If you are looking at intent data, are you too late? / Data for bluffers #5

17 January 2022

If you are looking at intent data, are you too late?

All this and more, presented by Tom Ridges and Dr Ed Barter.

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Tom
Welcome to another episode of the data for Bluffer’s podcast this week. Ed and I have been talking about intent data. I think over the last few weeks, over the last few months, I’ve seen the , the topic come up more and more in LinkedIn. And I think the question that I saw post this week , um , was if you’re looking at 10 data, are you too late? I thought, well , that’s an interesting question. Let’s have a conversation about it. So hope you enjoy the conversation and I’ll speak to you at the end. Hey ed, how you doing?

Ed
I’m good. Thank you, Tom.

Tom
How are you? Good. Thank you. I’ve got interesting one this week, while browsing LinkedIn . I saw a question about intent data and , and it phrased it as if you’re looking at intent data. Are you too late? And I thought let’s try and answer the question. Let’s pick it apart, but I guess to start with what’s intent data intent, data

Ed
Covers sort of a range of data sources, but all of which are trying to get a , a , a core idea, which is identifying when people are showing intent to purchase. It’s an idea that you might be able to identify sort of like primed audience that is ready to buy your products or service. There’s kind of two main ways that people look for that intent data or the way that people do that actually ends up influencing exactly what we mean when we talk about intent, because we end up being led by the fact that this is how the data is collected. Therefore, this is what we call intent. The two ways that people do that are either predictive ways where people are trying to estimate from demographic and temporal information that someone might be about to purchase their product. But the main section of intent data is what you will measure intent. And this is where people are using or tracking people’s internet activity to try and understand when they’re showing an intent to purchase a particular product. So that might be, they go on Google and search for that product. It might be that they download some reports or some best buy guides on those products, or it might be that they’re going on specific websites for companies that are selling products of that type and, you know, looking into their literature and things like that. So I think this is what most people think of as intent data and because this is the most common form of intent data that’s used. It’s become the case that when we talk about intent or intent data or intent itself, we end up talking about the expressed intent to go out and purchase a product.

Tom
That makes sense. So someone’s trying to buy project management software. I can buy some intent data that’s that can sniff for that. When I see it as a project management software vendor, hypothetically, I can hop on the phone and say, Hey, I see you’ve been searching for project management software by my

Ed
Software, exactly the, that fact that someone’s decided themselves, that they wanna buy some project management software and searching for that and looking at your competitors potentially. And that’s what, that’s the data you’re picking up on. I

Tom
Always, when I hear about this stuff, the thing I can never get out in my head is, is, you know, back from the days of, you know, when I was involved with RFPs, RFP, an RFP is a request for proposal, which are commonly issued by companies. When they’re looking to buy a solution, a tech solution or whatever it might be in the, in the B2B sales world, you always wanted to be the team writing the RFP for the customer. You wanted your ideas to, to form the basis of an RFP. And generally speaking, if we were kind of the ones informing the RFP, we had a much higher win rate against those. I , I guess, is there a similar thing here that, you know, people might be searching, but they might be searching with a , with somebody in mind?

Ed
I think that’s, that’s definitely the case. So really what we’re asking here is, is in some of the use cases of intent data, is there a problem that almost that you are too late as the question you saw on LinkedIn was getting at? So I think it’s definitely the case. I think it’s important to highlight that there’s, there’s lots of use cases for intent data. Some more obvious than for example, people can use intent data, you know, it can be on a per account basis. So it might be that you have some target accounts and you are gonna prioritize them based on the level of intent that’s being shown by people in those organizations. You could also use it to target ads in a similar way, but you might also use intent data to pain points . So when people are searching for project management software, what are the features or the problems they’re looking for it to solve? Because what are there other searches around those topics? Or if they’re reading blog posts about project management, what are those blog posts talking about? And you also might use it for something like retention as well. So you , you , you are tracking your own customers,

Tom
Churn prevention. Yeah. You are the top of their mind, but they’re still searching then it’s good time to pick up the phone and check and everything’s okay. So

Ed
That retention question really does speak to your question about proposals and the fact that you wanna be on the inside. You know, you wanna be the person the proposal is built for, and you wanna be the person educating the company or the potential customer about what they want from the solution or what they need from the solution and how they can use their solution. You

