Whether you have an online store or you run a website that drives business to your shop or service operation, understanding buyer intent will help your business improve how it attracts and deals with prospective customers.
When someone clicks on an ad, opens one of your emails, explores your website, or has any other interaction with your company online, it can be of extreme value to you. These touchpoints are like tracks that, when analyzed, can reveal almost exactly what the user is looking for.
The keywords that prospects use to find you, email open rates, conversion rates, and demographic data are just some of the things that a business can look at when analyzing buyer intent. It’s an effective way to find out where people are in the buying process; with that knowledge, you can respond with a targeted message designed to move the prospect along to the next phase of their buyer journey.
This article will start off with a brief discussion about how a customer-centric marketing approach and a strategy based on buyer intent go hand in hand. Then, after a brief elaboration on what buyer intent is, we’ll go over types of buyer intent data, and finally, cover four ways in which a business can leverage buyer intent data to implement a performance-driven marketing strategy.
If you focus on why a prospect might need your product or service instead of what they need, you can get a much clearer picture of what drives their buying decisions.
It’s still common for businesses to engage in product or service-focused marketing, in which the messages are almost exclusively about the nature of the offering. A more modern and effective approach is one that focuses heavily on the customer and their problem or need.
It’s the difference between a message like, “Our hammer features an oak handle and a tempered steelhead,” and one like, “Balanced ergonomic design makes driving nails easier.” Both statements describe the product, but the customer-centric message speaks directly to the concerns of an average hammer user.
Converting prospects into loyal customers requires that you know everything about your prospects’ interest in your offering. It’s the key to a customer-centric marketing strategy, one that prioritizes your customers’ needs, with a laser focus on solving their problems; in other words, a strategy that effectively factors in buyer intent.
Buyer Intent Defined
The term “buyer intent” can be defined as a prospect’s goal during each stage of the buying process. It’s almost never just one thing. A person’s intention will typically change quite a bit throughout the process.
At the beginning, a prospect’s goal may be to simply find out if you have a product that solves their problem. During the middle stages, a person may be after price information and assurance of quality. Right before pulling the trigger, some prospects may want to learn about your warranty or customer service.
Buyer intent is dynamic and must be viewed as a moving, interchangeable target throughout the entire marketing and sales cycle.
In the simplified example provided above, the early discovery step may come as a result of the person clicking on an ad, with the middle and final steps involving two website visits. All three interactions are trackable key moments in the buyer’s journey, and the data you gather about interactions like this is referred to as buyer intent data.
Buyer intent data is actionable, enabling you to fine-tune your marketing touchpoints so that each one is perfectly timed and relevant to each prospect.
Today’s online shoppers are savvy and know how to find the best product or service. You can be sure that, wherever a prospect is in your sales funnel, they’re at a similar point in one of your competitors’ processes too.
It’s a smart way to buy things: match your problem with a solution and then find the best version of that solution. Comparisons will be made, and harsh judgments will follow, but a consumer taking this approach is more likely to be satisfied with their final decision.
Throughout the whole time that this process is happening, you can gather data about the prospect’s search behavior, the content they’re most interested in, and other valuable buyer intent data.
If you’re tracking a prospect in the sales funnel and reach out to them at exactly the right time, with a message that’s extremely pertinent to their current concerns, you’re almost guaranteed to make a sale, or at least you’ll move that person one step further along in your funnel.
There are numerous data analytics tools that you can use to create a timely picture of buyer intent and pinpoint where in the buyer’s journey a given prospect is. For example, tools like Bombora’s Measurement and Segment’s Connections can collect data from many sources, centralize it, then help you track engagements with precision, gather valuable demographic information, and map the entire buyer journey, from initial contact to purchase.
In the next section, we’ll look at some of the most useful types of buyer intent data.
Types of Buyer Intent Data
There are numerous signals that can tip you off about a prospect’s interest, each one a different record of digital interaction between that person and your company. Buyer intent data tools can help you capture and analyze those signals as a means of optimizing your marketing efforts.
