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How B2B marketers can advance their use of intent data

By Andreas Misera, VP Product, B2B Media Group

The plethora of data that is available to marketers today can be overwhelming and complex. Finding the right data for specific business goals can be incredibly challenging. And then once this data is available, it’s a matter of using it effectively for the best possible ROI. As many marketers know, this isn’t easy. However, intent data could be the golden ticket for B2B marketers looking to offer unparalleled, deeply personalised customer experiences.

Intent data opens the door for relevant targeting. As this data is behavioural – signaling when a buyer pays significant attention and time to a company’s online content – it generates actionable insights during the earlier stages of a buyer’s journey that might otherwise go unnoticed. Marketers can then confidently engage with users at the right time as they show intent in their decision-making process. It ensures products and services are positioned and advertised more effectively as marketers drive their potential customers to the point of purchase.

In the B2C world, most marketers retrieve information on their customers’ intent from e-commerce sites. As these data-laden sites are built to provide indications on consumer interest towards products, B2C marketers can monitor consumer behaviour closely and interpret emotion towards certain products.

However, the B2B world is relatively behind in accessing and using online data to this same degree. Better versed with in-person communication and longer buying cycles, B2B businesses are less digitally-savvy. But with the move to online interactions accelerating this last year, they’re beginning to realise the value of online marketing and the opportunities it presents for nurturing buyer relationships and lead-generation in today’s digital landscape – especially when it comes to data.

B2B businesses’ gradual yet slow transition to digital marketing tactics have meant that intent data is yet to ‘come of age’ in the B2B world as it is already in the B2C realm. Plus, doing this at scale is challenging in the B2B world, requiring intelligent technology and expertise – as well as advocacy from within the business – to drive its development and adoption.

What’s holding it back?

Intent data leads deeper into a buyer’s thought process than other audience data available to marketers today. It adds an additional layer to B2B online targeting, especially when running account based marketing (ABM) campaigns. A Demand Gen Report highlighted that 62% of B2B businesses are looking to incorporate intent data insights and are willing to go beyond basic demographic and firmographic data in order to gather more extensive information on targeted users.

But as Demand Gen Report’s research implies: while B2B businesses intend to capitalise on the promise of gaining greater visibility into their target audience’s level of intent, many B2B marketers don’t know where to begin when it comes to integrating intent data. This has been a notable barrier in adoption to date.

Whilst the lack of intent data uptake can be blamed on the well-rooted existence of traditional B2B marketing tactics, many businesses are lacking the understanding of where to find intent data and how it fits into a marketing strategy. The niche nature of some B2B industries can also make it harder for businesses to determine just who their buyers are and what they’re exactly looking for when it comes to data collection.

Additionally, AI’s role in computing the level and the detailed category of intent – thereby eliminating the need for manual intervention – can add further misunderstanding. AI systems can be trained to predict and influence outcomes for more effective targeting, ultimately progressing the accuracy and value of intent data. But as with most intelligent technologies breaking into the inherently hesitant B2B space, it’s met with caution.

Reaching adulthood

For intent data to mature in the B2B world, marketers must build successful use cases that illustrate intent data’s impact and performance. This makes it easier to convince senior decision-makers to dedicate intent data resources across the marketing function.

B2B marketers must firstly define their audience personas and keywords with the support of a technology and data partner so the partner can wholly capture the right intent data on their behalf. Without this, the intent data they provide may be insightful, but it won’t be effective in achieving long-term buyer relationships.

These audience personas and keywords also create relevant data points for AI to analyse, predict and decide for the delivery of highly personalised ad targeting. This preparation is essential in setting an intent data-driven campaign off on the right foot and building the guiderails for future campaigns as the data become more refined and accurate with AI over time.

It’s also important for B2B businesses to challenge their current marketing processes and tactics. Taking an outside-in view of their operational effectiveness can allow them to branch beyond their existing technology and traditional marketing practices.

Intent data’s journey to transforming ABM in the B2B world has begun – but with the right dialogue, technology, and open mindset, intent data will become a firm asset in enhancing B2B marketing as we know it. The time is now for B2B businesses to take operational leaps, experiment with use cases, and define their target audience to fuel intent data’s future.

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