PHOTO: youssef naddam | spray out
Aligning sales and marketing has come a long way. The B2B industry’s focus on solving misalignment problems, as well as the rise in the revenue operations feature, probably deserves the most credit. Yet despite these achievements, there is room for improvement. One such area is the use of intent data.
I often phone with B2B marketing practitioners and consultants who want to discuss intent data best practices. I very much encourage such discussions. Intent data is a relatively new and complex product with use cases that span the entire buyer journey. There is a lot to learn.
However, I am always a little surprised by the responses these marketers get when asked how their sales team uses intent data. Answers vary, but it’s often not much more revealing than “They’re prioritizing growing accounts in their public relations efforts”.
This is of course better than “you don’t use it” or “I don’t know”, but it’s still problematic. In fact, it’s somewhat rare to hear sellers use intent data to inform their email messages and call topics for conversation. For this reason, I was not surprised when a recent survey report by my company Intentsify and Ascend2, entitled “The B2B Marketer’s State of Intent Data,” identified the top three complaints from salespeople and business development representatives (BDRs) regarding the use of Intent data found contained:
- Problems with data relevance (47% of responses).
- Failure to align the message with marketing (42% of responses).
- Inefficient handover process / workflow (38% of responses).
Note: Respondents were asked to choose up to three options out of eight.
All three of these complaints are the result of poor coordination between sales and marketing. Obviously, marketing teams don’t work with their sales colleagues in developing a strategy for implementing an intent solution.
Why sales have to come on the same page with intent data
While intent data has many specific use cases that support multiple job functions, each of these use cases falls under two more general value propositions:
- Intent data identify companies with the highest likelihood of buying.
- It identifies the topics that are most important to companies so that you can choose the right messages and content for your engagement efforts.
If B2B sales teams only use intent to prioritize accounts, but not to optimize engagement tactics and messages, they are wasting half the value of the intent data.
Importantly, even without the letters of intent that incorporate their intentions in their late-funnel public outreach efforts, the marketing teams still benefit greatly from the intent data. The same survey found that 94% of B2B marketers surveyed state that intent data is effective in solving critical digital marketing challenges.
Additionally, the survey shows a significant difference between intent data users and non-users when it comes to the effectiveness of B2B marketers’ digital strategies. Seventy percent of intent data users say their strategies are very effective, compared to just 33% of marketers who use no intention.
Imagine the value that B2B organizations would achieve if their sales teams used the intent data to the same extent.
Related Article: Your Most Common Intent Data Questions Answered
Reasons for the Marketing Sales Void and How to Avoid It
While I am not aware of any clear statistical evidence as to why many marketing and sales teams struggle to use intent data together, my own experience working with clients, prospects, agencies, and consultants can shed some light. Here are a few common pitfalls I encounter and ways to avoid them.
Expectation of intent data to create alignment
Although overall alignment is improving, many companies continue to expect tools like intent data to magically solve alignment problems for them. In reality, however, most new tools – including intent solutions – can only facilitate existing alignment, rather than creating alignment between teams and departments.
The organizations that use intent solutions bring sales managers into discussions very early in the implementation process. You need to make sure your salespeople fully understand what intent data is, its core values and various use cases, and how you can optimize processes to get the most benefit. That is not always easy. Constant communication, education and training are key.
Related Article: How Marketers Can Use Intent Data
Failure to holistically understand and implement intent data
With intent solutions – as with any new technology or data solution – it’s best to start with a use case or two and then expand from there. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to expand beyond these initial use cases, which are typically role specific. This undermines the potential value of the intent.
I see this as a result of leadership too often viewing intent data as a point solution rather than a powerful tool to drive improvements throughout the buyer journey. The Intentsify / Ascend2 report proves this. According to the 289 surveyed marketers, the # 1 challenge for B2B marketing teams when implementing intent is to “develop a strategy for using intent data”.
To get the maximum benefit from your investment in Intent solutions, you should develop a step-by-step strategy for adoption. (Read the CMSWire article “The Key Elements of a Successful Intent Data Strategy”). Either way, it’s good to start with a quick use case or two that are typically related to marketing, like prioritizing accounts for digital advertising and syndicating content. Once you have these use cases selected, plan on expanding to include additional marketing use cases like adding intent data as a criterion for your account scoring models. Once that next phase of use cases is established, move on to new ones – usually in the demand funnel – such as optimizing sales reach by activating prioritized accounts with messages tailored to the intent signals. And then you can move on to the customer success use cases.
Intent data is a powerful tool. While its popularity has grown rapidly with B2B marketing teams in recent years, the sophistication of its use for sales use cases lags. As a result, many B2B organizations are missing out on a lot of potential customers and revenue. The first step in solving this problem is to take a holistic view of intent data: as a key resource that will help your company scale marketing, sales, and customer success results.
David Crane is VP of Marketing at Intentsify, a leading provider of intent data solutions. With a decade of B2B marketing experience in the tech industry, David leads Intentsify’s go-to-market and messaging strategy.