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What’s the difference between intent and B2B engagement marketing data?

Posted June 10, 2024
Misha Salkinder, Head of Customer Data Strategy at CaliberMind, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Misha shares a concise summary of the difference between engagement and intent and how to think about incorporating them into your marketing strategy.

Misha Salkinder, Head of Customer Data Strategy at CaliberMind, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Misha shares a concise summary of the difference between engagement and intent and how to think about incorporating them into your marketing strategy.

Today we will be talking about how to use intent and engagement. But before we even go there, I think it is easy to conflate the two. If you could please give us a bit of an overview of each and how they differ, that would be awesome.

“Sure! I would put a differentiation between first-party and third-party sources. There could be some more nuances to it, but at a high level, I think of it this way: when things happen with your campaigns on your website and digital platforms and your trade shows. I would consider all of those to be first-party data. Typically, much of that data gets recorded, gets passed on to a CRM, or exists in a marketing automation platform. 

“Then third-party data or what I would consider intent is data that exists concerning the subject matter where your company operates, but doesn’t necessarily involve interactions with your brand, your specific brand. In the context of CaliberMind, we can think of someone searching for attribution on Google broadly or somebody viewing attribution vendors on G-2 or funnel or marketing analytics vendors. I would consider those to be intent data points that are still useful to gauge on. Certain organizations are interested in my solution, but they might  not be interested in us just yet.”

I can totally see why it gets confusing because intent as a product is exactly third-party data, across different sources showing signals that may indicate they’re in the market. Whereas in marketing, intent is really the buyer’s intent to buy. Higher intent signals can exist on your own website. However, if we’re talking about intent and engagement, yes, very much first-party, third-party, yes. How should we use them? It’s a loaded question and you can go anywhere with it.

“Yeah. I think I remember when we chatted last week and I mentioned marketing models. The more time I spend on this, the more I think that what we at CaliberMind do here is much less, for example, it is much less of building this model vs. that model, it is the creation of the data itself. Then the models are different flavors of leading marketing questions that can help you make better decisions.

“Why do I say this? Ultimately both intent and engagement signals can and should appear on a timeline, on a unified timeframe of activities, if you can get your hands on that data. Now similar types of models can distinguish an organization’s level of, I’m going to use the word engagement, but I’ll apply it to both levels of engagement, with either the subject matter on your brand. You can say that ACME CO is showing higher levels of first-party engagement with my brand then, let’s say a different organization.

You can have this same type of logic that says that ACME CO is showing a higher level of third-party engagement than another organization. 

“To simplify things at a high level, I would think of third-party engagement happening earlier. We might speak as to why that may not be the case, but I can think of third-party engagement happening higher up on the funnel. If we think of a marketing funnel, there might be more unknown events or even have a stage for third-party engagement where that would happen. 

“Your goal as a marketer would be to get the attention of organizations that are showing high intent in my category to move them to first-party engagement? Once they are there and they’re showing some signs, it is a matter of how I can help move them through the marketing funnel. Perhaps engaging, interacting with a deeper level of content, whether it’s content on the website or subsequent events, webinars or maybe even demos.”

Lots of thoughts going on. I like what Misha said about how there isn’t really one model or one way to look at things since I think what’s important to take away from this is that context is everything. I think it’s important to remind marketers that you can’t obsess over a single point or interaction in time. For instance, if someone is spending a lot of time on your product pages, that’s great, but are they also spending a ton of time on your career pages? They might be job hunting.

When you start to layer in things like segmentation and looking at multiple interactions, that gets very interesting. When people want to optimize for something, I think Misha was smart in saying, I want to take people who are active in the third-party signals and try to move them towards first-party. What I immediately thought of is when people are trying to optimize for pipeline or bookings, you either need to layer some kind of segment information within your own first-party data or somehow combine attribution engagement and intent to figure out what’s actually working.

“You can envision a grid where you have first-party and third-party data. Let’s say it is a four-square grid, low or high for both. Well, you might have motions. I mean the low, low is really high-end, perhaps content motion, like a brand awareness type of motion, maybe even a step back from brand awareness, perhaps a topic awareness. If you’re thinking about CaliberMind, perhaps it’s general content around attribution without even mentioning how CaliberMind differs.

“Then, you’ve got the high intent, low engagement. You may have certain motions, campaigns that you run to those that will be very different than those that are aware of your brand, but don’t seem to be educated about the topic at large. Then the last quadrant would be, of course, those that perhaps, you hope, are in a positive sales motion with your organization, where they’re showing both high first-party and third-party intent. So you can almost bring in a bit of a funnel methodology to this by thinking of these quadrants.”

I think the way we can relate this to marketers in a more tangible way is if you think about your website, you have different pieces of content like Misha said, tailored towards different parts of the funnel. If you are using that first-party engagement data, you should think of prioritizing that data the same way that you thought about it when you first created it. I’m working with Air Fleet and they were talking about optimizing for bottom-of-funnel keywords and I said, excuse me, I didn’t know you would do that. Then, I thought about it and said, well, duh, I have been doing this for a long time without even thinking about it. You have your product pages, your solution pages, your comparison pages, and all that good stuff. It’s something we do all the time and don’t think about it. If people hear this conversation and think wow! This is complex, not really. It doesn’t need to be.

“No, I don’t think so either. I think there’s plenty that one model can learn from the other. I think Camela brought up a great example. Let’s say we’re thinking of solution pages. The reason it might be useful for you to know and understand both intent signals and first-party signals is sure, you want to understand what behavior looks like on your product pages. Are your product page visits even contributing to subsequently closed deals? However, there’s a play potentially where you say, well, how can I make my product pages better? And you might want to actually visit and see what intent looks like. What are the organizations that are showing first-party signals? And what are the intent signals? Perhaps you might want to use those intent signals to incorporate into your solution pages themselves. Very interesting how those two seem like you’re two different universes, but to my earlier point, more and more that data converges.”

For me, for sure. As I said, product pages, the person’s also on the career page, maybe not so much, but if they’re also on G-2, that’s amazing! Possibly context is everything, which absolutely is a great segue for our next conversation. 

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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