But what are those signals? What does buyer intent data look like?
To answer those questions, we first need to acknowledge that there are two types of buyer intent data:
- Internal Intent Data: This is information that comes from your website, from the logs of applications that were specifically designed to collect it, and your CMS or marketing automation system.
- External Intent Data: This data is gathered by B2B companies through legitimate, automated means, including user registration and shared cookies. The third-party providers that collect this data, track millions of websites to pull niche-specific document and video download counts, keyword search stats, CTA click-through rates, etc.
Now let’s dig a little deeper into these two categories of buyer intent data.
Internal Buyer Intent Data
Internal buyer intent data can be information that is submitted manually, via your website’s contact form, for example, or it can be gathered using an automated marketing tool.
In the first case, a website visitor provides some basic but useful insights into their intent by filling in a form. Some examples of this kind of data include the prospect’s name, age, gender, job title, phone number, and address. The person’s willingness to submit this data in anticipation that it will be used by someone in your organization to contact them clearly indicates buyer intent.
An online form as a data source may favor the collection of demographic data, but you can also include some more probing questions in your forms that might shed additional light on visitors’ intentions.
The other source of internal buyer intent data comes from a CMS, or another similar program, which gathers data automatically. Some examples of this include a detailed breakdown of website visits, page views, downloads, time-on-page stats, etc.
Analysis tools can help you parse the data into meaningful information, differentiating the buyer intent of someone who briefly viewed your About Us page, for example, and that of users whose website activity indicates a higher level of interest.
A prospect who repeatedly visits your product detail pages or has downloaded gated content from your site, like an e-book or a whitepaper, is exhibiting a very different type of interest than the person who casually hits your homepage once.
By picking up on the nuances of each engagement you have with a prospect, and acknowledging the different buyer intent that can be inferred from each type of interaction, you can gain valuable insights into where a prospect is in the buying process. Then, you can advance the process by sending exactly the right marketing message for that prospect.
External Buyer Intent Data
External intent data is what they call big data. It’s collected by third-party providers in its raw form. There’s a ton of it, and it takes advanced, automated processing to make sense of it.
The companies that collect this data do so by using shared cookies, and tracking millions of website visits on sites all over the internet. Some examples of this type of data are document download counts, SEO stats, video views, and a tally of CTA clicks.
To clarify, these aren’t search details, download stats, and click-through rates for your site—it is information gathered from around the internet.
The buyer’s journey will almost never be in a bubble. They’ll hit your site to learn about your company and your product or service, but prospects will also visit your competitors’ sites, read independent reviews of your offering, research alternatives, and generally scour the internet for reasons as to why they should or shouldn’t buy what you’re selling.
External intent data tells you what a group of users is doing; it helps you see trends in the behavior of your target customers. Unlike internal intent data that can pertain to an individual customer, external data tells you about the actions of a large group of web users. It lets you see spikes and drop-offs in users’ online activity related to your niche.
Closely monitoring the dynamic nature of users’ buying behavior can yield practical input as to which direction your marketing strategy should take.
To get a clear picture of a buyer’s journey, you have to use both internal and external intent data. In the next section, we’ll go over some ways in which you can put buyer intent data to good use for your business.
The Benefits of Strategizing with Buyer Intent Data
Buyer intent data can improve your marketing efforts in many ways, but four areas that can benefit the most are SEO, content, conversion, and retention. This section will explore each of these areas.
The keywords that people use to search for your product or service can tell you a lot about their intent.
For a simple example that illustrates this point, consider the three queries, “cheap headphones,” “travel headphone reviews,” and “bose quiet comfort wireless noise-canceling headphones.”
The first searcher is probably ready to buy, and they prioritize price. The second user is at an early stage of the buyer’s journey, still digging for basic information about a product category. In the third example, we have someone who may have their credit card out and ready, or they may just be doing research into the specific product.
