How to start at square one with intent data: building a strong data activation foundation

So you’ve added intent data to your toolbox. Congratulations! 

…Now what? 

When it comes to intent data, and getting results, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some key tips on building your intent data activation game plan to set yourself up for success and avoid some of the pitfalls that can curb your progress.  

According to The B2B Marketer’s State of Intent Data, 67% of marketers struggle to activate their intent data.  On top of that, sales teams often don’t trust or don’t know what to do with the data once they get it. Don’t let this stat get you down. You don’t need to be a part of that number. Implement a game plan for each step of the buyer’s journey in ways your competitors aren’t. 

Establishing your intent data strategy

Action intent in a timely manner

You’re finally ready to start using intent data, and you’re excited to build a new and improved pipeline. But are you ready to act fast? Before you get too excited about your new and shiny tool, keep in mind that intent data is time-sensitive. Buyers are conditioned for instant gratification. Your buyers constantly exist online, leaving behind breadcrumbs throughout their buyer’s journey. They’re reading articles for ideas, engaging with competitors, and hiring new team members. And (pro tip) you can get ahead of competitors if you figure out how to get that intel in real-time and consequently, your messaging will resonate best. If you aren’t capturing in-market accounts at this stage, someone else is. You have to meet them where they’re at, when the need is taking place. 

Embrace a multi-channel strategy

By integrating your data into your sales and marketing process, intent data will be the glue that connects a multi-channel strategy.

At face value, it’s easy for intent to come off as creepy. We’ve all gotten ads and emails that weren’t relevant to us. No one wants to be thrown marketing tools that don’t fit the problem they’re solving. The purpose of intent is to take that away. If the only ads you saw were relevant to a problem you’re trying to solve, you’d probably enjoy scrolling Instagram a lot more. 

Use the knowledge of what your buyers care about to show them things that add value. If many of your prospects are showing intent towards “OKRs” for example, maybe it’s time to create a guide to setting and crushing OKRs in your industry – then use an audience of those engaging with that topic and create ads directing them to this new content built to help them specifically.

For example, If you can see someone engaging with your competitors, they’re probably lower in the funnel and could benefit from some social proof, competitor comparison charts, or solution-based messaging.

Build a marketing process across ads and nurture tracks, in which different activities contribute to the overall score. Maybe that means a lead with only a mid-range intent score to start, now is clicking ads and reading your content, so it’s time to hand it over to sales. Maybe cumulative intent scores direct them into a lower-funnel nurture full of social proof.

This process also builds trust in the sales handoff. It’s easier to trust leads that not only fit your ICP, but are actively showing intent and engaging with content created by your team.

Set goals and define what success means for your team

Managing expectations

Think back to before you added intent to your toolbox. What problems were you trying to solve? Be specific. Do you need more top-of-funnel leads? Do you want better response rates on your email campaigns? Maybe your ads audiences just aren’t doing it for you anymore? For example, 49% of B2B marketers use sales-qualified leads as their primary metric of success, a result like increased MRR will take longer to measure versus a goal like CTR on ads. If you find yourself thinking about a multitude of problems you would like to fix, slow down. Intent isn’t a silver bullet. It should elevate your sales and marketing efforts. Tossing intent into a bad strategy won’t make it a good one. 

Step back, define what success looks like across the board, then implement the processes needed to reach those goals. Set aside time to collaborate across sales and marketing to determine how each piece of data gets used, when it’s used, and who’s responsible for tracking outcomes. How can intent improve what’s working? Or help with a strategy you’ve been waiting to implement? Maybe it means you reach the right people with a smaller audience. Maybe you can create better subject lines based on the intent signals you’re seeing. Data doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Focus on the quality of your strategies. 

Next, set a realistic deadline to measure your desired outcome. Keep in mind that the metric you choose will affect the time needed for the data to work its magic. Intent should get the same grace as other experiments. Can leveraging intent data speed up your sales cycle? Yes. That doesn’t mean it’ll happen overnight. Processes take time to optimize. Even when assessing the impact on ads, there are factors at play from creative assets, to messaging, to audiences, landing pages, and beyond. Iterate where needed. Remember that especially in ads platforms like Google, the algorithm is always learning. Give it time to adjust.

Adjust your intent data workload and efficiency

You want the amount of data you are receiving to match the capacity you have to action. If you find that you have data left unactioned, refine or expand your intent data based on your ICP and how large a net you’d like to cast. You may ask, “but if I have an insane number of accounts showing some level of intent, shouldn’t I get them all?”. We all want to close more deals, faster. But don’t overwhelm yourself or your team.  

This ties back to actioning intent in a timely manner. Prioritize your intent by score. High volume, mid-to-low-scoring data deliveries are great for ads audiences. Automate this so it gets actioned immediately. Higher scores should go to your SDRs for outreach directly into a lower-funnel nurture track. Also ask yourself: How many people are on your sales team? What is their capacity? How about marketers? Will intent data add to or ease their workload? Adjust your approach so everything gets actioned. If not, you might be leaving money on the table.

When all is said and done, intent should be boosting your efforts, not making up for a lack of them. Intent is dynamic, and so should your strategy. Again, there is no single approach to actioning intent data that will guarantee results. Sift through the noise and hone in on what your teams’ priorities and goals are, start small, and scale your way up. By establishing your custom data activation strategy early, you’ve already won half the battle. 

Happy activating!