A few customers make it pretty obvious when they have an intent to buy. They may stride into a store in a hurry, a focused look in their eye as they move to a specific area rather than browse around. You almost need to get out of their way as they head towards the cash register once they’ve picked out what they came for. They come, they choose, they leave.
In most other cases -- especially when you’re talking about digital buying experiences -- intent can be a lot less clear. It’s one of the key areas of data, however, that marketers need to collect and manage effectively if they are to arm their sales team with the right prospects and leads.
One of the great things about marketing automation platforms such as Marketing Cloud is that they can help sift through that data and align the right content to go to at the right time, through the right channel, depending on whether a customer is demonstrating buying intent or not.
This is more critical to developing a strong customer relationship than companies may realize, at least at first. After all, imagine going into a store and being led to the check-out line before you’ve even picked something off the shelf! When companies get buying intent wrong, it’s not only a waste of marketing resources -- it can jeopardize the likelihood of a customer considering you the next time around.
As with most other aspects of marketing, this is a matter of knowing your customer as well as possible. You may be surprised, however, at how much there is to know.
Imagine you’re not merely marketing a particular product or service, but more of an experience-based brand, like a museum or art gallery. Why will customers come for a visit? The most obvious answer is the nature and quality of the exhibits that are currently running. The traditional marketing approach would be to look at the demographics most suited to the content of the exhibit, and then create a strategy that reached out to potential visitors of a certain age group, gender, income level, education level or a range of other factors.
There is nothing wrong with that approach, but buyer intent (which is the intent to purchase an admission ticket in this case) can involve so much more than that. What might some of the other, more psychological motivators behind the decision to make a visit include? Here are just a few possibilities:
Buyer intent, in this case, is not just stemming from a desire to see the exhibit but a particular kind of experience around that exhibit.
Let’s do the same thing in a B2B context. Maybe your firm is offering a product or service aimed at the commercial real estate industry. The quality of the product -- how fast, easy to use and inexpensive it is -- may all be worth marketing to those who seem to fit the typical profile. But what might the other motivators be behind the intent? Again, there are a variety of scenarios to consider:
In both cases, there are real differences behind the intent here that would significantly shift the kind of positioning or messaging a marketer would use to get their attention and convert them into a paying customer.
If buyer intent is nuanced by the demographics as well as the other motivators, marketing may seem more complicated. How do you figure out those motivators, especially if you’re dealing primarily with buyers who are doing all their research online? There are actually some pretty straightforward methods. Like these:
Social listening: Whether by building lists on Twitter, monitoring LinkedIn groups or even tracking certain hashtags, clues about what’s informing buyer intent will often be found in publicly available online sources. A company might share news about moving into a new market, for example, opening a new office and other indications that they will need to purchase new products and services.
Correlation from CRM: If your sales team is keeping a customer relationship management tool such as Sales Cloud up to date, there will be a wealth of information about what reps have learned with each phone conversation, live meeting or e-mail exchange. This should be woven into the fabric of whatever campaign or other work your team does through Marketing Cloud from the very beginning.
Online polls and forms: There is something to be said for just asking for information up front. Companies can easily include a multiple choice-style question on landing pages, on mobile apps, social media channels and other parts of their online presence to get the details of intent from the direct source. Of course, some buyers may choose not to answer, but there’s nothing wrong with a sincere effort to be proactive about marketing to your audience based on their actual interests and desires.
Of course, the nature of buyer intent will not be a constant. Motivations change all the time, and occasionally even customers who gave off strong intent signals will put off a purchase decision for one reason or another. Improving the ability to explore buying intent and the various motivators behind it, however, will give marketers a leg up in terms of gathering rich data that will make Marketing Cloud even more powerful over time. That, in turn, will make the marketing team’s ability to deliver real value to the organization stronger than it’s ever been.