Intent Marketing for Industrial Companies

Ed Marsh | Oct 19, 2022

Intent Marketing Isn't New, but It's Better

Guide to episode

  1. You've practiced intent marketing and sales for years
  2. Today it's digital, but that doesn't make it different
  3. Successful intent marketing and sales is built on a solid tech stack and sales training
  4. It's easy to start with lots of opportunity for growth and sophistication by using other types of buyer intent data for other use cases

Transcript follows:

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. I create these brief videos every couple of weeks to provoke some thinking for industrial manufacturing company execs. If you know of one who you think might find some value in this, please share it with them.

You've Practiced Intent Marketing and Sales for Years

Picture yourself standing in your booth at a trade show. The CEO of a long-time target account comes wandering in and you have a really great conversation. She mentions changes in their market that have them considering some changes in their company which would involve a significant purchase from you or a competitor. You agree to be in touch in a month to discuss the plan.

Later that afternoon she wanders back by with her VP of operations to ask some more questions, and the next day the VP of ops comes with the COO for yet further conversation. What a set of intent signals!

Clearly there’s active interest at the implementation and decision levels of the company. You’d take it very seriously, enter the deal in your pipeline and follow your sales process.

That’s intent-based marketing.

What is Intent Marketing?

Let’s start with the basics. What is intent marketing? Intent marketing is adaptive marketing that incorporates observations of prospect behavior to infer purchase intent, stage in the buying journey, role on a buying team, and propensity to buy. These inferences are used to adjust the timing, message, channel, and velocity of marketing and sales touches.

The premise of intent marketing is that by identifying those who, based on their behavior, might be currently researching or considering a purchase, you’re able to focus resources on prospects who are most likely to buy and to do so sooner.

Does it work?

The unsatisfying answer is yes and no.

Here’s what I mean.

Many companies think that intent marketing is a silver bullet. They purchase some intent data, blast out some ads and emails, hand a list to BDRs, and end up disappointed. So on the “no” side of things, it’s not a simple or easy solution. Many companies find it doesn’t deliver what they expect – not because intent marketing is flawed, but because expectations are unrealistic. They expect some magical fairy dust.

In many ways, intent marketing works really well. Let’s think about that example that we started with. Your observation of the set of interactions, and the conclusions you draw from them and your reactions are the basis of intent marketing and intent sales.

Intent Signals Can be Digital as well as In Person

Now let’s consider another scenario.

That CEO (you know it's her because she’s on your email list and you can observe her activity) visits your website and spends 30 minutes looking at 7 different pages.

Two days later the COO (also on your email list) visits, and over the course of a week two additional anonymous visitors from the same company all converge on the same set of pages that explore the justification for purchasing a certain type of equipment.

And the following week a mid-level engineer fills out an RFQ form on your site.

Which is a more important set of signals? You could argue that there was nuance in the conversation and that live dialog is more significant. But would that have happened if you hadn’t happened to be at a trade show at the right time?

The point is that it’s as easy to observe intent online as in person. You might call it digital body language.

Examples of Signals for Intent Marketing

Examples of first party buyer intent data signals include website visits, email opens, calls, link clicks, meetings scheduled, chatbot engagements, and more. And certain pages and kinds of engagements often imply higher levels of intent.

Sadly, many industrial companies never observe or track these engagements, or if they do, they fail to alert sales, automatically adjust marketing, update lead scores and sales force automation, or take any other action in response.

And here’s a really important point.

In the example above, the RFQ by a mid-level engineer would likely be viewed as identical to every other RFQ that is received, and just pushed into some laborious quoting process – completely missing all the important context around it.

Using Intent Data for Industrial Marketing and Sales

So intent marketing and intent data for industrial sales are about observing buyer behaviors, making informed decisions about what they mean – individually AND in aggregate – and adapting the marketing and sales effort to them.

That can be done just based on first-party intent which describes the observations that you make across your own digital footprint. That means your website, your social media profiles, SMS, and email. And of course, it includes direct engagement like phone calls and in-person meetings and events.

Some companies take it a step further and incorporate third-party intent data, or observations of behaviors normally of anonymous people believed to be from specific companies, elsewhere on the internet. There are many varieties of intent data and wide disparities in the detail of the signal, accuracy, volume, and specificity. In most cases, it’s only provided at the company level. In a few, it includes contact-level insights along with specifics on the types of actions they took. (see for more)

3rd party buyer intent data can supplement first-party observations to be woven collectively into a richer picture of the activity at an account. This can be used to help sales reps prioritize target accounts or account-based sales targets, direct paid ad campaigns, or focus outbound prospecting efforts.

It can also be used to adjust messaging based on inferences that you draw, such as stage in the buying journey, competitor engagement, the problem someone’s trying to solve, etc.

Getting Started with Intent Marketing for Manufacturers

Intent marketing based on 1st party data is honestly pretty straightforward. Sadly the lack of integration between sales and marketing teams, and the primitive state of marketing and sales force automation software means that easy opportunities are wasted. Really they are just wasted because they’re often right there but laziness and lack of training mean they’re never used.

Companies that successfully leverage first-party intent can then refine their programs by also incorporating 3rd party data into their intent marketing campaigns, adding second-party data which comes from industry publishers, and building models of propensity to buy.

These models look at numerous attributes of leads, and correlate intent observations to build an understanding of which behaviors can historically be reasonably tied to meetings, projects and closed/won deals. This can then help dynamically enhance lead scoring with early-stage leads.

This is a great example of the sort of important lessons that industrial companies can learn from studying SaaS marketing and sales where data and sophisticated tactics are developed and refined.

I’m Ed Marsh. If you found value in this episode of Signals from the OP check out the full playlist and maybe even like it, share it, and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog