What Is Intent Data and How Do You Use It for Your Business?

intent data

Many people narrowly define direct marketing as direct mail, email or DRTV. The truth of the matter is that direct marketing is, as Jessie Kernan, EVP applied data and strategy at RAPP, says, “the focus on individual consumers and using data effectively to know who they are and what they may want.”

Direct marketing has always been data-driven, consumer focused marketing, because the goal was to develop a one-to-one relationship with interested consumers. And while direct marketing is still about building a one-to-one relationship, it has become a conversation between individuals and organizations. Communication now goes two ways, and it’s up to marketers to listen carefully to what consumers want and expect.

The Direct Marketing Conversation

Direct marketing has always been data-driven, consumer focused marketing, because the goal was to develop a one-to-one relationship with interested consumers. And while direct marketing is still about building a one-to-one relationship, it has become a conversation between individuals and organizations. Communication now goes two ways, and it’s up to marketers to listen carefully to what consumers want and expect.

The most challenging aspect of direct marketing is accumulating enough of the right data to ensure a valuable conversation between individuals and organizations. Fortunately, collecting data for direct marketing has never been easier. However, understanding what data is important to reach your audience, when and where they are in their buyer’s journey, remains a significant challenge.

Intent Paves the Way for Direct Marketing

Typically, retargeting website visitors has taken place in the digital space. While it’s always a good idea to entice a potential customer who may have been on the verge of purchase with a digital display ad, even the most optimistic marketer knows that these everyday means of retargeting are easily ignored. Even if an individual has an interest in the product, he or she is so well-trained in ignoring or blocking online advertisements that the message is all too often lost.

But necessity is the mother of invention. An emerging technology known as direct mail retargeting enables companies to issue retargeted marketing using postcards that are delivered through traditional mail. By using direct mail retargeting, companies can engage in the same retargeting efforts they’ve employed online, but through a medium that generates a significantly higher response rate and can help develop that one-on-one conversation. Not only will your postcards reach your customers in a unique way, but by adopting this technology before your competitors, you’ll stand alone in your industry as a forward-thinking, customer-focused organization. 

The best part about direct mail retargeting is that it’s not a return to sending out “junk” mail. It’s a revolutionary medium that incorporates the data-driven mindset that segments customers into logical groups instead of relying on email blasts and basic demographics. Direct mail retargeting is a great way to incorporate direct mail into the marketing strategies you’re already executing, giving you the best of both worlds.

Online to Offline

It was once accepted that personalized online marketing could only occur if an individual signed up for a company’s email list. However, technology has changed the landscape, enabling businesses to individually market to people based solely on their website visits.

The translation of an online identity to a physical address, also called web-powered direct mail, can be done in several ways. It’s possible to obtain an individual’s physical address using their IP address, cookies, or previously collected data from your CRM system. Using this method provides further insight into how often someone visits a company’s site and what they are looking at, giving them a true indication of how interested this person is in hearing from them, and what they are interested in hearing about.

Taking this type of interaction offline is a great idea for two reasons. First, using web-powered direct mail to reach those who can’t be reached by email will yield a far greater response rate than online marketing. Second, using web-powered direct mail is likely to be perceived as more valuable to the consumer than emailing them about it right away. The value lies in providing the individual with a message, offer or promotion for a product or service they have already expressed interest in through a medium that isn’t easily overlooked or ignored.

Both email and digital display play an effective role in marketing, but no one goes online to look for digital display ads, and very few people check their email just to see what new marketing email pops up (well...occasionally a pizza coupon doesn’t go amiss). The point is, when a person is online, they’re looking for something, and the ads and marketing are at best background noise, at worst a disruptive, distraction from their purpose.

Direct mail, like postcards or catalogs, though, enter the home, and when your audience does choose to read them, their entire focus is on that marketing message. Their purpose is to read and evaluate that piece of mail. That undivided attention makes web-powered direct mail highly effective, and also means that providing the individual a highly personalized piece is necessary to hold that attention and prompt them to take the next step.

Matching Browsers across Devices

In today’s Omni channel world, marketers reach out to customers via a variety of media, and consumers interact with companies across many different devices. It’s up to businesses to not only keep track of these various marketing channels, but to match up the activity of consumers across all devices.

