Prior to the digital marketing revolution, it was very expensive and time-consuming to assess client intent. The best way to do so was either through phone calls or site visits, both taking up valuable time from your limited sales rep resources.
Now that the internet has become ubiquitous and client/vendor interactions have transitioned almost exclusively from offline to online, there’s a constant trail of digital breadcrumbs that clients leave behind, almost always revealing their intent.
The actionable data that’s unearthed as a result can be a powerful tool for agencies looking to improve their sales process.
By understanding what your potential customers are interested in and tailoring your offerings accordingly, your agency will be able to close more deals and dramatically boost its bottom line.
Additionally, intent data can help your agency assess the success of your marketing campaigns by tracking those breadcrumbs clients leave behind as they traverse your various marketing funnels and use that data to optimize your conversion rate and the return on your marketing dollar.
What Is Intent Data and Why Is It Important for Agencies?
Intent data is information that captures consumers' intent as they interact with the digital world. This can include things like:
Types of pages they visit on a website (e.g., money pages vs. informational articles)
Links or buttons they click on those pages
Keywords they search for to land on your website
Social media posts they share
Information filled out on lead-qualifying web forms
The sequence of web pages they visit
Links clicked inside the body of your marketing emails
Comments left on your blog posts or videos
Engagement signals on your social media channels (comments, likes, shares, etc.)
Client product reviews left on review sites like G2, Trustpilot, TrustRadius, etc.
Subscription or registration data
…and other sources, depending on the unique nature of your agency
Intent data is important for your agency because it can help you understand what product or service your potential clients are either already interested in or open to exploring further.
By tracking the behavior of visitors to your website and social media channels, or the actions they take as they navigate your digital properties, you can paint a picture to understand better what they’re looking for and help you tailor your sales pitch accordingly.
How Can Agencies Collect Intent Data?
There are several ways to collect intent data. One popular method is through website tracking tools. For example, by placing a cookie on your visitors’ browsers, you can track their online behavior and see what pages they visit, how long they stay on each page, and what actions they take.
To track what people say about your agency on websites you don’t control, you can use a free service like Google Alerts to get notified whenever there’s a mention in cyberspace of your products, services, members of your staff, or your brand in general, anywhere in the world.
By placing social media buttons on your web pages, you can keep track of social shares originating from your website.
When it comes to social media channels, there are several monitoring tools, like Sked Social, that allows you to manage your social media inbox, and keep track of hashtags, keywords, and mentions relevant to your brand to get an idea of what people are saying about your agency and its services.
Finally, most email marketing automation tools, like Drip or Active Campaign, have hooks that track what links your subscribers are clicking and then let you use that information as a trigger for further automation.
How Can Intent Data Be Used to Improve Your Sales Process?
Intent data can be used in many ways to improve your sales process. One way is by using it to better understand the specific stages in the sales cycle your clients currently occupy based on their historical online behavior.
By tracking the trail of digital breadcrumbs they leave, from pages they visit on your website (e.g., the sales page for service X or product Y) to the length of time on page (a short time typically indicates shopping around, long times indicate more serious consideration,) to the keywords they search for to land on your pages, you can get a better idea of their needs.
Another way intent data can be used to improve the sales process is by helping you understand what objections potential customers may have. This could be ascertained by reading comments people leave on your site or social channels or analyzing user content found through Google Alerts.
Once you get a clear view of the type of objections that come up, you can take proactive steps to address them in your sales pitch, for example, through the use of an FAQ section on your site, lead qualification forms, sales letters, etc.
How Can Intent Data Be Used to Track the Success of Marketing Campaigns?
Intent data is not only critical for improving your sales process but also for tracking the success of your agency’s marketing campaigns.
By understanding what keywords are being searched for or what social media posts are being shared, you can get an idea of which campaigns resonate with people and which ones need more work.
For example, if the user intent of one of your ranking search keywords does not match the marketing message on your landing page, your time on page will suffer. Users looking for top-of-the-funnel background information on your services will not appreciate a bottom-of-funnel pitch.
Likewise, users showing a clear purchase intent in their keywords (e.g., through the use of the terms “reviews,” “features,” “pricing,” “cancellation policy,” “trial,” etc.) won’t resonate with top-of-funnel informational messaging.
What Are Some Best Practices for Using Intent Data?
There are a few best practices to keep in mind when using intent data.
First, intent data shouldn’t be used in isolation but in conjunction with other data sources to get a comprehensive picture of your potential clients.
Other sources include historical marketing and sales reports, industry trends, customer data in your accounting system, the average length of your sales cycle, market research, etc.
Additionally, intent data should be used to inform your sales and marketing efforts, not as a replacement for human interaction.
Automated online behavior tracking and monitoring systems should not be used at the expense of direct email, voice, and video communications. You need both to succeed.
Finally, intent data should be regularly monitored and updated to ensure you get the most accurate information possible.
What Are Some Potential Pitfalls of Using Intent Data?
When used incorrectly, intent data can lead to misguided marketing efforts and inaccurate sales projections.
Intent data is subject to well-informed analysis based on your knowledge of your business and your industry. If, say, someone less experienced on your staff draws the wrong conclusions from your tracking and monitoring data, your conversions will suffer.
That’s why it’s important to use intent data in conjunction with other data sources to get a comprehensive picture of your potential client base so you can assess accurately where they fit in your marketing funnel or where they are in your sales cycle.
For intent data capture to be meaningful, you first need to know your customer from multiple angles. At a minimum, you need to know basic demographic data points about them (e.g., age, gender, position/title, etc.)
Then, you need to complement this data with deeper psychographic information (e.g., what they hear, think, and feel about the type of services you offer, what their challenges and aspirations are, what keeps them up at night, etc.)
You also need to have a solid grasp of your product-market fit. If you’re an established agency with a clear track record, this won’t be as critical. But if you’re a new agency, you’ll need to be very clear about where your product fits in the marketplace before you can establish clear client intent.
Otherwise, your intent data will be a moving window that’s hard to pinpoint and analyze.
Intent data can be a powerful tool in transforming the sales process for your agency.
When used correctly, intent data will help you improve your sales process in many ways, from understanding purchase intent and having a clear view of where your clients are in your sales cycle to tracking the success of your marketing campaigns by looking at their intent data as they traverse your marketing funnels.
Just make sure to complement your intent data with added data points from other sources within your business and from outside industry sources to get a holistic view of where your potential client base is at.
Finally, make sure not to use intent data in a silo or as a replacement for direct lines of client communication but as a valuable resource to be shared with members of your marketing and sales organizations to help your clients along their purchasing journey better.