The most common use case for intent data is demand generation. It’s a clear fit and can be quickly operationalized. There are also compelling applications across the entire customer lifecycle. “Success” is often overlooked, but data can be used here to reduce churn, boost up- and cross-selling and drive enormous value for customers. Realizing this potential requires visionary revenue growth leadership and interdepartmental collaboration. We offer tips and examples below.
Intent Data Spans the Customer Lifecycle
Most people associate intent data with demand generation. That’s the easiest use case to visualize. Knowing who’s actively in market allows B2B marketing and sales teams to target them. Contact-Level™ Intent Data adds the contact details and granular context of the activity necessary for real personalization of that targeting. It’s a marketing team’s dream.
The variety of names used for data reinforce the demand gen focus. Buyer intent data, behavioral intent data, purchase intent, and trigger intent data are common terms. They all focus early in the lifecycle, around the time of customer acquisition.
And we all know that alignment and collaboration between B2B marketing, sales and customer success teams remains frustratingly elusive.
So it’s easy to forget that the value of intent data spans the entire customer lifecycle.
That’s why it’s important to shine a light on sales and success use cases. And, it’s why companies should undertake intent initiatives with both the understandable excitement they create, and also rigorous approaches to data activation (operationalizing and optimizing data for each use case) and data orchestration (applying data to all appropriate use cases across the customer lifecycle).
Customer campaign management may be one of the last areas people think about when they start using intent data, but it may be one of the easiest to achieve an important impact on financial performance.
Customer Intent Observations
If you could be a fly on the wall of your customers’ offices, what would you stay alert for?
Most of us would answer “competitor interactions.” Naturally.
More important might be hints of dissatisfaction - either explicit (this isn’t working as well as we expected) or implied (how could we also do XYZ which we mistakenly assumed our current solution would address?)
Of course, we’d want to know what they’re thinking as renewals come up.
And we’d want to be inside their heads whenever they are looking for advice or recommendations in adjacent and related areas, much less researching additional products or services that we could provide but aren’t right now - cross and upsell opportunities.
If you were that fly, though, whose wall would you cling to? CEB says there are 6.8 buyers on the typical buying team, and in a product-led growth environment, every employee is potentially a researcher and champion. So you’d have to be in multiple offices, and overseeing the entire open space communal work area and cubbies.
Weave all this together and it’s impractical at best - an impossible dream. You’d have to:
- Observe all members of the buying team and their influencers
- Understand what they’re thinking/researching so you can provide insights and value
- Be alerted to indications of dissatisfaction
- Get an early churn warning (in time to change it)
- Receive prompts to engage around specific, timely, cross and upsell opportunities according to their priorities
Except...it’s not impossible. Rather than a typical inside-out customer campaign management approach, Contact-Level Intent Data provides a way to empathetically manage success from the customer's perspective.
Tips on Using Intent Data for Customer Success
Churn reduction is the easiest use case to visualize. By tracking purchase intent behaviors from current customers, it’s possible to anticipate and proactively address churn risks.
You’ll want to track your customers’ engagements with competitors, as well as significant bottom-of-the-funnel terms which would indicate your customer is searching for alternate vendors of the product/service they buy from you.
It’s important to track the velocity and the job titles, job function and seniority. When your primary contact takes multiple actions demonstrating intent that’s very different than a mid-level person from a different department doing the same, or multiple senior-level, folks all taking action simultaneously.
Your primary contact/champion may well appreciate knowing about covert efforts underway elsewhere in the organization to change vendors. You might have the opportunity to help them navigate internal politics.
Up- and Cross-sell
We’ve all had situations with satisfied and loyal customers who value our support but associate our expertise with the specific, limited space in which they know us. We can try to expand that with email newsletters, articles we share, and mentions and reminders, but everyone’s busy.
Sometimes, much to our chagrin, we discover too late that a happy customer has turned to another vendor for additional products/services which we could have provided and excelled with.
Intent data can provide early warning for these situations. While we continue proactive awareness efforts on the front end, it’s helpful to have this back-end alert that something is underway.
This use case will leverage intent signals including engagements with a broad range of competitors as well as key terms in awareness and consideration stages. Remember that competitors from your customers’ perspective are likely different than yours. You’ll think of direct competitors selling the same product/service. Prospects, however, will look for solutions to their problems, or ways to achieve an outcome.
Therefore it’s important that the “competitors” you observe and the key terms you track, consider solutions that will appeal to buyers even if they’re not what you consider traditional competitors. (Of course this is true in demand generation too, and the reason why bespoke algorithms are preferable to generic “topics.)
Great companies measure the performance of their success function with metrics including churn, first call resolution, and increasingly, Effortless Experience factors.
Superb companies go beyond that. More accurately, superb salespeople create unusual value for customers by bringing ideas, insights, and expertise that extends well beyond the specific product/service they sell. That value often accrues to their employer.
Pareto predicts that only a minority of your sales team will excel at this, depending on ability, curiosity, aptitude, reading habits, and business acumen. Contact-level intent data can help to systematize some of these value-creating interactions. Here’s how.
Observing intent signals including engagements with vendors in adjacent spaces, related key terms, industry thought leaders and related events help success teams understand the goals and challenges their customers face beyond the limited scope of their contractual relationship. While great salespeople will uncover much of this with progressive questioning, average salespeople may not. Intent data steps in with signals from which we can infer thought.
Marketing departments (this takes data orchestration and interdepartmental collaboration!) can bucket those signals into some categories. Not only can they build automation to deliver the signals to the success team, but they should also build coaching and context into their alerts.
They can provide recommendations for contextually appropriate email templates and content.
Some companies do this for prospect facing salespeople. Few do it for customer-facing success folks. It’s incredibly powerful because it helps customers overcome real challenges they face, and establishes your company as much more than another vendor competing on support response times.
Integrating Contact-Level Intent Data into Customer Campaign Management
How do you actually make this happen?
First, identify current customer accounts for specific, additional observation of account-level and contact-level actions. (Worried about releasing a customer list? No problem, add them to your target account tracking. Then ensure that you’ve built proper CRM and marketing automation workflows to handle current customer observations appropriately.)
Second, you have to coach and train. Outreach based on intent signals which fit these situations must be nuanced and carefully calibrated. Clumsy efforts will often produce negative impacts because of a “creepy” effect.
Third, revenue growth leadership has to be involved to help plan these customer engagements. It’s important to make sure that efforts reflect the company’s culture and priorities, and that they’re effective. Simply offering the data as a resource typically fails. Meetings, reports, and of course email, gobble up the time - and important signal lies fallow in the data. With active involvement, senior management can drive effective activation, socialize the impact/ROI, and create structure to optimize the positive value.
Customer Campaign Management as Part of an Intent Data Orchestration Continuum
As powerful as contact-level intent data is to reduce churn, support upselling and improve satisfaction, it doesn’t come easily or automatically.
To leverage the full range of applications listed above, intent data must provide contact-level signal with context. Bespoke algorithms (versus the opaque taxonomy of “topics”) must be artfully built to address these use cases in addition to demand generation and sales intelligence. And data must be sourced from the entire internet versus a narrow range of publishing co-op sites.
The right data is a foundation, but the vision of data orchestration and the execution frameworks for effective activation are equally important.
So, go ahead - start with a sole use case like event marketing, account-based marketing (ABM) or demand generation. But start with a plan for how to operationalize data across the entire customer lifecycle. You’ll increase your ROI many times over.