Customer Intent: Meeting People Where They Are

February 27, 2019

You may have heard of marketing intent. What does it mean? Think about the sales funnel, going from awareness to consideration to decision to, if you’re doing your job right, brand champion. Intent combines that sales funnel with understanding what the potential buyer’s intent is at that time and meeting them there.

Although the concept is simple, execution can take some planning. Take a tactic found in traditional digital marketing (odd thinking that there IS traditional in such a new field) called remarketing, for example. We’ve all seen this. You visit an online store and click on a pair of shoes. You then navigate to another site and an ad for those shoes you looked at shows up. For the next few days, ads for those shoes are everywhere! This is a typical intent chain for digital marketing. Clicking on a product signals intent to buy, so follow you around with ads for the product until you buy or the budget for that remarketing spend is used up.

Let’s look at this logically. You clicked on the shoes, but then navigated away. The shoes did not meet some criteria for you to buy them. Assuming purchase intent by monitoring clicks is a huge assumption. The business has spent marketing dollars on a remarketing. At best, you click on one of those ads and buy the shoes. At worst, the business has just annoyed a potential customer by following you around with ads. Full disclosure: 99% of the time, as a consumer, I’m in that second annoyed group of buyers.

What if, instead, that company used those remarketing dollars to serve you with more relevant content to help make the best choice? If you clicked on a pair of heels, but didn’t buy, and later saw an ad for an article on the ten best brands for comfortable heels, how much more likely would you be to click on that? What if you found the shoes you originally clicked on didn’t have your size, but later you saw an article for shoes brands that come in a wide range of sizes. Would you be more likely to click on that over an ad for shoes you’ve already looked at?

By serving more relevant content, the company is meeting you where you are in the buyer journey, which has circled back to consideration. Today’s buyer funnel isn’t a straight line and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Adding links within those articles and “shoes to consider” at the end of the article is perfectly valid. After all, the company is still looking to sell shoes to you.

The above example is a direct and narrow example. I use this example because we’ve all purchased shoes. How does this work in a larger brand strategy within a B to B model or a more service-oriented business like solar?

Map buyer journey

First off, has your company mapped your customer journey? We’ll be talking about this more in future posts, but if you’d like to get a quick download of a suggested process along with some visual templates, check out this post on Hubspot. Understanding your customer journey helps you to review your assets and understand what you already have in the form of content to help potential customers make the best choice. Review assets and give them a location within the buyer journey process. Over time, you’ll be able to fill in the holes along the buyer journey with new content.

Ensure you understand your brand voice and core values

Now what? Here’s where we truly get into intent and brand strategy plays a huge role in the next step. Do you understand your brand voice? Formal? Informal? Young and acronym filled? Quirky? Technical? How about your brand position? What core values drive your brand? That’s a lot of big questions for a short paragraph. By understanding these key values, the next step is easier.

Map assets to a specific stage of the buyer journey

The next step is to combine the customer journey with the assets you have/new assets you’ll create and your brand voice and values. All assets should carry your voice and values, as well as your visual branding – a subject for another post. Decide where and how each asset will create the most value for your potential customers and target it to that audience.

Is the asset an awareness piece? Maybe a do’s and don’ts of going solar infographic. Is the asset a brand champion piece? Information on your awesome referral program, perhaps. If you’re unsure of where a piece fits along the customer journey, set it aside to evaluate separately. The piece may need work to clarify what the goals of the piece are, or it may need to be retired because it no longer fits into your strategy. That’s okay.

Pair intent of marketing channel to asset intent

The final step in meeting potential customers where they are is to evaluate HOW they will receive this information and make sure their intent and the asset’s intent align. For example, sharing a white paper on Instagram may not get a lot of traction because most people don’t use Instagram to do detailed research.

Here is a quick visual of how we might begin mapping assets and potential assets to work with buyer intent and channel intent. Your “channels” might look very different. You might have a lot of landing pages and no YouTube channel to speak of. Or you might be on LinkedIn, but not Facebook. This is just an example. You will also likely have more than one content piece for each channel in each journey stage.

We have created a downloadable PDF showing a matrix to use when assigning your assets to focus on buyer intent. Use it, a spreadsheet, or a wall with post-its to track and evaluate your assets.

Once you’ve mapped your assets, you’ll be able to see where you have holes in the journey, AND more importantly, ensure each asset is used most effectively, finding your potential customers when they most need to hear what you have to say.

Want help defining your customer journey and intent plan?