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How to leverage intent and engagement in the buying cycle



How to leverage intent and engagement in the buying cycle

“Buyer intent signals are a collection of indicators that tells me whether the account that I am targeting is relevant to my brand or relevant to one of my offerings,” said Hussam AlMukhtar, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing for B2B intelligence platform ZoomInfo, at our recent MarTech conference.

“Unlike first-party website engagement, intent signals are different in the sense that they are collected from third-party applications or a third-party content that I as a brand do not have access to,” he added.

Marketers can collect buyer intent data from each place they interact with customers. It can come from product reviews, message boards, blog comments, case studies, general news articles and more. Unfortunately, many marketers fail to act on this wealth of data and integrate it into their campaigns.

buyer intent signals
Source: Hussam AlMukhtar

“94% of buyers are conducting some form of online research before getting to me as a brand,” AlMukhtar said, speaking figuratively. “That’s important because my ability to close a deal could be up to 74% if I were to be the first brand to reach a decision-maker. Given the importance of this signal, marketers have been trying to understand how to use it.”

Here are three ways marketers can better understand and leverage this valuable intent data to improve the customer buying cycle.

Review your brand’s customer buying cycle

The buying (or purchase) cycle is a visualization that tracks customers as they move through the sales funnel to reach the purchasing stage. And it’s the brand’s responsibility to guide them at each touchpoint.

“These tactics and programs have a shared responsibility across all of them and individually as well,” said AlMukhtar, “which is to generate awareness for the brand and the products and offers to effectively generate intent.”

buyer cycle illustration
Source: Hussam AlMukhtar

Consumers perform a good amount of self-education before and during the buying cycle, often developing their own processes irrespective of the brand. It’s up to marketers to align their buying cycles with these processes to meet customer needs and retain leads. They need to understand where the customer is coming from.

“Our buyers are fairly tech-savvy and, more importantly, they’re privacy-conscious,” he said. “They figured out that opening an email could be tracked, that visiting a website could be tracked and attributed — they may not want that and may go around it.”


Use intent as a measurement unit

AlMukhtar described a helpful strategy he uses to measure the intent of customers within the buying cycle. By creating a table that divides customers into “intent groups,” he showed how marketers can determine each lead’s propensity to purchase: “These KPIs can be categorized into these three different units: ‘no intent,’ ‘some intent’ and ‘high intent.’ And we can use metadata that comes from these signals.”

chart detailing buyer intent measuring process
Source: Hussam AlMukhtar

It’s ultimately the marketer’s decision as to what determines intent level, but it should be based on specific actions customers take throughout the lead cycle, such as clicking a call-to-action button, downloading a white paper, etc. Once the results are categorized, marketing teams can more easily apply the intent insights to their campaign strategies.

“When I set up this table, I can then take the outcome of these units — the ‘no intent,’ ‘some intent’ and high intent’ — and apply it on top of the account-based funnel,” AlMukhtar said. “Then I can come up with an engagement matrix that allows me to start looking at what kind of campaigns can I execute for these different cohorts.”

Develop a customer engagement matrix

The engagement matrix framework builds on data gathered from the intent measurement table, mapping customer intent scores to actionable engagement steps. Each action item can be custom-built for the cohort in question based on how their intent score.

customer engagement matrix table
Source: Hussam AlMukhtar

“If I were to take the cohort of unengaged accounts with ‘no intent,’ I might want to put them into a high-speed digital program that has the objective of generating new leads, and moving an account from ‘no intent’ to ‘low intent’ or ‘high intent,’ said AlMukhtar.”

Categorizing customers in the buying cycle this way can enable marketers to transform intent insights into more effective campaign tactics.

“Lining up the intent metrics across your account funnels helps marketers understand where they can maximize spend efficiency and where they can allocate their dollars,” he said.

About The Author

Corey Patterson is an Editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC to help marketers improve their campaigns.

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Marketing automation teams mired in execution, neglecting strategic priorities



Marketing automation teams mired in execution, neglecting strategic priorities

A recent study of senior Marketo managers reveals their marketing automation teams are small, highly productive and focus predominantly on executing campaigns. 

Nearly 75% of respondents said they execute more than 30 campaigns in a year, and 74% said they manage a team of 0-3 employees. 

The focus on executing campaigns means strategic priorities, like having and measuring impact, are at risk of being neglected, according to the study.

Execution-oriented tasks that get daily attention are:

  • Building programs, campaign execution
  • Platform administration
  • Delivering leads/accounts/MQLs to sales
  • Putting out fires
  • Data management

The focus on execution leaves little time for strategic priorities. Respondents said these were undertaken less than quarterly:

  • Developing dynamic content; personalization
  • Proving and improving campaign impact
  • Scoring program management

“It’s unclear whether marketing operations (managers) are conscious of this bandwidth issue since most report being satisfied with the time required to build basic email programs (75% were satisfied or extremely satisfied) and nurture programs (52% were satisfied or extremely satisfied). Perhaps we are all blind to the time that eats up when scaled up over the course of a year and how that eats into bandwidth needed to look at big picture issues like measuring impact,” the report concludes. 

Top challenges: Measuring campaign effectiveness, finding talent

Measuring the effectiveness of campaigns and “resourcing” talent are the top operational challenges for Marketo managers, according to the study.  

More than half said measuring the impact of campaigns was their top challenge, but only one-in-three respondents said they’ve invested in an attribution platform. Only 32% of those who don’t have an attribution platform plan to add one. 

Read next: 16 marketing automation platforms your organization should consider


The report concludes: “Despite impact measurement being an issue, only a minority of respondents have an attribution tool. Of course, that’s just part of the picture, since tools need to be leveraged properly to  get the desired outcome. And looking at some of the other top challenges, “alignment to goals and strategies” and “lack of communication and collaboration,” it stands to reason that adoption of a tool alone is not the solution.” 

Hiring and training are also areas of concern, but not equal focus, for Marketo managers. 

Nearly two-thirds of respondents anticipate they will hire in the next 12 months, but only 21% of respondents considered “maintaining talent audits and capacity needs” a primary responsibility.  

Three-in-four respondents said that their teams lack the appropriate level of training. 

Download the full report, Marketo Experts: Their Goals, Challenges, and Strategies. (Free to download. No personal information required.)

Survey methodology

In January and February of 2022, 207 Marketo users responded to the survey. 

  • 81% of respondents were Marketo administrators
  • 88% are Marketo Certified Experts or Marketo Certified Solutions Architect 

The margin of error is 5.2%, according to Survey Monkey’s Sample Size Calculator.

The study was conducted by marketing operations agency Perkuto. Adobe solicited responses from Marketo users through its community channels. 

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Vivien is Associate Director of Demand Generation at MERGE. She is a digital marketer who specializes in the B2B martech and agency spaces. Her expertise spans from positioning, to product marketing, and content strategy. Vivien holds a law degree from McGill University and a bachelor of fine arts in design.


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