Content + Intent Data: B2B Content That’s Relevant at the Right Time

intent data nirosha methananda
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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.

B2B Content That's Relevant at the Right Time

Today, we’ll speak with Nirosha Methananda, VP of Marketing at Influ2, about creating B2B content that’s relevant at the right time. As head of marketing for Bombora—one of the fastest-growing providers of intent data—Nirosha helped build an extensive partner ecosystem that contributed to the company’s record revenue growth.

In this exchange, Nirosha details how intent data can help content marketers identify areas of interest, clustering topics by audience, the emergence of person-based marketing and some unexpected ways to apply marketing insights.

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

There is definitely an opportunity for B2B brands to utilize Intent data insights for content strategy. This is something that I’ve advocated for a long time.

At the most basic level, it is about segmentation of the audience and mapping patterns of intent and triggering content and nurture accordingly. For those that are more advanced or focused on this use of intent, it is about conducting long-term analysis (over at least a year), mapping patterns of interest and using these insights to inform strategy and planning.

This also depends on the type of intent data you are using. Bombora’s Intent data is at an account level, which won’t on its own give insights about personas. So, depending on the level of detail you seek, being very purposeful and getting granular with intent topic selection is key.

How can B2B marketers understand the various data types and how to apply them to content strategy?

First-party data is typically your owned dataset and insights. It tells you what your prospects and customers are interested in with regards to your brand, products or services. Most immediately, these insights should be applied for website personalization, targeted nurture and sales outreach. From a content perspective, this should be used to develop mid- to bottom-of-funnel assets and validate them. 

Third-party data is typically collected from multiple sources and aggregated to provide broad insights. From an intent data perspective, these give you a view of what your existing and targeted audience are interested in—usually before they have engaged with you. These datasets can be used to identify whitespace audience and content opportunities. And the insights can be used to help structure top-of-funnel content streams and activity.

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

The most progressive B2B organizations are using intent to help segment audiences and serve them content that is relevant to their interests at the right time. And to really make the most of their content efforts, they align their activities with sales outreach—which has driven some strong results:

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

Some of the most successful and quickest wins for B2B revenue teams to use intent data come from using it for inside sales. This doesn’t have to be overly complex. It’s a matter of getting a target list of accounts showing increased intent and calling them. 

To make the most of Intent data, B2B revenue teams should take a holistic approach to using it across marketing, sales and customer success. From intent-triggered nurture and display advertising to sponsored social content, sales outreach content and follow-up activity. Reaching out to prospects when they’re interested and following up in a coordinated and supportive way with information valuable to informing their purchase decision is gold.

This doesn’t have to stop at the initial sale. Intent data insights can be used ongoing to identify accounts with the potential for growth and churn, giving customer success and marketing teams insight to be proactive in relationship management and engagement.

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

The biggest and most underestimated challenge around intent data broadly—and especially for content strategy—is around the selection and clustering of topics.

This requires a business to have not only a good understanding of its brand, products and strategy, but also an understanding of its customers and what their journey looks like.

With close to 8,000 intent topics, Bombora allows businesses to get quite granular in selection and targeting. It’s really worth taking the time to do this mapping and understand what is going to work best for your business.

Understanding how to cluster (or group) intent topics is another really important area. Usually, making decisions on a singular topic doesn’t yield the strongest result. Start with grouping intent topics into three groups: branded, competitor and product-specific topics. And from there, build out more clusters, aligned to your objectives. 

Another tip for testing content and tactics is to find advocates across the business to test the intent data with and grow use cases. It’s not just about the use of the data, but also building collaborative relationships that will drive a holistic experience and, ultimately, tangible results. 

Are there use cases that demonstrate how intent data has been effectively integrated into a content strategy?​

Generally, content marketing is not the primary use case that intent data is purchased for. However, as content is an inherent part of marketing (and business) more broadly, often the use of intent data—directly or indirectly—manifests across content strategy and tactics.

Three examples that I want to callout include OneLogin, Extreme Networks and 8×8. Each of these organizations used intent data for varying primary objectives, resulting in impact on their content strategy and tactics:

OneLogin used Leadspace to help organize its database and intent data to prioritize and know who to talk to and identify “hot prospects.” The results of this were more conversations, better quality of conversations and bigger average deal sizes—primarily due to engaging at right time and with the right people. Specifically, OneLogin increased its email open rates by 60% and doubled its email reply rates!

One of the quotes that I love is from David Tam, OneLogin’s Director of Marketing: “Our marketing emails are talking about the same things that our sales reps are talking about. That alone is enough to get brownie points with sales!

For Extreme Networks, using intent data was all about intelligent account targeting and prioritization. But a part of its journey included using Bombora’s Historic Buyer Journey Analysis to understand what intent topics were a fit for its audience. And from these insights it built out relevant Intent topics clusters, which were used to create and structure talk tracks, nurture emails and sales activity. That resulted in an increase in pipeline opportunities ($1.3M), early revenue and proactive engagement from sales and partners.

While intent data helps engage with timeliness, it can also be used more strategically for content strategy and planning by doing a look-back. These insights allow businesses to be more anticipatory and proactive about prospects’ needs.

8×8 undertook, on its own, analysis of its prospect database. It found that accounts were showing intent at 2 to 3 months, before coming to 8×8. And that interest in competitor topics was something that was prevalent across its audience.

8×8 took these insights and used them to shape the content of its programs, along with structure of its workflows. As previously mentioned, 8×8’s results included a 15% increase in click-to-open rates for its nurture emails.

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

There is so much B2B marketing content available on various topics, it’s like wading through a swamp to find the gems. Where intent data can help is to clear the path by identifying what your audience is interested in and, most importantly, when they are interested in it.

What it doesn’t mean is using intent data to do even more and saturate or bombard people. It’s really about being mindful of your audiences’ needs. It’s a shift to being more proactive and strategic when using content. Essentially, intent data can help B2B marketers be more effective, efficient and relevant.

The other thing to remember: It’s not just about creating personalized/customized content. The quality of the content matters. If your content is not engaging or doesn’t offer value, then no amount of intent data insights will help.

As for the future, I think the only way to really deliver personalized/customized content is to move back to a Person-Based Marketing approach. Being able to couple intent data insights at the account level and then identify who the key stakeholders are within an organization and deliver content that suits their needs will be quite powerful.

There are a few businesses that are doing this today through sophisticated (and owned) CDPs. My prediction is that technologies and datasets to support this approach will become more accessible to help close the gap and further drive a personalized content experience.

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, Jon Russo, Randy Brasche, Mark Ogne, Stacy Greiner, Brian Giese 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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