Using a B2B intent-based marketing strategy seems like a no-brainer. It involves taking an outside-in view of your company and analyzing online activity data that indicates business prospects are aware of and interested in your products and services. From there, you can construct your marketing assets and your communication methods to reach that audience and demonstrate how you solve their pain points.
Yet, many marketing teams take an inside-out approach. They focus on the value proposition of their products and services, and then blast out emails and social media posts along with website pages that attempt to reach a mass audience without targeting specific prospects who have shown intent or awareness.
Taking this approach creates longer sales cycles and makes it difficult to qualify prospects that the sales team has a legitimate chance to convert to customers on. It’s also more difficult to create experiences where customers feel like you are talking to them one-on-one and get excited about buying your products and services.
Prospects Don’t Always Know What They Need
When prospects start searching online and visiting websites, they don’t always know what they need. But their actions likely indicate the problems they are experiencing or the challenges they are trying to solve. If you collect online activity data and analyze it correctly, you can then seize on the opportunity to educate them on what’s possible for resolving their issues or to seize upon an opportunity.
This focus will, in turn, create awareness. Awareness leads to interest, and interest leads to acquisition in the marketing funnel. With this intent-based B2B marketing approach, prospects will start to realize you can provide what they need and a solution to their challenges.
Educate Rather Than Promote Products and Services
Saundra Merollo, a Senior Sales Engineer at Sharp Electronics, recently shared her perspective on how the global provider of electronic products approaches intent-based marketing.
“To generate awareness and interest, our webinar topics focus on challenges, such as digital transformation, rather than products,” says Merollo. “We also think about how our products fit into specific applications or environments. When we see interest in a topic based on online activities, we use email and social media to educate prospects on the topic and how to solve their pain points—without marketing our products.”
For one particular webinar, Sharp focused on how there’s a drive for business environments to become healthier now that people are returning to company offices as the world turns the corner on COVID. There’s also the need for people to maintain the level of productivity they achieved while working from their home offices.
“When promoting this webinar, we did not focus on any of the products we offer that facilitate smart offices,” Merollo points out. “We simply made prospects aware of what a smart office could deliver in terms of a healthy, productive environment. This helped the audience discover what they needed to meet their needs.”
Education Leads to Product Awareness
Another good example of how educating prospects can pay off is Dynabook Americas, formerly Toshiba, which provides mobile computers, wearable devices, and augmented reality applications. Eric Paulsen, a Marketing Specialist at Dynabook, explains how the company leverages and analyzes data from the online activities of IT pros working for school districts across the U.S.
“After COVID hit, schools knew they needed laptops but weren’t sure how to efficiently configure and deploy them to meet the needs of students taking classes from home,” says Paulsen. “We used webinars, videos, and social media to educate the schools on how to use laptops in virtual classrooms. This showed them how to solve their challenges and generated awareness of our laptops as a potential solution.”
Success Depends on Leveraging Data and Identifying Action Items
The effectiveness of intent-based marketing usually comes down to the data you have access to. The big data sets collected by analyzing online activity can be overwhelming, so you need tools to break it down, such as those offered by search engines, social media platforms, and email marketing solutions.
And before starting a campaign, the marketing team should work with the sales team to understand what the company will do with the data. This includes identifying the anticipated action items after the campaign and projecting the potential ROI. After marketing connects with prospects by analyzing their online activity and their intent, it’s important to not just hand the leads off to sales.
“Find out what will happen with the leads and discuss the follow-up action plan,” Merollo advises. “It’s not enough to be satisfied with just the number of leads—measure the lead-to-closing ratio as well to help identify the effectiveness of the data and the outreach done by marketing and sales.”
Email Addresses: The Holy Grail of B2B Intent-Driven Marketing
Marketing teams should also track online activities to determine whether prospects advance from being aware to showing interest. Are they clicking on additional links and asking to download content after an initial encounter? That’s when intent-based marketing takes off.
“And when people give an email address, that’s the Holy Grail of intent-based marketing,” says Paulsen. “Whether it’s signing up for a webinar, handing over a business card, or asking a question via a website, they’re giving you an invitation to follow up. It’s a warm opportunity—with the prospect telling you they are interested in your product. That’s the time for marketing to tailor personalized messaging.”
A Trusted Advisor Rather Than a Transaction
By aligning prospect intent data with your marketing strategies, you are more likely to reach prospects in the decision-making moments that matter most. This approach converts more prospects into customers and will drive more sales of your products and services. While doing so, be sure to personalize website, email, and social media experiences—according to the pain points you solve.
“Don’t market your products—people will get that info by visiting your website,” Merollo adds. “Communicate about the issues they are looking into and the different ways to address those issues. That will start the process of helping them relate your products and services to their needs, and it will show them how your company helps people. So instead of being a mere transaction, you can be a trusted advisor.”