospects in to segments so you can send the right targeted message to the appropriate people. Rather than waste your advertising budget on consumers who aren’t ready to make a purchase, you instead only focus on prospects who have a good chance of converting.

With N.Rich you can prioritise who to target based on firmographic and technographic data.

Firmographic data is used to segment companies in to relevant categories, which helps you work out who to target. Examples of firmographic data include:

  • Type of industry
  • Number of employees
  • Turnover
  • Geographical location(s)
  • Company performance or market growth

All of this can help your business design marketing strategies that specifically target an account with a personalised approach.

Technographic data focuses on the technology and software a company uses. By understanding what tools your consumer already has and doesn’t have, you are in a much better position to approach them about their specific needs and requirements.

It’s worth mentioning that not all of these prospects have to be new. You may well have existing customers in your funnel who are open to expanding the products and services that they currently purchase from you.

Personalise your message

If you don’t know what your prospect is searching for and at what stage of the journey they are at, then how do you know how to target them? Even within a specific company, you might have several people who are interested in your product or service but not all of them will have the same job or the same reason for using your product

By creating personalised marketing campaigns – whether it be advertising, content or social media – you can provide your prospect with exactly what they need and at exactly the right time. This might include:

  • An advert displaying a quick how-to-guide.
  • A piece of content listing the key features of your product
  • An email sent as a follow up to an expression of interest in your service.

Concentrate efforts on best channel performance

All of your prospects will use different channels to research information. This might depend on the type of industry they are in or the type of role they have within a company. If you are only focusing on one channel, then you are potentially missing out on a huge number of prospects. Using intent data tools, you not only analyse what your consumers are looking at but also where.

Monitoring and performance metrics allows you to see the level of engagement in a marketing campaign by numbers, interaction, time on page and what page a user visits before and after. Using this data you might find that a digital ad performs very differently on a website compared with social media. Knowing this enables you to target specific ads to specific channels – ensuring that you maximise your ROI.

Align marketing and sales teams

There is no point in your sales team going after a lead that isn’t ready to make a purchase. Not only will your sales team be wasting their time; you might also put that prospect off from engaging with you in the future.

Using intent data can help to get your marketing and sales team on the same page. Rather than using a traditional marketing approach that is only focused on the quantity of leads, intent data and ABM is all about quality. You will likely end up with fewer leads but they will be much more relevant to your business and far more likely to convert.

Measure and monitor performance

On-going monitoring is vital whenever you run a marketing campaign. Just because something has previously been successful, it doesn’t mean that it always will be in the future. Likewise, your ideal customer profile and buyer personas are not guaranteed to stay the same. The type of companies interested in your services may change, especially if you are constantly developing and adding new products.

If your list of prospects is continually changing, you need this to be reflected in your targeted accounts. Otherwise, you run the risk of targeting the wrong people, which uses up valuable advertising budget as well as the resources of your marketing and sales teams.

Create targeted digital ad campaigns

The marketing landscape is constantly shifting and it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to engage with their audience. When you are designing a marketing campaign, how do you know readers will consume your content or potential clients will open your emails?

That is why digital advertising is so important. It can put your brand or your product in front of anyone and at any time in their stage of the buyer’s journey. And when used in conjunction with intent data, you can tailor a particular message to any segment you have created based on industry, location, age and job role.

At N.Rich, we have spent years refining our ABM platform in order to develop the best technology for our customers to easily manage their accounts, build digital campaigns and deliver personalised content. By only focusing on the prospects that match the criteria you create, the process is more cost-effective, time-efficient and goal specific.