This is a Content4Demand series of questions asking of Jon Russo, B2B Fusion CMO & Founder his experience and opinions of intent data.   B2B Fusion helps other companies with their account based journeys in building the right processes and measurements so they can scale faster than on their own.  B2B Fusion has over 100 Account based experiences globally with clients who have awards based on their ABM performance.  Prior to creating B2B Fusion 9 years ago, Jon Russo Is a former high technology CMO for 10 years in public and private companies in Silicon Valley, Luxembourg, and New York City.

Executive Summary:

Org Structure Account and Contact Intent Use Cases
  • Prioritization of Accounts, Identify bottom of the funnel opportunities (e.g. G2 Crowd)
  • Prioritization across large # of Accounts, Next best BDR actions (cadence/messaging)Research based on content consumption, Identification of buyers committee (TechTarget)
  • Drive Marketing Qualified Accounts, Identify Pre-MQA, Personalization of content, Target Market identification, Competitive keyword identification
Customer Service
  • Retain clients that may be at risk for churn
  • Do you see an opportunity for more B2B brands to utilize intent data intelligence at the foundational stage of formulating their content strategy—for things like Personas, message maps, key account messages, etc.? Any other ways you’d suggest it can and should be applied?

There are multiple types of intent but for purposes of this conversation, I’ll describe account level intent and person level intent.  I’ll provide the use cases for account based intent.

A buyer ‘interest’ set can be developed, similar to a Persona where intent data can inform what content to target based on the interests of the buyer at that time or, in some cases, based on actual articles consumed (and exact article consumption is known to the seller).

Beyond the use cases you mention above, intent can be used as an ingredient in the determination of a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA).   If an account is showing high interest based on topics, it could qualify or score high enough to become an MQA for sales to further qualify.

Intent also can help sales significantly – for example, if the sales team has a large number of accounts in their territory, intent can help prioritize those accounts for them.   Intent can also help identify accounts in a buying process that are not in a defined Ideal Customer Profile.  So it can expand the target market.

  • Can you discuss a little about different types of data—1st party, 3rd party, etc.—and how they can or should be applied to content strategy?

First party intent data is known intent data – data such as de-anonymized web traffic, cookies web visitors, content that is gated or other form fill activities.  App usage and product usage data could also be considered as first party data.  Gated content may be research reports from analysts like the Gartner group – so may be better suited for top of the funnel content strategies.

Second party data is someone else’s First Party data, like publishers who have content they own (G2, TechTarget) would be examples of opted in of use of content.   An example of a content strategy would be targeting bottom of the funnel activities for those using G2 Crowd to make comparisons of vendors.  This would also be a situation where you know which data is being consumed by the buyer.

Third party intent data is everything else that happens on the internet – for example, web search terms, syndicated content.  Keyword searches, topics expressing high interest could be gathered at the account level and then retargeted based on interests of that end user.   Targeted content syndication is typically found at the top of the funnel (Pre-Marketing Qualified Accounts or leads).

  • How are progressive B2B companies using intent data to inform the content they are creating—in terms of topics, formats?

In theory, a progressive company could use intent data to facilitatie personalization at scale.  Although there are few B2B statistics published in this area, B2C companies have a similar struggle of personalization.  Forrester conducted personalization research that found that even companies whose personalization processes and approach are immature still see benefits. More specifically, companies that do personalize according to Forrester can see a 6% increase in revenue, 33% increase in customer loyalty, and an 11% marketing cost savings.  So intent data information could be used to help with personalization.

Our clients use intent data as an ingredient in the ‘cake’ of a Marketing Qualified Account.  So if a certain account score is achieved via intent or engagement, the account becomes Marketing Qualified.   After Sales takes this MQA, the sales team may discover that the budget or timing is not right for the client.   At that point, they are disqualified as an MQA and are returned for a top of the funnel content nurture  or targeted web ads that are intent driven.   Conversely, if they are further qualified beyond an MQA, we can then channel content that is more relevant mid and bottom of the funnel.  

  • In addition to helping to inform topics and formats for content creation, what are some of the other ways B2B marketers can utilize intent data to optimize content? (aligning with buyer stage, targeting specific buying committee roles—buyer/funnel stage?)

High interest areas or topics that are of value can be captured in text format in Salesforce, then captured via Marketing automation for targeting.   3rd party intent data could be used for top of the funnel targeting.

  • Beyond the impact intent data can have on marketing and content marketing specifically, are there other ways you’ve seen or would suggest B2B revenue teams can use the data to make sure their sales teams are getting the right content in front of the right buyers?

For contact level intent data, the ability to understand how different titles of people engage at different stages in the buying journey or what job level is likely to appear first indicating intent can also be helpful around targeting content at the buyer.   This requires quite a bit of manual intervention in its current form or some analysis but would be valuable for product marketers.

You can also use either contact or account intent data to broadly monitor trends in the industry to create content around that aspect.   You could use this information to pitch PR topics to key influencers or reporters, which helps position your company as a thought leader in the space.

  • What are some of the challenges to applying intent data for content strategy—what are some of the tips or suggestions you’d have for brands that are just starting to do this?

The first challenge is making sure the keywords you’ve selected are the most relevant.  Some of this work should already be done with your SEM search.   The second is the integration to the CRM system, or in some cases Marketing Automation (though most integrate to CRM systems) to make the information or data collected usable by both Sales and Marketing.   If the keywords are on the accounts, some marketing automation systems may or may not be able to read those fields and target the contacts within those accounts which may be another challenge.  Lastly, someone has to map the keywords, topics and high interest areas to the buyers journey, then create the content to be served at those points.

  • Are there any use case examples either from your own company or clients/partners you could highlight to show how intent data has been effectively integrated into a content strategy?

We treat intent very differently in our clients beyond content use cases.  We treat it as powering the Marketing Qualified Account.  This gives us more clarity around intent ROI as its impact is very measurable.  It will be more ‘squishy’ to measure the content ROI with intent data based on how systems are used.

  • Ideally the big picture goal for B2B marketers is build content that is more personalized and customized for unique accounts and target buyers—can you offer some insights into how you see intent data helping delivering on that goal, both now and in the future?

I could see a model where intent data really helps a firm that has a channel marketing strategy where they may not control the end customer, but they can target the end customer with relevant content based on their intent.  By doing this, they’d not upset their channel partner yet still create their own demand for their product.

There is a more powerful model that some of the providers are at early stages in testing.  Almost an ‘easy’ button that leverages intent data for BDRs/SDRs.   For example, if a buyer is exhibiting a certain behavior and the intent platform deems them as qualified, BDRs are instructed what plays or steps should be taken in terms of content presentation.   Right now this requires some level of manual intervention to program the platforms for this, but this takes all the guesswork out of BDRs having to figure out what content to serve.  With BDRs given how junior they are, this approach really empowers them more cost-effectively.