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The Right (and Wrong) Way to Roll Out Intent

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Mike Burton, Co-Founder & SVP of Sales Data at Bombora, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Mike shares best practices for incorporating intent into your go-to-market strategy and innovative use cases for intent data.

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Mike Burton

Based in New York, Mike Burton is the Co-Founder and SVP of Sales Data of Bombora.

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Define Your Use Case

When we asked Mike Burton to define intent, he said, "The goal of intent data is to understand a prospect company's research behavior so that it can signal interest to your internal users of intent data. Intent shows when a company might be interested in buying your product."

Intent is a powerful data source for those looking to improve go-to-market efficiency, but only if we understand what we want to use intent for and can narrow down our data points to actions that correlate with our goal (won opportunities or pipeline generated or meetings set - each will have different actions associated).

"An inside salesperson might be looking for a very specific, strong signal, whereas a marketer might have an appetite for more scale and potentially nuanced signals. Intent data on its face is vast. You have to curate it for your use case and certainly for your products and services."

Mike recommends that people first familiarize themselves with two common use cases and select one of them to start with.

"We reduce it down to two different ways to think about intent: either bottom-up or top-down.

Keep it simple

"Bottom-up would be using intent data for outbound sales prioritization. Once I prove efficacy and prove to my organization that this data is meaningful, then the use cases tend to expand up the funnel. Next, we might look at using intent to optimize marketing automation and customize nurture paths or lead scoring.

"And then certainly some organizations start by prioritizing marketing automation and move to sales later."

If you start with sales data, Mike recommends keeping the model as simple as possible.

"When the data is hard to explain, people trust it less. If you can start small, build some wins, and the data is reduced down to a point that it's not confusing and it's actionable, that puts you in a much better position to succeed."

Start Small

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Trust between sales and marketing is everything.

If you're rolling out a new tool for sales, get them involved in the buying process. Ask for their feedback before you finalize your data model, and share the data with a few people so you can refine it and identify wins before you roll it out to everyone.

"It's funny how much the success of intent comes down to the relationship or psychology between sales and marketing. At organizations where the marketing function manages the inside sales function, you don't have to worry about buy-in because the marketing team has a one-to-one relationship with inside sales. The SDRs or BDRs take their playbook directly from marketing. But when the sales team is either a sales-managed SDR function or the AEs themselves are doing a lot of outbound, it's advisable to be more thoughtful about how you roll it out.

"Where we've seen success is with marketing teams that find a couple of sales partners. That could be one sales manager. It could be just two or three individual contributors or two or three SDRs that seem forward-leaning and are game for experimentation. Prove the wins in a smaller setting, get some meetings or opportunities on the board, and use those wins as a way to roll out intent more broadly.

get sales buy in incrementally

"The opposite would be just to put the data in everyone's hands, do one enablement session on what it is and what it means, and then walk away. When marketing checks back two months later, nearly always sales says, 'We're not using it.'"

As we said earlier, the other key to sales adoption is keeping the data model simple.

"If an inside salesperson sees a bunch of topics and scores, they'll ask what it means. It opens up Pandora's box. You'll have to explain the data and exactly what it means before they feel comfortable using it. Start small.”

Then Get Creative

"Once you've had success in sales, it becomes really easy to start using the data in all of these creative ways up the funnel."

At CaliberMind, we've seen some of these use cases in play. For example, we use G2 Intent data to help us cater our nurture programs and refine paid social advertising. The sales team uses G2 Intent data differently and will act on very specific buying signals. We've even incorporated it into our MQA and MQL scoring models and attribution to help prove ROI.

Mike has seen a variety of creative uses of intent.

"We're starting to work with customers to assess their pipeline. Using intent data as an overlay to their pipeline can help them understand deal health. If a company isn't proactively researching its solution, that may be a red flag. Intent data can also inform campaign messaging or campaign planning earlier in the funnel. For example, they may look at intent on a quarterly or biannual basis to understand what campaigns they should be running and what content they should create.

think outside of the box

"If you don't establish the wins with sales first and have the whole organization high-fiving around how awesome the data is, it's tough to dedicate resources to realize the full potential of intent data."

When sales struggles to make much out of the data or people push back on broadening your investment, rethink your approach. Using analytics (like we do at CaliberMind) to assess which intent events are most closely associated with a closed-won opportunity can help you get more ROI out of intent faster.


For more on how internet security changes are impacting intent and details around creative intent use cases, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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