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.
Creating Value-Based Buyer Journeys
Today, we’re speaking with Randy Brasche, VP of Marketing at Folloze. Randy is immersed in the world of buyer journeys and believes that the pandemic has simply accelerated trends that were already under way to transform the roles marketing teams play in engaging B2B buyers. That role, he says, is to become “architects of the customer journey.”
Do you see opportunities for more B2B brands to use intent data intelligence at the foundational stage of formulating their content strategies?
To answer this question, we first need to take a step back and take stock of B2B buying in the wake of COVID-19 and the accelerated pace of digital transformation across every industry. Overnight, B2B buying changed forever, and there’s no going back.
Before COVID-19, B2B buyers assumed greater control over the entire buying process and leveraged digital channels for self-service, discovery and education—and less engagement with account executives. In fact, 80% of seller interactions were digital.
In our new marketplace, digital selling will become a core function of marketing teams, and they will assume the role of architects of the customer journey. While direct sales teams will still play an important role, revenue organizations will operate in a hybrid model. Marketing will take the lead to create and launch digitally rich and value-based journeys across the entire customer lifecycle.
This shift is welcome news for B2B buyers. By harnessing the power of first- and third-party intent data that is mapped to value-based content, offers, messaging and recommendations, believe it or not, B2B buyers will welcome emails, digital outreach and offers from vendors.
In this context, marketing teams must step up to the plate and leverage all the tools at their disposal to ensure that content, programs and campaigns are microtargeted, personalized, immediate and connected. Data will be at the core of this strategy to understand personas, messaging, content, engagement and other buyer attributes.
How should the different data types be applied to content strategy?
For decades, marketers have been (rightfully) accused of wasting a ton of money to deliver marginal results.
In defense of marketing teams, we had no idea how to 1) understand which accounts were in a buying cycle; 2) make sense of engagement activity, such as a prospect downloading content or attending a webinar; and 3) determine the best time to engage an account.
- First-party data includes account-specific data within your CRM or marketing automation system or activity/engagement insights from your website to understand the account context better. What have they done? Where are they located in their buyers’ journey? How have they already engaged (downloads, webcast attendance, website visits, third-party review sites)? Is the account engaging from other teams, geographies or business units?
- Third-party data from vendors like Bombora, Demandbase, 6sense and Metadata.io knows your specific targets, customers, prospects and buying groups are currently in (or will be) a buying cycle.
When you harness intent data content that maps to content across the entire customer lifecycle, your conversion rates increase dramatically (between 10% to 25%), and marketing ROI improves. Most importantly, the finger-pointing and animosity between sales and marketing teams are eliminated.
How are progressive B2B companies using intent data to inform the content they’re creating in terms of topics and formats?
Intent data can be applied to a variety of parameters to inform marketing teams and guide the content strategy:
- Which content and topics are performing best?
- Which personas are engaging?
- Is there a compelling event that’s driving demand signals?
- Which videos have been viewed? For how long?
- Which accounts are surging and increasing their engagement with our website or third-party web property?
- Which content or messaging re-engaged customers or prospects?
For Folloze, we focus on creating an end-to-end buyer experience—all fueled by content. Intent data informs the experience layer, which is composed of personalized content, messaging and recommendations. In our new digital-first reality, we are rapidly moving away from a static, one-size-fits-all approach.
What are some of the challenges around applying intent data to content strategy?
The process of applying intent data with microtargeted content and messaging underscores the importance of adopting account- or customer-centric strategies.
Unfortunately, executing, operationalizing and scaling a customer-centric approach across a go-to-market team faces tremendous challenges. Legacy tools, mindsets, processes and organizational structures represent formidable obstacles that create strong headwinds. Similarly, many marketing teams still cling to a product-centric approach to B2B marketing and forget to put the customer in the center of their universe.
To resolve these challenges, sales, marketing and revenue teams must rethink their approach and organizational structure. Some of our customers have re-aligned teams around specific customer lifecycle phases such as awareness, acquisition, acceleration or expansion. At the same time, we see the emergence of a new “frontline” marketer organized in a decentralized manner and empowered to quickly execute with agility and scale—while adhering to corporate guidelines for content and branding.
Finally, customer-centric strategies incorporating intent data require constant iteration and testing. There is never a “one size fits all” approach.
Are there other ways you suggest revenue teams can use data to get the right content in front of the right buyers?
Believe it or not, most companies today have enough baseline content that spans an entire customer lifecycle. Despite the best of intentions, relevant and rich marketing content stored in a repository, CRM system or sales tool will never reach the intended buyer at the right time. This challenge is as old as time. Now that marketing teams are assuming the role of digital sales, the “I can’t find the right content” challenge disappeared.
As digital salespeople—or architects of the buyer journey—marketing teams will use intent data to align the right content with the right buyers at the right time. Content should provide enough granularity across every stage of the customer journey to better understand the digital intent signals across different channels.
With a solid baseline of content performance guided by intent data, marketing teams can then refine and build similar content, refine and eliminate poorly performing content, and identify new opportunities or content gaps that help advance buyers through their unique journeys. For example, Folloze will measure specific content performance across a range of parameters and datasets to better understand the content’s impact, resonance, target and usage.
Are there any use cases that demonstrate how intent data has been effectively integrated into a content strategy?
One of our hardware-based customers uses Folloze for targeting, adaptive content and personalization, and sales orchestration. Specifically, they leverage their own data science team to identify and prioritize high value, at-risk and renewal accounts—and then execute customized digital journeys guided by intent data. These accounts are first prioritized for the sales team and aligned with the marketing teams’ specific content plays. The sales teams then execute the campaigns, leveraging intent data to guide the specific journeys and optimize outcomes.
The results deliver up to 10x greater pipeline and revenue. At the same time, sales leaders can also track the results and ensure that the entire sales team is participating in the campaign. Finally, news of the positive campaign results spreads across the field and ensures 100% participation in future campaigns—no more finger-pointing and sales and marketing friction.
To learn more about how B2B marketers are approaching intent data, listen to our recent panel discussion. In 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, Justin Keller and Jon Russo.
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.