Tom
Know, we talk about this point fairly often, memory it’s the stat. We quote that 95% of B2B buyers are not in a buying state at any given time. So the biggest activity for, for, for kind of marketing teams in, in these businesses is to stimulate memory. You know, we need to make sure that when somebody is in that 5%, when they are ready to buy that they know about us and therefore when they are searching for phrases that they’re searching with us

Ed
In mind, I think , yeah, I think exactly that’s kind of in , in the B2B purchasing world, and this is where it’s slightly different from the proposals world. You don’t know that people are looking for something, but when they are, by that point, they’ve actually got a pretty good idea who they might be purchasing from as well. Okay. So if

Tom
Your project management software let’s stick with that example, I’m likely to buy AANA or monday.com. If either of those companies pick up the phone to me, when I , when I’m searching for those phrases, that could be extremely useful for them. They’ve caught me at the right time. But if I’m Joe blog’s project management, software.com, you’re on the block and they phone me or serve me an advert, I’m less likely to answer the phone. I’ll , I’ll send them to voicemail or I’ll ignore the ads up consciously.

Ed
I mean, I certainly have experienced this. I’ve never bought project management software in my life, but I’ve seen a lot of adverts of FADA and a lot of adverts from monday.com , right? They may be using intent data. Now , I dunno if five of them do, but they are definitely not just using intent data. You know, they’re not looking , uh , pick up the phone to someone who’s got a project management problem and explain how theirs can help. They’re very much building a brand so that when anyone in software or tech, or it thinks about a project management solution, they’ve seen adverts for sauna . They’ve seen adverts from monday.com and they’re on their long list. Even if they’re it on the short list that

Tom
Frames it quite well, I guess, you know, you’re right. It’s, it’s , it’s brand and, and intent potentially works better for the brand leaders or the, you know, the , the top people in the category. It almost feels like talking about the benefit of intent data is almost a bit crude. It almost, there’s almost a concept of an intent funnel, right. You know, you’ve got brand into 10 , you know, are , are people like, have people got an intention to buy from you as a brand? And then there’s the search intent, you know, when they’re actually in market to buy, are they likely to do that and like to buy from you? And if you’ve, you know, air quotes won the brand intent war, you know, if you are , if you’ve got consideration at the top of the funnel from brand intent, then certain intent data is likely to yield much higher results versus an organization that hasn’t got brand intent. Does that sound fair? Or am I stretching it too far? No,

Ed
No, I like that. And I , I like that idea of sort of, you know, extending the final out past the first sort of engagement with the client, right. Direct to engagement. So it’s , it’s sort of, you know, connecting marketing and sales in some way. A lot of the discussion we’ve had has focused on really like sales uses for intent data. That’s worth saying that some of that may be more marketing uses. So like triggering ads to people who are primed or who are , who are showing intent in some way that form of sort of activation is probably too late. If your brand is nowhere in their mind at the time, right? Because you’ve gotta express in that ad, you’ve gotta express who you are and that you , what you’re offering, you know, and your tool. And that’s a real challenge for any ad. So I do think that for some companies, intent data is clearly very useful, but for others, you know, you really do need to build that sort of brand before you can start using intent data.

Tom
Okay. So when you say you mean sort of search intent versus brand intent, we gotta build

Ed
There . Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. You need to , you need to build the, the brand intent and the brand awareness, you know, the , the what at the wide end of your funnel before you can start using search intent within that.

Tom
So if we’re talking, it gets interest. If we’re talking about, you know, so search intent is identifying people who are searching for your keywords at the moment. You know, finding companies who have, have got brand in 10, or maybe on the way to getting brand in 10 is a challenge, right? Because, you know, if , if you’re a Microsoft, you know, everyone already knows about you. So you’re probably in the consideration, well, there’ll be two camps, people that are pro and people who are against. And if you’re in the pro Microsoft camp, you’re always in there . But unless sure that big, you know, understanding who’s gonna buy from you is probably quite a complex task.

Ed
Yeah, definitely. I think if you are a smaller business, you either need to spend a lot of money or you need to be clever, find your niche and target your niche, prioritize your resources, and build a big brand in a small market, similar

Tom
To how a lot of the tech Anns grew. Right. You know, we, Facebook’s the poster boy example, you know, they, they focused on a niche in a very small area with, with Harvard, Uber did it, you know, Tinder have done it. There’s , there’s lots of businesses that have sort of focused on a , a niche. But what’s interesting. A lot of those, those focused on a geographic niche as well, right? Not just a , a demographic. Yeah.

