StrategyEmailWhy domain-level “intent” can mislead the buyer journey analysis

Why domain-level “intent” can mislead the buyer journey analysis

There is room for better lead capturing as ABM evolves in a cookieless world 

30-second summary:

  • Relying solely on domain-level intent is potentially a flawed method
  • How can businesses go beyond domain-level intent and actually uncover the decision-making individual’s intent?
  • With a fast-approaching, cookieless future ABM needs to move beyond lead qualification based on form fills and start exploring more avenues that are intent rich

As a marketing stack, technological advances in account-based marketing (ABM) have enabled marketers to capture and apply 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 identify the most engaged domains with your content or offer, it logically signals 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 fails to uncover the decision maker’s intent. This relevance will further drop in a cookieless/pixel-less world. But we’ll come back to that in a bit.

The current state of domain-level intent analysis and lead qualification

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 that we consider 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 at 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 make a purchase. In the process, they’re typically clicking a lot more than they are rather than completing forms. And, that activity is a clearer, more direct indication of early intent.

The problem with “just form completions” is they are harder to achieve at scale. Why? Because lead generation forms have an average conversion rate of 21.5 percent and typically have 11 fields. This means that clicks are disproportionate to form filling. 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?

The answers

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.

Finding the missing piece of the puzzle

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 marketing technology 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 to help you manage through the changes of 2021.


Bret Smith is CEO and Founder of HIPB2B. Bret is a Demand Gen, Content Marketing, and ABM expert. He can be found on Twitter @bretsmith_HIP.

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