When you can correlate the use of specific keywords to certain phases of the buying process, you can fine-tune your content with those keywords to drive qualified prospects to your site. You can prioritize and time the use of certain keywords as a means of syncing up your marketing funnel with the buyer’s intent.
When website visitors access your content, you can get an extremely clear indication of their intent by noting the specific information they choose to consume. If they click on a specific section of your site, it’s because they’re interested in the topic covered there.
Associating their intent with their content choice, and in turn, with a phase of the buyer journey, will help you anticipate what prospects want to see next.
Advancing the buying process one step at a time, with a carefully sequenced collection of marketing materials, is a time-tested strategy to increase sales. Every stage is important. Whether a prospect needs a final push to make a purchase, or if they’re at the very top of the sales funnel, knowing the next step, from the customer’s perspective, will tell you how to proceed.
To make the most of this content-focused approach, you should not only time your messages based on buyer intent, but you should also tailor the content to match the customer’s position in the buying process.
During the discovery part of the process, a person has more learner intent than buyer intent—they want information about your product or service. That’s when your how-to articles and helpful blog posts are what that prospect needs to see. Buyer intent is low at this point, so your content needs to be focused on the customer’s problem and show that you can provide the best solution.
The middle phase involves a head-to-head comparison with your competitors, so that’s the time to let prospects know about the specific benefits of your product or service. For maximum impact, this sort of information is best delivered in the form of videos, product images, infographics, slide presentations, reviews, and testimonials.
When the buyer is ready to purchase, make it easy for them. The content on your site targeted at people in this phase of the buying process includes your landing pages and product pages. They should all present an easy path to final purchase steps.
Maximized Conversion Rates
Get a customer to visit your site, prompt a response to your “Buy Now” CTA, and process the transaction.
If only it was that simple!
In the real world, there’s almost always multiple website visits and a series of pre-purchase CTAs strategically presented. No sale occurs until a multi-step buying process has played out.
There’s a time to push for that final buying step, and getting it right is a key factor in improving your conversion rates. With buyer intent data and a tracking tool, you can figure out the sign that tells you a prospect is ready to buy.
But conversion isn’t just about that final transformation from prospect to paying customer. It can also be converting a one-time website visitor into a frequent visitor or changing a prospect with a casual interest into one who wants in-depth product information. Understanding buyer intent at every phase can help you increase the conversion rate of all your CTAs.
You can discover signals that shed light on whether a person should see basic product information, a CTA to join your mailing list, or a friendly email asking if they have any questions, for example.
As soon as a signal is given, you can present the prospect with the appropriate prompt that will lead them to the next stage of the buyer journey.
Better Customer Retention
You can use buyer intent data to figure out if a customer is more likely to make another purchase, or if they’re unhappy and looking elsewhere for the product or service you sell.
Using internal buyer intent data, you can track subscription cancelations and respond with a “Please come back” message. External intent data can tell you if your customers are accessing review sites, which may prove that they’re looking for someone else to do business with.
You can also track success signals like the number of content shares, new subscribers, and social media responses.
Whether you’re targeting customers who love you, or those who are thinking about moving on, you can craft a marketing campaign that will solidify your relationship with the former and win back the latter.
Track Your Customers Every Step of the Way
We hope this article has left you with a better understanding of buyer intent and how using it to drive marketing efforts will improve your business.
Don’t ignore buyer intent. The individual data points may seem somewhat trivial, but with buyer intent data, the sum is greater than the parts. All the various types of intent data, internal and external, come together to create a very detailed picture of your prospects’ behavior, and you can use this to your advantage.
Having a handle on your buyers’ intent means that you know what they’re thinking at every stage of the buying process. Leveraging this knowledge can help you refine your SEO efforts, shape your content, up to your conversion rates, improve customer retention, and much more.
Are you using buyer intent data when setting up your own marketing campaigns?