Domain-Level “Intent” Can’t Be How the Buyer Journey Begins

THE EVOLUTION OF ABM CONTINUES APACE:

As a marketing stack, technological advances in ABM have enabled marketers to capture and leverage the “intent” of prospective buyers. Typically, the tech captures data from digital ad clicks/impressions and website clicks, and then reveals that information at the “domain-level” by matching IP addresses.

And while you can certainly aggregate “intent signals” yourself using two or more apps, it’s far more scalable to pay an intent provider processing billions of these digital actions to measure “domain-level intent” for you. Once you know what domains most are engaged with your content or offer, it logically follows that your marketing and sales efforts can be more successful.

Of course, while companies make purchases, the decisions leading to those purchases are made by the employees within them, and usually as buying groups. So, while knowing “domain-level” intent is a step in the right direction, it’s a fact that it reveals little (even less in a cookie-less/pixel-less world) about the individuals behind the actions. But we’ll come back to that…

The two most common applications of “domain-level” intent are:

  1. Use the domain list yourself, match personas to it to build a target audience, and then set out to conduct your ABM marketing or demand gen program, or,
  2. Provide the domain list to a reputable content syndicator to do the same on your behalf. This is usually done so greater scale can be achieved.

In either case, a known galaxy of domains is being applied to an unknown universe of prospects at those domains who we think best match our goals. Why? Again, because we don’t know who the specific humans behind that “domain-level” intent are, and so this is the next best thing. Or is it?

To me, it’s so clear that the buyer journey simply cannot begin with “domain-level” interest. It begins with an anonymous interaction with a human in that domain.

The thing is that the Internet and content marketing has empowered likely buyers to investigate a great deal about us on their own, long before they’re ready to be sold. In the process, they’re typically clicking a lot more than they are then completing forms. And, that activity is a clearer, more direct indication of early intent than any I can think of.

The problem with “just form completions” is they are harder to achieve at scale, and clicks are at a 7x multiplier to the typical form completion rate.

And, while folks who are driven to click clearly have some interest, it’s been common practice to treat their “failure” to complete a form as a disqualifier.

So, the question is, if you see the value in the click then HOW do you identify that “contact-level” intent, short of the traditional form completion?

Without form completions, we can still generate demand by identifying other forms of early engagement and leveraging them.

The shortest answer to that question is: targeted email marketing. While inbound is often given much credit, it’s the targeted outbound of email that can drive identifiable clicks, at scale.

A more complete answer is that — for clicks generated via targeted email — the sender of the email can identify those who click via a unique identifier matched to each contact in the target group. That connection can, in turn, enable the appending of historic behavior, company firmographics, and LinkedIn profiles — or whatever else they may have in their CRM/marketing automation/database.

Of course, generating clicks at scale means the application of marketing automation. Enriching some subset of those clicks until they attain buyer status should be a thoughtful endeavor where automation enables nurture, and lead scoring enables nurture to create SQLs over time. SQLs, obviously, are the closest marketing “state” to revenue realization.

In other words, without form completions, we can still generate demand by identifying other forms of early engagement and leveraging them. Frankly, without cookies and pixels, we can do that with a thinner martech stack. And the discipline to stay the course of email marketing best practices regardless of the external and internal pressures that tempt us to artificially “shorten the buyer journey”.

Our forthcoming deep dive on the state of email marketing will provide a credible roadmap for factors to consider and steps you can take while you continue to manage the evolving changes in 2021.

HIPB2B is a demand gen solution provider, utilizing content, email, and marketing automation to drive outcomes for marketing and technology clients