Intent Data: Your Secret Weapon for Recession-Proof Marketing

March 7, 2024 Jackie Sutherland

As the world stumbles through a turbulent period of geopolitical instability, high inflation rates, AI, and energy transition disruption, the tumult and uncertainty have also rippled through the global economy.

We’ve seen some of the world’s largest and most successful companies go through massive internal reorganizations, and it seems that just about every organization is trying to achieve better results with smaller budgets and fewer resources. Nonetheless, B2B marketing and sales teams will always be asked to generate pipeline and revenue. So how can we do more with less?

And how can we do things differently? Because times like these present the perfect opportunity to question the methods we have been applying and evaluate whether they are in need of a complete overhaul.

ABM: Good marketing for tough times

Industry thought leaders have been saying for years that account-based marketing (ABM) is simply good marketing, but when the belt tightens, the benefits of ABM become even more appealing. Implementing an ABM strategy can significantly reduce budget waste because campaigns are only targeted to accounts that are known to be in-market and a good fit for your product or service. ABM also allows you to deliver the personalized experiences that B2B buyers expect. But to obtain these benefits, intent data is the key to success.

Leveraging intent data to maximize budget efficacy

Intent data can help you determine where your prospects are in the buying process by matching intent signals from across a vast network of B2B websites and, publishers to your target accounts. This means you can understand when a company is in-market for your product long before anyone fills out a form on your website. Intent data providers come in different forms. Vendors like Bombora provide pure intent data, while platforms like 6sense aggregate intent data coming from multiple native providers and also allow you to create segments and orchestrate campaigns within the same solution.

In 2022, Integrate Inc. estimated that only 15% of B2B buyers are in market at any given moment. However, this figure is based on Total Addressable Market (TAM) and does not take Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) fit into consideration. When ICP fit is factored into the equation, the B2B Institute asserts that the percentage of in-market accounts is actually closer to 5%. Add in economic instability, and that number may shrink even further.

This figure highlights the value of intent data, which can provide essential insights on where not to spend your marketing dollars and euros. The insights provided by intent data are also key because they enable you to segment audiences by buying stage. And once you’re sure you’re delivering the right content to the right audience at the right time, you’re able to orchestrate much more efficient, effective campaigns.

For example, in a traditional demand generation program, you might end up delivering a top-of-funnel e-book that provides general information about your product to someone who is already in the evaluation stage and has been comparing the solutions of multiple providers. Your message arrived too late, and your asset will provide little value to the buyers at that point in their journey. But in a campaign that is segmented by buying stage, you could ensure that buyers from that same account instead receives relevant content that could still influence their decision, like a competitive analysis about why your product is the best solution in the market. Not only do you optimize your ad spend, but you also increase Sales’ chances of closing the deal and reduce the likelihood that they’ll waste time following up on dead-end leads.

Understanding where your targets are in their buying journey also gives you the opportunity to carefully consider which channels to use to deliver the message at every stage. If you have mapped out the buyer’s journey for your product or service, you probably already know which media your buyers use to gather information at each stage. But factoring intent into the equation can also help you compare the costs against perceived benefits. Weighing factors like how many man hours it would take to create a certain campaign or how much it would cost to promote it on a certain channel against the likelihood that someone will actually engage with your brand and advance through the funnel allows you to use your limited budget more effectively. For example, you might realize that it may not make sense to produce a high-overhead video campaign or promote an asset on an expensive channel like LinkedIn when the people you are likely to reach there are showing little intent for your product. Leveraging intent data helps you save resource-intensive campaigns for where they will have the most impact.

Intent data: Not just for prospecting

A common misconception about intent data is that its primary use case is generating new business, but intent data can be equally if not even more powerful when applied to your existing customer base.

In times of economic uncertainty, the renewals of existing business contracts tend to get prioritized over net new deals. From the perspective of the 80/20 principle, this makes sense – the most predictable source of revenue is the people who have already bought your product. Customer retention becomes more important than ever, but less-than-happy customers may not always communicate their dissatisfaction with their account managers before they decide to jump ship.
Luckily, intent data can also be leveraged to identify accounts at churn risk, so that they can be re-engaged or have their issues addressed before it’s too late.