B2B buyer intent hit its peak in SaaS marketing and sales. Everyone was buying 3rd party intent data from tools like Bombora. The goal was to target people who showed intent to learn or buy software in a specific category.
And it made sense. After all, it’s a lot easier to get someone to buy something if they’ve already made up their mind about purchasing one of the tools in a category. Faster sales cycles, lower CAC, increased pipeline velocity.
Seriously, who doesn’t want that?
But in the last 12 months, things took a turn as people started to realize how inaccurate these data were.
And when it comes to sales and marketing in B2B, you can’t afford to second guess or make mistakes when you’re reaching out.
Without a system to measure intent accurately, you’d have sales reps chasing false alarms just because the marketing team thinks that an e-book download = a marketing qualified lead (MQL).
In this blog post, we’ll discuss why your sales and marketing efforts need to focus more on declared B2B buyer intent, instead of building too many hypotheses with assumed intent.
We know B2B buyer intent, but what is B2B intent data?
B2B intent data is determined by keeping tabs on the digital footprints that potential buyers leave in real-time.
But in a world where cookie-based tracking is getting harder and people are becoming more privacy focussed, B2B buying journey is getting more complex with way too many touchpoints to track.
Even with a huge total addressable market (TAM), only a fraction of buyers actively look to buy a product. Often you never know when the trigger comes and nudges them to sign up for a trial or a demo.
But when they do, you need to have the right systems in place to make educated assumptions of their interest using B2B intent data.
Drawing the line between declared intent and assumed intent
Unlike predictive or assumed intent that takes into account past actions of a model audience, B2B intent considers the actions of a defined set of potential buyers on an ongoing basis.
Factors such as time, market demands, new pain points, and internal processes contribute to making a data-backed assumption of B2B buyer intent.
Examples of declared B2B buyer intent data
- Job switch of someone who was previously interested or had implemented your product in their previous role.
- Visit to a contract buyout page because they’re stuck on a software that isn’t helping them.
- Multiple contacts from the same account or company testing out your product.
- Engagement or an outreach from high-signal pages such as onboarding and implementation.
- Registrations on product walkthrough webinars.
- Demo requests and trial sign-ups. In our experience, this one has the highest intent to evaluate and buy your product.
Examples of assumed B2B buyer intent data
- Promotion of a manager to a decision-maker role in your target market.
- Online search queries.
- Visits to product and feature pages, SEO blogs, and problem-driven articles.
- Clicks on paid ads for generic search terms.
- Demographic and regional audience data
- Subscription to your newsletter.
- Ebook downloads and webinar registrations.
- Engagement with your company/brand posts on socials.
- LinkedIn posts about solving for organizational pains (that your product can solve) – for all you know, it could be more thought-leadership driven than pain driven.
Notice the difference between the two here? Declared intent provides clear buying signals while assumed intent adds your prospects to a larger journey towards turning into a buyer.
Can declared intent and assumed intent ever work in tandem?
Yes, they totally can. The signals and touchpoints mentioned in assumed intent are still great outlets for buyers to arrive at a trigger towards declared intent.
The problem is when assumed intent becomes your primary tell and ends up eating into your content efforts, SDR outreach, and your marketing-lead revenue metrics and KPIs.
Gathering pipeline from data such as content downloads and user demographics can be misleading. Here’s why.
Downsides of prioritizing assumed B2B buyer intent
- A huge chunk of your sales reps’ time ends up being focussed on cold leads who aren’t ready with a buyer intent just yet.
- You end up doing a CRM clean up to phase out low-engaging prospects from giving false pipeline projections.
- Actual high-intent leads who have explicitly declared their intent over demo requests and trial sign-ups are put on a long wait.
- Hot leads don’t hang around. They need instant gratification when their intent is at their buying intent is at its peak. Confusing assumed intent with solid declared intent will have them shop around.
- Poor allocation of budgets and the workforce just because your assumptions are generating (unqualified leads).
The solution: Make assumed intent a compass that drives prospects towards declared intent
Your buyers can come from anywhere. Any touchpoint, when you least expect. The key is to not slack off when they declare their intent with a definitive touch that brings them closer to evaluating your product.
