Content + Intent Data: Painting a Different Picture of Needs & Preferences

Stacy Greiner intent data
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We recently gathered 10 intent data experts and power users and collected their tips and insights in The Content + Data Connection: 10 Top Marketing Executives Explore the Rewards of Integrating Intent Data into Content Strategies.

To keep that conversation going, we’re posting a series of Q&As with those experts to share their perspectives on how content marketers can make the connection between data and content.

Painting a Different Picture of Needs & Preferences

Stacy Greiner, CMO at Dun & Bradstreet, knows her stuff when it comes to applying actionable insight to business strategies. As head of marketing for one of the largest data and analytics companies in the world, she has a close-up view of the power of data. She believes that intent data lays the groundwork for B2B marketers to understand their target audiences’ needs, behaviors and preferences.

Here’s how Stacy suggests that marketers can use intent data to level up their end-to-end content campaigns.

Do you see opportunities for more B2B brands to use intent data intelligence at the foundational stage to formulate their content strategies?

Intent data should absolutely be used to better understand the foundational needs of your target audiences and their behaviors and preferences. Especially in a world where the personal and business lives of customers are merging, it’s important even for a B2B company to be looking at intent data from the beginning.

That intent data paints a much deeper picture of not only that customer’s need for your product, but also how that person may like to consume information, what interests they have, where they spend most of their time—just a wealth of information about how to build your outreach sequences in order to reach that customer at the right time with the most useful information.

And with budget cuts and more marketing organizations trying to be efficient, this allows a more targeted approach from the beginning.  Rather than casting a broad net and sending sales a huge bucket of warm leads, marketing can be very pointed in their outreach and send sales only those customers most likely to buy.

How should the different data types be applied to content strategy?

First-party data is data that is collected directly from actions taken on your website. This data is valuable because customers have essentially already walked through your shop door and now you just need to keep them there.

Third-party data doesn’t find the customers for you, but it helps you understand the behavior of people and organizations in the market for your goods and services—targets you might otherwise be unable to discover.

Data and content should be complementary and can each influence and inform one another. For instance, with privacy laws and the impending retirement of cookies, first-party data becomes important to get an opted-in list of prospects. Then you need to pair that first-party data with third-party data in order to enrich the profile of that person.  Especially in a business-to-business setting, you need that third-party data to understand how that person fits into the organization to which you want to sell and how they can influence the purchase.

On the flip side of that, you need relevant and engaging content to get that well of first-party data. That means you need to understand the buyer at every level and hit them with the right message at the right time in the right place in order to entice them into giving you their data.

How are B2B companies using intent data to inform the content they’re creating in terms of topics and formats?

With intent data, you can learn all about the types of content your target companies search for, engage with and consume, and gain deeper insight into the behavior of organizations in the market for your goods and services. And that includes behavior not just on your company website but also on third-party websites—behavior you otherwise wouldn’t discover.

This information can provide the basis of the themes/topics for your content as well as the way in which that content is delivered. From account-based advertising to personalized web pages, these insights help marketing teams to deliver the most relevant content the way prospects or customers want to see it.

How else can B2B marketers use intent data to optimize content?

What you can do with the intent data to optimize content depends on the type of data you are sourcing.  There are several types of intent data and they don’t all serve the same purpose, so a hybrid approach may be best for many companies.

Topic intent data, which is selected from a predefined list of topics related to your product and brand, helps you to see some level of interest in that topic from your list of target accounts. This topic-based intent gives you the big picture, but it is specific to company domain, treating all entities within a corporate family tree the same. So, you gain a general knowledge of relevant topics that might be good for content but don’t exactly get to the granular 1:1 customer level.

Research-based intent data is based on select articles and specific to individuals. Users may be past the researching phase, but this approach provides granularity on the job role and title levels. However, research-based intent is limited to specific content and many of the roles that surface won’t be decision makers or the personas you want to reach.

Keyword (personalized) intent data can help you target audiences based on phrases relevant to your product family. A focus on keywords can also return account-level information specific to the location and buying center. Keywords offer more flexibility versus the constraints of a pre-defined topic.

With that flexibility, providers can also leverage natural language processing and deep learning to analyze visits to relevant web pages based on respective keywords and determine whether users intend to buy or are merely consuming educational content. This can inform not only your content topics, but your means and timing of content delivery.

How else can revenue teams use data to make sure sales teams get the right content to the right buyers?

Buyer intent can be used to better communicate with customers throughout the buyer’s journey and can maximize marketing campaign effectiveness across the board.

For instance, intent can be used to prioritize leads based on certain signals. It can be used in account-based sales approaches where certain content is aligned with certain intent signals in the buyer’s journey. It can also be used for cross-sell, upsell and retention by using the data to understand more about where that buyer is in their journey and what is important to them at that time.

Do you have tips for B2B brands that are just starting to apply intent data?

Most intent data providers monitor based on a pre-built set of topics. So, if you are in a very niche or emerging industry and don’t have a provider that can match to your specific keywords, you may not be getting a full picture of the signals that are happening online. That means you only have a partial picture when trying to use that information to create content. Find a partner who can search on your specific terms and keywords so that you are getting the best matches for your business.

In addition, with privacy laws, it’s important to make sure your intent data provider is collecting data in a legally compliant and ethical way, as your company could be held liable for non-compliant practices.

Do you have any use cases that demonstrate how intent data has been effectively integrated into a content strategy?​

We’ve actually been able to use intent data in our account-based marketing programs to really personalize everything from web pages to emails so that every account has a completely unique experience. For instance, when a person from one of our key accounts arrives at our website, we can not only serve up their logo right next to ours, but we can also serve up content relevant to the intent they have been showing.  

Another example is using intent data to monitor keyword searches from our key accounts and be able to immediately reach out with an email offering up a product that is related to the searches that were just conducted. It’s all about inserting yourself into the customer journey when it makes the most sense, and intent data is helping us to be more effective in doing that.

How can intent data help marketers build content that's customized for unique accounts and target buyers?

Intent data is the layer that is needed to orchestrate content to the buyer at the right time in the journey. I think a lot of companies may purchase intent data for a singular purpose but are not using it to its full extent across the funnel to prioritize accounts, execute account-based marketing campaigns, create account-based sales prioritization, personalize campaigns and content, and cross-sell, upsell and retain current customers. 

In order to reach that holy grail of having an end-to end campaign fueled by intent data, businesses are going to have to look at better integrating their tech stacks and better organizing and standardizing their data across the company. 

In our recent panel, Why Intent Signals May Be the Missing Ingredient in Your Content Strategy, we discussed the intersection of intent data and content with Latané Conant, VP of Marketing at 6sense, Nirosha Methananda, VP of Marketing at Influ2, and Jon Russo, CMO and Founder of B2B Fusion Group.

For additional perspectives, read our interactive E-book, The Content + Data Connection: 10 Top Marketing Executives Explore the Rewards of Integrating Intent Data into Content Strategies and our previous Q&As with Jon Miller, John Steinert, Latané Conant and Justin Keller.

Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian. 

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