Ed
I think that’s really important. And you know, those companies, to be honest, to a certain extent, focused on a geographic niche because their product required them to, but their whole business or benefits from having a geographic niche. And that’s because you can tap in, you know, if you have a geographic niche, you are targeting a certain location and tap into all of the offline discussions that go on between people and businesses in that area. If everyone in the team’s already heard of the brand, it makes it a lot easier. When you have that meeting, you don’t have someone sat there who is going basically, I’ve never heard of that before. If we can do something I’ve heard of, I’ll be happier.

Tom
You can’t be Microsoft overnight, but you can have that brand domination at a much smaller geographic representation, you know, street or town level, get that domination where you’ve got high brand intent. Right? So any people , if , if , if people are looking for a product that , that you can service, they’ll buy it from you. If you can identify where you’ve got that high brand 10 , and then you see search intent, data is worth prioritizing that call . If, if you like to make sure you get in front of them, because you know, you know, brand intent exists that they , and they’re primed to buy your

Ed
Product. Exactly. Yeah. You can’t, you know, you can’t be the biggest brand in the world overnight, but you could be the biggest brand on a particular street or on a particular business park. You know, you could really push your product and make you in a way, make your brand seem a lot bigger than you are. I imagine we’ve all had, you know, conversations or I certainly have with friends where, you know, you talk about a shop that’s quite big in your local area. Like, Bristol’s a good example of this. There’s , there’s lots of, you know, Bristol brands that might have 10 outlets in Bristol, but none one went anywhere else and you sort of talk to them , but to friends about it. And you talk about it as if it’s the biggest like restaurant chain in the country, everyone knows where it is. Everyone goes quite often, you talk to friends through outside, they’ve never heard of it. And you can kind of create that effect within your brand. It’s

Tom
Interesting is location almost seems to slow people down sometimes and they think it might make them feel small. You know, they , they want, they want, they want to target everybody everywhere. But actually from what you’ve said there, the location can potentially be the superpower because it allows you to be very specific and very targeted with what you’re doing, make yourself seem bigger than you actually are, and then allows you to use that perception and revenue ultimately to then springboard and recreate that, I guess much like a lot of the large tech businesses did, you know, they , they used that initial growth from one geographic area and springboarded into another until they had enough different geographic areas that could combine to global domination. Yeah,

Ed
Exactly. You can old local hubs effectively and then connect them up later. And that’s a much better path than, than spreading yourself thin to give a , a really extreme example where I used to live. There was a hairdresser that had two branches in the town and one in Brisbane, Australia, and it had a big sign or , you know, on the hairdresser explaining this. And it was a , you know, whilst , okay, that , that means it’s an international hairdresser. It doesn’t help it build a brand. Right. It doesn’t help more people in the town talk about how, if it’s how it’s good. It is at hair dressing and , and drive people to the local shops that they’re using. There may be the occasional person that’s on holiday and recognizes the brand in Brisbane and goes for it as well. But for, in terms of building a us brand that helps build the business. I don’t think it really was really helping.

Tom
Is this, would this work? Is it, I guess, is it substance over flash? I dunno whether that works as a concept.

Ed
I think , I think it’s, it’s about having, having people aware of your brand who can talk to each other, right. They can answer some of the sales questions themselves, right. It might be, they’ve all read your website and then between them, they can kind of think about what it means you can really do, or, you know, they might share use cases with each other. For example, if I know someone who does a similar job to me is using a product, I know I can ask them, okay, exactly. What are you using it for? Like, how does it fit in your day to day ? How does it fit into your workflow? And that’s sort of not even endorsement, just telling me how it works for them, for me, is so much more believable than anything from a salesperson, right. And builds that kind of confidence in the product, which expresses itself as brand intent when I might actually go and buy that.