They could be at any stage of the buyer journey:
- An interesting SDR outreach that piqued their interest.
- Your witty and fun social media game that made them an ardent follower.
- A new podcast series that solves more than sells.
- A cool LinkedIn post from a customer about your product.
- Your ads strike a chord with prospects for their creativity.
And a lot more. But the point is these are non-linear pit stops that slowly nudges them towards your solution. At some level, they deeply start resonating with your product and arrive at a trigger that helps them declare their buyer intent. That’s when your GTM set up needs to pounce.
Navigating from assumed buyer intent to declared buyer intent
Let’s discuss the different levels of assumed B2B intent that a typical buyer goes through with how we, at RevenueHero, think about mobilizing declared buyer intent.
We’re huge believers of demand generation. We agree that our content pieces shouldn’t entirely harp on product or feature callouts without providing contextual solutions to personas, organizational pain, and desired outcomes. This helps us navigate through the amber alerts of prioritizing contacts who download ebooks and whitepapers after getting them to fill up a form.
The focus is primarily about delivering value without making the prospects wait or put undue effort into getting access to important content. Sometimes, are non-conforming to notions about what a blog is supposed to look like, if the situation demands.
For instance we wrote a blog on how and why we raided LinkedIn with a competitor callout to refute one of their campaigns that carried false information about RevenueHero.
And we also shell out SEO content specific to the problems we’re trying to solve in SaaS. But not without adding our own unique voice or narrative of these topics.
Every piece of content is tightly knit with a few overarching messaging themes that allows us to interlink articles organically.
For instance, here’s a series of blogs that complement each other by sparking discussions about B2B marketing and buyer journeys:
- Thinking about B2B marketing attribution when 5 different touchpoints drove a conversion
- Optimizing B2B buying journey for buyer experience and pipeline
- Gated content: To gate or not to gate?
- SaaS buying: Triggers influencing how people buy software
- Demand gen Vs Lead gen: What drives your GTM motion?
Our marketing outreach and newsletters are again optimized for read time within the email. Not clicks and CTRs.
People opening your emails is a huge incentive by itself. Optimizing your email content just for clicks to your blog and product pages adds unnecessary friction and creates a breakdown in their buying journey.
If I’m being completely honest, I think most marketers started pushing people to the blog or website to read more because it’s easier to track and helps with the attribution conversation. (More on the topic of attribution a little later in this blog post)
Here’s Vikash, Head of Marketing at RevenueHero, making a strong case for value-driven email marketing:
Social media is the last place you should be watching out for declared intent. It’s a great outlet that primes up your potential users for YOUR awareness about their problems. And it’s a game where you set yourself apart from the competition.
For us, we want people to sink into our notion that SaaS can be fun too; that RevenueHero is a fun brand that resonates with our buyers and to the same parts, doesn’t forget what it’s here to do.
Even when we post memes, there’s a purpose behind them. They directly speak to the problems and aspirations of our ICPs to elicit a response. So it’s not just our product that pops up in the back of their minds, but also the recall value of having seen something fun, creative, and witty from a SaaS company.
Vidoes, whether they are product-oriented or problem-oriented, can feed your marketing efforts across touchpoints such as social, long-form, paid ads, and email marketing. It could be a podcast, a customer testimonial, or anything under the roof with a moving image.
(Notice how we reuse our existing videos throughout this article?)
Speaking of which, even some of our paid ads assume buyer intent based on the targeted audience. In the example below, the ad is not optimized for demo requests or product trials, but more about building trust with our potential buyers who haven’t explicitly declared their buying intent.
Tracking and attribution
In a non-linear buying journey, not just one touchpoint drives conversions. Attribution is tricky if you just look up the final touchpoint in your CRM.
At RevenueHero here’s how we understand our buyer’s journey:
- Original source: How prospects enter our CRM.
- Latest source: Our prospects’ final touch before requesting a demo.
- Compare original and latest sources to understand if there’s a match.
- Get our sales reps to ask how our prospects came to know us on the demo calls.
