Intent-Driven Marketing: How to Put Your Customer at the Center of Your Decision Making

Put your customers at the heart of every decision. Read more to discover intent-based marketing’s impact.

For too long, digital marketers have defined customer intent in context of someone’s search behavior. And with Google processing 8.5 billion searches a day, who can blame marketers for thinking this way? This focus has served smart search marketers and content creators well. But marketers need to understand intent in context of the entire customer journey, including and beyond search. Failing to do so results in a disjointed customer experience. It’s time for marketers to understand intent-based marketing more broadly to put the customer at the center of their decision making.  

Customer Intent: A Traditional Definition 

In the world of digital marketing, customer intent, also known as search intent, is typically defined as the purpose of a customer when searching for queries. Those intent classifications include: 

Informational: a customer seeks to learn more or find general information. 
Navigational: a customer looking for information from a specific place/location. 
Commercia: a customer is interested in potentially buying something and wants more information. 
Transactional: a customer is ready to purchase something. 

The Pitfalls of the Traditional Search Interest Definition 

The above definition is common in SEO and content-marketing communities. However, it narrows our scope of view as marketers. As a result, brands make marketing decisions without the customer’s intent in mind, leaving a disjointed customer experience. What are some examples? 

Trying to rank commercial product or services pages on search engine results pages when a customer wants informational content 
Conquesting a competitor’s brand terms without addressing the difference between your brand and theirs 
Emailing an unsegmented customer list 
Making user experience decisions without A/B testing 
Determining unique selling points without surveying real customers 

Let’s take a step back and reconsider how we define customer intent. 

How Customer Intent Should Be Defined 

Customer intent should be defined as the purpose or motivation that drives any interaction with a brand. This definition allows us to put the customer’s intentions at the center of all touchpoints.  

By doing so, we can classify intent in numerous ways, allowing us to get more creative with our strategy. In addition to informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional, customer intent might include: 

Local: the customer is interested in finding products and/or services nearby or in a particular location. 
Social: the customer wants to connect with groups of people whether that be online or in-person. 
Comparative: the customer is seeking to understand the difference between two subjects, products, or products. 
Entertainment: the customer is hoping to interact with interesting and engaging content whether that be copywriting, games, audio, or video. 
Activity: the customer needs interactive content with a goal in mind, like quizzes or calculators for example. 
Educational: the customer is looking for information to gain some type of knowledge around a particular topic. This type of intent could present itself in many ways, whether it is the subject which they are looking to understand more, they’re trying to learn more about a particular type of product or service. 
Advice or help: the customer is looking for an answer to their question and/or problem. This intent may be personal such as advice on dealing with anxiety or more tactical like needing help to repair their dishwasher. 
Personalization: the customer wants content tailored to their wants and needs, rather than generic information or recommendations that apply to larger groups of people. 

How might we discover a customer’s intent and how can we use it to inform our digital strategies? 

The answer is simple, ask them! But . . . how? 

Learning More about Your Customer’s Intent 

These days, there are more tools than ever to uncover customer intent. Anyone who says they don’t know how to ask a customer what they want isn’t trying hard enough.  

Here are 10 ways you can gather more intel into your customer’s intent: 

Send surveys via email or SMS 
Enable abandoned cart surveys 
Run exit-intent surveys 
Create a preference center for customers with valuable fields 
Reward customers for completing their profiles within their preference center 
Use audience paneling to survey people that fit your target customer 
Use heatmapping to understand page-level interactions like scroll depth, navigational paths, or frustration clicks 
Scrape customer reviews and testimonials for unmet needs 
Analyze behavioral data like Google Analytics to help define customer journey mapping 
Inspect search result pages to see what type of content and results are being shown to the searcher dependent of their query (Hey, I didn’t say search interest analysis was wrong! It’s just not the only approach to intent marketing) 

Once you understand your customer’s intent, map their need states to the customer journey stages. With a better understanding of intent at each stage of the funnel, you can identify gaps in your marketing strategy to serve the most relevant content and experience to your target audience. 

Benefits of Intent-Driven Marketing 

Intent-driven marketing is valuable because it delivers results! Benefits include:  

Increased conversion rates: By targeting customers who are already interested in their products or services, businesses can expect to see higher conversion rates. This is because the marketing messages are reaching individuals who are already in the buying cycle. 
Improved customer engagement: Intent-driven marketing allows businesses to deliver more relevant content and messaging to their customers, which can lead to improved engagement and loyalty. 
Reduced marketing costs: By targeting their marketing efforts more effectively, businesses can reduce the amount of money they spend on marketing campaigns. 
Reduced waste: Traditional marketing strategies often involve broad targeting, which can lead to wasted resources on individuals who are not interested in the product or service. Intent-based marketing, on the other hand, focuses on individuals with a demonstrated interest, reducing the waste of marketing resources. 
Scalability: As businesses gather more data and refine their intent-based marketing strategies, they can scale their marketing efforts to reach a larger audience without a proportional increase in marketing costs. 
Competitive advantage: By leveraging intent data, businesses can gain a competitive edge in the market. They can identify opportunities faster and respond to market changes more swiftly. 

Bottom line: intent-driven marketing is more powerful marketing. 

Getting Started 

It can be intimidating reading advice and not knowing what the next steps are. Well, here are a few ideas to get you started on your way! 

Here are some tips on how to get started with intent-driven marketing: 

Define your ideal customer profile. Who are you trying to reach with your marketing messages? What are their needs and pain points? Once you have a good understanding of your profile, you can start to identify the types of content and messaging that will be most relevant to them. 
Gather intent data. Please see the section above. 
Create relevant content and messaging. Your ad creative, content, and messaging should be tailored to the specific needs and interests of your target audience. Be sure to address their pain points and offer solutions to their problems. 
Use marketing automation to deliver personalized messages. Marketing automation platforms allow you to deliver targeted messages to your customers based on their behavior and interests. Doing so can help you to nurture leads and convert them into customers more effectively. 
Similarly, segment your paid media campaigns to serve the right content at the right time of their journey.  

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