How Leveraging Intent Data Aligns Sales & Marketing

Published: April 21, 2023

1jeffB2B brands often deploy many of the same marketing tactics as their B2C peers, but B2B faces more unique challenges. They’re trying to reach a smaller, more highly qualified audience for their products and services, and then there’s the long sales and implementation cycle that can last a year or more.

These challenges — and many more — make sales and marketing the twin engines of most B2B enterprises. Of course, that presents a challenge because sales and marketing aren’t always fully aligned. When the engines aren’t running in tandem, teams go around in circles or worse, crash.

In some companies, this issue may be as minor as needing to share information faster or fixing small breakdowns in communication. At its worst, the misalignment may come from a total lack of communication as the two departments try to carry out their own strategies.

As B2B companies adopt data and software to bring efficiency to their sales and marketing efforts, new solutions are emerging that can help unite these two critical departments. Intent data is one such solution, which, when used to its full potential, can put sales and marketing on a shared path to success.

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Beyond Ad Targeting

Many companies familiar with B2B intent data likely think of it as solely a tool for identifying the best accounts to focus on. Intent data reveals upticks in research and content consumption activity among a list of target accounts. From there, the marketing department knows the accounts that are actively interested in a product and service, so programmatic, Facebook, LinkedIn, CTV or other advertising can be aimed at these accounts. Once they’ve delivered the ad campaign to those targets, they stop.

That’s a good use of intent data but it doesn’t tap into intent’s full potential because it barely touches sales.

Marketing teams should use intent data to look at their existing accounts as well. This may reveal that current customers are researching competitors or other tools that the business offers. This instantly creates the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell existing accounts while also reducing churn. Imagine being able to identify if a current customer is researching a competitor.

Building Campaign Strategies Alongside Sales

At its most basic, intent data reveals who marketers should target. But going a step further, it can answer questions about why — or if — the marketing team should target certain accounts.

Planning an effective ABM or GTM campaign requires sales and marketing to look at their intent data topics to evaluate abnormalities and determine if a certain campaign is worth their time. Comprehensive ABM campaigns make use of paid advertising, gifting, events, sales outreach and content, which requires many resources like content writers, product marketers, demand marketers and sellers. Teams should work collaboratively to assess the chances that the campaign delivers ROI not only on the budget spent, but on the team’s time, or what I call return on effort.

By looking at the level of intent and the total addressable market, marketing and sales teams can determine the best way to allocate time and resources to their campaigns. The right intent data integration and shift in what metrics to track determines how to meet the needs of all stakeholders and influencers in the buying group, which is another way to improve win rates.

Compensations To Engage The Full Account

All campaigns should be aligned with sales teams’ goals and incentives. For example, a B2B software company may have eight different products and track intent signals for each. Most companies would think that they should focus their marketing efforts and SDRs on selling products that experience an uptick in the intent signals.

But what if the sales team is only compensated for two of the eight products? Those are the two products that they are most incentivized to sell, and therefore intent signals around those products matter more to them. Make sure you create a reverse funnel to align campaign results to business results. And that isn’t just a fictional example; it actually happened at a hyper growth business I was working with, and I’ve seen this multiple times.

Uniting For Shared Efforts

It’s these small but mighty changes that can help truly unite sales and marketing with intent data as the common bond that both teams use to drive their efforts. In today’s economy, outcomes matter, and B2B companies must think about both return on investment and effort.

Now that we’ve wrapped Q1, marketing and sales teams should have already met to align on goals for the year. If not, they need to do so immediately. Marketers should know what their sales teams are trying to accomplish from a goals perspective. Every flighted campaign should focus on helping sales meet those goals in the most efficient and effective use of their time. Intent data can help, provided companies are willing to go beyond the basics.

Jeff Marcoux is the CMO of Bombora, an intent data provider for B2B sales and marketing teams.

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