Intent Data: A Content Strategy Game Changer

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Marketers are looking for ways to optimize their strategies and content so their company can always stay top of mind as buyers move through the funnel and make purchasing decisions.

One tactic receiving attention in this quest is intent data. Here, we’ll talk about what intent data is, why it can be a game changer for your marketing strategy and how to start incorporating it into your marketing efforts.

What Is Intent Data?

Companies can have their own variations of what they mean when they say “intent data,” but I like Gartner’s definition: It’s an aggregate of observed digital behavior that’s collected through first- and third-party sources before buyers raise their hand to talk to sales. Examples of this digital behavior could include:

  • Content downloads
  • Content subscriptions
  • Product reviews
  • Search platform inquiries
  • Time spent on your website and certain pages
  • Webinar registration and attendance

Notice how Gartner includes both first-party and third-party sources. As buyers spend more time doing research before reaching out to sales, they spend a lot of time researching information outside your website. A 2019 Gartner survey found that buyers are spending 50% of their time with third-party sources during their research process. This means that if you’re only collecting and analyzing intent data points from first-party sources, you’re missing 50% of the story.

Gartner intent data
Image courtesy of Gartner

Why Intent Data Is Important

Intent data is a source of untapped potential. When you can record and analyze your buyers’ digital behaviors, those data points will form patterns about how buyers move through the sales funnel, giving your team valuable information to use so you’re always ready to meet buyers early in the funnel.

Intent data can also come from returning customers. Understanding how they move through the funnel before making another purchase from your company can open more opportunities to reach them through your marketing efforts, and ultimately lead to more sales opportunities.

With all this knowledge, marketers can leverage it to build a more effective strategy—and more effective content—that more closely aligns to how buyers are actually buying. And, as your team gets more confident in using intent data, you can push your strategy even further so you consistently identify favorable audiences or accounts to target—leading the way to more effective ABM tactics.

How to Start Using Intent Data

Your marketing program likely already has some kind of lead generation program in place, so being able to collect, review and analyze intent data doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start from scratch. It’s a matter of refining what you have and how you use it.

 1. Review and analyze how your audience researches. This applies to both how they’re behaving on your website and how they’re behaving on the greater web to get to you. Some questions to get started could include:

  • What keyword phrases are they typing into search engines to get to our content?
  • How are they interacting with our content once they’re on our website? Are they making repeat visits to certain sections of our website?
  • What topics are they coming to learn about?
  • Are they gravitating toward certain content formats? Are they downloading or sharing it?

As you consistently review and analyze this behavior, you’ll see patterns emerge. These patterns will help you build an accurate profile about the topics and formats buyers like to consume as part of the research process, as well as how and when they use social media and search engines in the process. This information will help guide your content strategy and creation plans.

 2. Perform a content audit. Evaluate how your content strategy aligns with what the intent data is telling you with a content audit. This audit could include:

  • A general overview of content throughout the funnel
  • Identifying potential opportunities to repurpose existing content into new formats
  • Identifying older content that’s consistently popular and seeing if you can update it
  • Identifying content gaps that need to be addressed

As you audit, you’ll get a better understanding of the content that aligns with what you see from the intent data, as well as where there are opportunities to improve existing content or create new content.

 3. Review your buyer’s journey. Once you’ve completed the previous steps, it’s time to compare how your team mapped out your buyer’s journey with what you see from the intent data. Look for clear alignment between the data and the journey map and where you make adjustments.

For example, if your intent data shows that buyers are researching content on certain topics earlier in their journey than what you’ve mapped out, make those adjustments to your map so your content will meet buyers at the right time.

 4. Repeat. This process isn’t a one-time deal. As your buyers’ behavior and needs change, your strategy will need to change along with them to ensure you stay part of the purchasing conversation. Choose a cadence to repeat his process and stick to it. It will help your marketing and content strategies stay closely aligned with how your buyers are researching and making purchasing decisions, and it will ensure your content meets them throughout the funnel so you stay top of mind for purchases.

The Future of Intent Data

Intent data will become even more important in coming years as marketers look to improve their strategies’ effectiveness and the audiences to focus their efforts on.

It’s no wonder marketers are looking at how intent data can refine their ABM programs. It’s the natural next step. Being able to understand how buyers move through the funnel can help your team prepare for earlier interactions with buyers, as well as refine the accounts or buyers you target.

In addition to this, intent data lays the groundwork for incorporating AI as part of your strategy. Your team could use AI to summarize and analyze intent data more efficiently, to prioritize account targeting and to track buyer preferences—all of which can help you pivot faster and consistently meet new and repeat customers.

The future is bright for intent data, and it’s because intent data doesn’t lie. Your buyers are showing you what they do and what they like as they move through their journey and make purchasing decisions.

Use intent data as a compass for your marketing strategy. It will ensure your content and tactics are consistently helping your buyers throughout the funnel—and it will ensure your company remains top of mind for purchases.

Overwhelmed by the amount of homework involved? Content4Demand can support you with expert help conducting content audits, mapping customer journeys, developing strategic content marketing programs and much more.

Read The Content + Data Connection: 10 Top Marketing Executives Explore the Rewards of Integrating Intent Data into Content Strategies for perspective on the role intent data will play in the future of your content.

Toni Boger

As a Content Strategist at Content4Demand, Toni Boger partners with clients to build successful content strategies that empower their digital marketing objectives at all stages, from ideation and creation through execution and promotion. She has a decade of experience in B2B content strategy and development across several industries. Outside of helping clients take their content to the next level, you’ll find Toni learning how to paint, reading a good book, taking aerial arts classes at circus school and watching classic films.

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