Based on these pointers, we look into:
a) Original Source Drill Down 1 and Latest Source Drill Down 1 from the CRM. And if there’s a match here too, the lead is attributed to that channel.
b) If the Original Source and the Latest Source are different, we look at all the touch points that led to the conversion. This signals to us that the Original Source piqued the interest of our prospect and the Latest Source convinced them to book a demo with us.
c) We use data points from sales reps from their call to understand what made prospects remember us. A lot of the times what prospects tell us on the call does not match with their journey.
This is tricky, because either the system could be wrong or the prospects may not recollect their initial interaction properly. Which is why, we attribute the campaign or channel that left a lasting impression in our prospects’ minds.
This isn’t 100% accurate all the time. In fact, no model is accurate 100% of the time. But it helps us understand our buyer’s journey and constantly course-correct strategies from the data.
Declared buyer intent does trump assumed buyer intent: But not without systems in place
Declared intent does trump assumed buyer intent given the explicit interest that prospects register. But having a broken system could cut short your buyer’s journey before they even transition from assumed to declared B2B intent.
Add diligence to your lead qualification
Whether your primary GTM motion is lead gen or demand gen driven, deploy a mechanism that automates qualifying your leads. Your sales reps lose a lot of invaluable prospecting time by qualifying leads manually.
But high-intent buyers should not be made to wait on merely getting qualified as a potential buyer. Add conditions tailored to your ICP to automate the whole process and route leads to the right sales rep or AE instantly.
Give meetings to your prospects; not “thank you” pages
If you are not helping your prospects schedule a demo or meeting right after they fill up a form, what’s the incentive for their declared buyer intent? By the time your sales get back to them, it’s been more than a day or two and they’ve either shopped around a lot or have lost interest.
If they want a meeting. Give them a meeting right there. Period.
Leverage in-app scheduling for PLG
It is understandable that you can’t talk to every user over a freemium motion. But if one of the users wants to get more out of your product, it shouldn’t be a dead end for them. Based on their usage and other product triggers, you could set up an in-app meeting widget that nudges them to talk to your product expert or implementation specialist.
Mailmodo, one of RevenueHero’s customers, have used a proactive CTA for free trial users on their Plans & Billing tab.
Since all the user info is already on their platform, all that the contact has to do is click on the “Talk to sales” button, and schedule a meeting instantly without having to add their contact info on a form.
Pro tip: If your existing customer requests a demo, you can route them to your customer success manager to help them instead of a sales rep.
Add another layer of personalization to your demo scheduling
A vanilla form won’t cut it if you want to grab the attention of your reluctant, yet qualified leads. But with the right personalization trigger, they might just be able to take the extra step to evaluate your product. Two things:
- Add an ungated demo video that quickly takes the user through what they can expect from your product before they fill in a form.
- Alternatively, you could also add a personalized video message to the demo form fill page to provide context about the demo.
Scenarios where your sales team could leverage video personalization
- Your AEs need to send follow ups whenever a prospect ghosts a meeting or just fails to show up because of commitments. In the follow up, they can record a video personalized for this context, and again, without asking them to fill up a form.
- The demo call is over. It went really well. Next, the prospect wants to talk to an implementation specialist to clarify onboarding hazards. Here, the SDR handing off the meeting to the specialist can send a follow up email with a quick rundown of context from the previous call.
- LinkedIn InMail ads are becoming a huge outlet to reach out to decision makers. Different campaigns can carry different messaging or the primary value prop in the outreach. While reaching out to them, you can record videos tailored to the specific messaging that you’ve set up for these prospects. up for these prospects.
If you know your contacts, why are they filling up a demo form again?
Whether it’s an email outreach or ABM campaign, you are targeting decision makers within a list of named accounts. Do you think it’s wise to ask them to fill up a form even though you already have that information in your CRM?? Here’s where you can leverage one-click meeting links – and save your prospects from filling up a form again.
and save your prospects from filling up a form again.
Keep declared B2B buyer intent at the center of your pipeline
This is not to say that your strategy for assumed intent needs an overhaul. But you need to build buyer journeys and GTM processes that act with a sense of urgency when that wavering interest finally turns into explicit interest with declared intent.
If you’re looking to pay better attention to your potential customers who have explicitly declared buying intent, find out how RevenueHero can help you put them at the center of your GTM motion.