Tom
Gotcha. So then if you are searching for X, Y, Z tool that your colleague is used and recommended an X YZ tool phone, you great. Whereas if anonymous tool phoned you , you’re less like to respond. So therefore you need the brand intent in order for the search data or this intent data that we call it today to be

Ed
Valuable. Yeah. I think it’s about putting yourself in a position where that intent data is able to motivate yourselves and marketing activity. And you do that by having a targeted marketing strategy that sits before that, especially when you are a smaller business, I think as well, you know, when you don’t have that big brand recognition, it’s always a danger for a small brand that you are really trying to fight against the kind of confidence that comes from taking a big brand. Very rarely do people get fired for purchasing a Microsoft solution, cuz it is a problem. It’s Microsoft problem, but you can’t be blamed for that. But if you purchase this small startup solution, you are kind of putting your, and your reputation on the line for that. Even the risk of doing that is reduced. If the more people more senior than you in the company are aware of the brand that have seen it around, which,

Tom
Which actually makes me think you you’ve got two angles then with the brand intent it’s if you’re not the category leader or the top two, top three , you know, probably the top two, then this helps you find the find geographies where you’ve, you’ve got that category lead, whether you search intent or not, but it just helps you target more effectively. But actually even if you are the category lead, you know, if you are , have got a large brand, it helps you identify where that brand is strongest. So where you need to, you know, where you need to maintain it and potentially where the holes are, where does it need repair work if you like.

Ed
Yeah, definitely. And I think that goes back to what we were saying earlier about like churn rates, right? You know, the use of intent data to prevent churn is I would almost say one of the most secure uses of the data anticipating when someone’s looking at alternatives and using that as a trigger point to go and offer them potentially a reduced price or encourage them to take up more features, even something as simple as explain all the new features you’ve had since they had their demo call three years ago when they bought it. Right? All of those things can really be driven by intent data, the same with sort of expanding the offering you have with a customer , for example. So you might have a customer already who is using a feature of your product and then you have an expanded product. So for example, you might have a project management system, which has a CRM attached to it.

Tom
For example, I spoke to a friend who does marketing for a large software company and they’re known very well for doing one type of product. And they released a new product that did something totally different, totally different set of target customer. And they were really struggling with adoption. You know, we , we spoke about that like , well look , yeah , even though your, your existing customers are not your target customers for this product, they’ve got the , the highest level of intent to buy your products. Therefore are gonna talk more favorably about you. So actually talking to them about your new product is not a bad idea to get them seeding the conversation elsewhere for, for others in their network. That that might be looking for that solution.

Ed
One of the strongest examples of this is the launch of the Chrome browser, right? That was Google, who had a brand that was really strongly associated with the worldwide web. And they, they almost took a product which was before that associated with the operating system, you know, the browser and made that something that was, that people suddenly went, oh, hold on. This isn’t an operating system product, right. This is a web product. And I can have some choice it , but it was only because it was Google that was saying that, that it really drove any sort of difference. Okay.

Tom
So then if we pull it back to how we started, you know, the, if you are looking at intent data, are you too late? It sounds like it’s too simplistic. A question I it’s , it’s a , it’s not necessarily. And it , and it really depends on, on your level of brand intent. You know, if for some organizations, intent data alone could be hugely useful, but for others, it wouldn’t be, if they , if they don’t know about you, it really depends on how you identify your brand intent. You might need to buy search intent data. You might need to buy brand intent data. You know, intent data on its own, I think is too simplistic. And I think it , it opens up this intent funnel. You know, you , you’ve got to own the brand intent first before you can, before search intent is, is really

Ed
Valuable. Definitely agree with you. I think, you know, intent data is, is quite widely available now. And it’s all , it’s important to ask yourself, are you using the right tool for the job? And I think there are some of the jobs that intent data is used for, for things like retention, where it really is the right tool. And there are other pieces potentially such as, you know, initial account identification, particularly if you don’t have a brand where intent data is being used because it’s available rather than because it’s the right thing that you want to be using in that

Tom
Instance, in , in which case you need brand intent data, you need , you need to understand where you’ve got, you’ve got that highest, highest level of intent or where’s the best place to start seeding it. Yeah,

Ed
Exactly. You need to have , have tools in place for monitoring and also trying to start or build your brand intent in particular places or particular industries, whatever niche you’re gonna go after. And I think we’ve, we’ve spoken extensively about sort of places probably being, I would say the best or the easiest niche.

Tom
Nice. I think that’s a good place . Good place to end cheered. Cheers. Always good catching up. I hope you enjoyed that conversation. I certainly found it really interesting talking about talking about intent and this concept of an intent funnel. Um , but let us know. What , what , what do you think , um , is , is intent data useful? What experiences have you had? Good, good or bad. It be interesting to let us know as usual. Uh , thanks for listening. Share this with anyone you think might find it useful and we’ll see you on the next episode of the data for Bluffs podcast . Take care

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