If you’re a managed service provider prioritizing sales and marketing efforts, you might be familiar with the opportunities afforded by intent data, which Marketo defines as "behavioral information collected about an individual’s online activities, combining both topic and context data." Such data allows you to cultivate the strong competitive edge necessary to cut through the noise, more successfully engage prospects and therefore maximize revenue.
In the old days, we used to rely on customer demographics to determine selling tactics, betting all our chips on rudimentary details like company size, vertical, location and contact title, department and so on. Today, however, we have access to much better intelligence about not only about who customers are, but the holy grail of who is actively looking, right now, for exactly what you have to offer.
Even though intent data represents an advanced approach to sales and marketing, it’s important to understand that not all intent data is created equal. While both anonymous and known first-party behavioral data can be useful, it’s third-party data that is a game-changer for maximizing your sales opportunities as an MSP. Third-party intent data fills in key knowledge gaps. For example, intent data vendor Bombora has created a data cooperative of premium B2B media companies that delivers rich, granular data for very specific use cases throughout the sales and marketing funnel. This means that you can zero in with a laser focus on prospects who are actually looking to implement, for example, IT as a service, IT outsourcing, virtual desktops and DaaS, or become a successful cloud-first service provider. This is the context you need to better understand who, how, when and where to engage your customers as they move through the buyer’s journey, to maximize sales opportunities.
Here are a few examples of how you can leverage this type of intent data to supercharge your efforts.
1. Better Personalization: One of the beauties of being an MSP is that your services are malleable. MSPs are able to evolve and grow their offerings to adapt to the needs and demands of their customers and the market. This natural adaptability can sometimes work against you, however. Unless you arm yourself with the right knowledge about the real needs of your customers, you can lose focus on exactly what you should be communicating to which prospects.
Intent data allows you to lean in to your adaptable nature and hyperpersonalize your marketing and outreach efforts to target real, specific needs. It empowers you to shift your efforts away from, "Here are all the things I can do," to, "Here's how I can solve your problem." Intent data puts you in the position to both personalize and automate the delivery of targeted content so that you’re offering apples to apple pickers and oranges to orange pickers, and not just throwing fruit in all directions.
2. Better Leads and Lead Prioritization: With intent data, you can hit the lead jackpot. Not only can you better prioritize and segment inbound leads based on actionable engagement data, you also generate better-quality new leads.
It’s no secret that the traditional approach to lead scoring – which uses just your own content – can have serious limitations. Just because a user has consumed a certain amount of content on your website doesn’t necessarily mean she's interested in actually paying for your services. The more useful thing to know is what content is being consumed on other sites, as well as by other users from the same company. This kind of information offers a far better indicator of the extent of pre-purchase research being done, and in turn acts as a better predictor of whether an actual purchase decision is being made. By better understanding the digital behaviors of relevant groups of users across all channels, you’re armed with evidence that might indicate intent to purchase and won’t waste time and money courting users that aren't interested in your apples, or your oranges.
3. Better Lead Nurturing: Without contextual insight into prospective customers, lead nurturing can be an uphill battle in the dark, even if you’re past the early days of a relationship. Instead of blindly groping your way through the nurturing process, you can apply intent data to keep the conversation with prospects fresh and interesting, and serve the right kinds of content to move them along the sales path in a thoughtful way. This will make you far more likely to convert a prospect, because you’re serving the right message at the right time.
For instance, you don’t want to feed decision-stage content on, say, desktop virtualization services when your prospect is still in the information-gathering stage; they’ll likely be turned off. Similarly, you can’t collect business cards at an industry event or a trade show and then expect to hook people without better information about exactly which kinds of services they’re interested in, or where they are in the decision-making process to purchase.
4. Smarter Resource Allocation: As an MSP, your core focus is on the services you provide to your customers; thus, the amount of resources you can allocate towards sales and marketing efforts might be limited. Intent data can give you more bang for your buck by allowing you to make the most of your efforts, no matter how limited. You can also stop expensive but low-ROI activities, such as old-school physical mailers. Instead, use intent-data information as knowledge.
For example, are your top prospects voraciously consuming white papers or blogs about IT outsourcing? Time to create more of these kinds of materials. Are they abandoning your website before signing up to learn more about your advanced cloud services? Maybe you’ll re-think how relevant information is presented on your homepage. Are they searching for more information about your competitors, but not about you? It’s possible your branding strategy needs work. Intent data can help you evaluate the resources you have on hand, and then inform how to use them to best drive your sales and marketing efforts. This way, you don’t pour precious resources into activities that don’t serve you or your prospective customers.
5. Speed: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when you’re armed with intent data, you get to get in early, during the crucial 60 percent of the buyer journey that happens before a prospect ever gets in touch with a salesperson. It might sound extreme, but think about it this way: Purchasing decisions are strongly influenced long before users even stumble upon your website. When someone is in need of managed services, they’ve likely already done a good amount of research, investigated social media and gleaned other supporting materials online. By integrating this behavioral data into your own marketing and sales efforts, you’re already in a much better position to stay laser-focused on what’s relevant to the buyer. Since you’re able to zero in immediately on the needle in the haystack, you don’t have to wait for anyone to reach out to you, or worse yet, your competition — you can reach out to these high-value prospects early, and successfully.
At the heart of intent data is that age-old concept: Actions speak louder than words. Put in a more nuanced way: What your customer is doing online matters far more than just who he or she is on paper. As the competition only continues to ramp up in the managed-services space, you can’t afford to neglect your sales and marketing strategy. Supercharge your efforts with truly actionable intent data to gain X-ray vision into the customer journey, and you’ll be sure to drive bigger, better sales and rise above your competition.
James Sivis is VP of Marketing at Nerdio. He started his tech career at the renowned company, Bellcore. From there he moved on to Alcatel, working out of beautiful Paris in high-level business development, including on international JVs in Russia and China, while sitting on $7 billion group-level marketing and M&A boards. James has since moved on to broader roles leading departments and organizations, helping companies growing their businesses domestically, regionally and globally.