This is a major challenge for many businesses. On one hand, cross-device attribution is a major undertaking that requires advanced technology solutions, but the bigger benefit to identifying users across multiple devices is in knowing that the person who visited your site while on different devices is a much better prospect for your marketing efforts. Learning to identify consumers across multiple marketing platforms virtually guarantees that you’ll have a leg up on the competition. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the company that finds a way to master cross-device identification.

The more you know about a consumer, the easier it is to identify their desires and pain points and create individualized marketing materials. Combining this knowledge and customization, with the ability to create exclusive offers or promotions on the individual level, and leveraging the higher response rate of direct marketing, makes this strategy a must for any company that wants to take their marketing to a more sophisticated level.

This type of data used to create personalized experiences with your customers is called intent data.

What is Intent Data?

Data is the language of marketing. If you’re not listening to the story told by consumer data, you’re missing out on key pieces to the puzzle that can help you reach more customers more effectively. The most important type of data today is intent data — specific actions that can clue you into what a consumer is really thinking.

Just as Google can zero in on your intent as it learns about your motivations, you can and should do the same with your consumer data. For our purposes, intent data is anything that hints at the purpose behind a consumer visit to your website. These clues can vary from site to site, from industry to industry. 

What Makes Buyer Intent Data More Valuable Than Other Data?

Personalization. The ability to create a more personalized customer experience that buyer intent data provides marketers is the key differentiator from other types of data such as demographic, geographic and transaction. Identifying consumers is the first step in the digital to print revolution. But once you have the information you need, it’s up to you to deliver a quality presentation that entices people to make a purchase.

How to Use Intent Data for Your Business

There are two different ways to personalize a web-powered direct mail piece. The first is when you have an existing mail piece and you need to find the right audience to send it to.  For example, if you sell golf equipment and attire, your main audience is surely golf enthusiasts. You have an existing mailer to promote your annual sale on golf attire. By analyzing your website traffic, you can see which users in particular are browsing golf attire, how often they’ve visited, how many product pages they’ve viewed and so on. With this data, you can further personalize the mailer. If you’re sending a postcard, you can personalize with the location of the nearest store. If you’re sending a catalog, you can use a cover that features a particular product group the individual has shown the most interest in, like new golf shoes. By matching current interest with an existing mailer, you’ll be reaching the prospects who are most likely to purchase.

The other way to personalize via web-powered direct mail is to go the opposite way — in other words, to look at the individual or audience segment and then create the perfect mail piece that will motivate them to buy. Using the golf equipment website example, you can send highly individualized postcards that feature the product group the individual is interested in, the nearest store location or even a special offer tailor made for their browsing behavior. Again, this is much easier when you have all of the pertinent information at your disposal. As always, your mailer should be directed at the desires and/or pain points of this segment, while simultaneously providing a solution as well as a way for recipients to act now.

Identifying Early Opportunities

Some signs of consumer intent are more obvious than others. A visitor placing an item in their shopping cart, for instance, is a clear sign of buying intent. But that’s a sign anyone can see. Someone who looks up the shipping rates on your site is also someone with interest in buying. As a marketer, you must infer consumer motivation from much less obvious signals.

But there’s much more to intent data than sniffing out the buyers. More than anything else, you’re looking to determine the purpose behind every action.

Intent can be seen in an individual shopper who views foam rollers, yoga mats, weights, and water bottles...in January. This could very well be a New Year’s Resolution to get into shape. It’s your job as a marketer to help that person meet their resolution by providing them valuable marketing for workout gear. But astute marketers may also see an opportunity to provide consumers with information to help them map out a plan for improved fitness. The ultimate goal of intent data is to help you anticipate the needs of the consumer so you can be ready with an offer they want at the time they need it.


Personalize Your Content Strategy

Imagine trying to send each individual customer a promotional offer in their own unique preferred manner during your busiest season with no prep time. It's impossible. You wouldn’t be able to do it. On the other hand, if you put in the time to really get to know your audience during the off seasons and diligently test your approach, you’ll have all the tools you need to implement truly personalized marketing when it matters most. Not only will this data-based personalized marketing strike a chord with your customer base, but it’ll ease the burden on your internal systems and your marketing team, leaving you open to take advantage of legitimate spontaneous marketing opportunities that may arise.

Targeted Advertising

For those “lapsed” customers who might only make a purchase once a year (if that), you’ll want to send periodic updates about the latest developments in your industry and how your company is capitalizing on those changes. Frequent shoppers might do well to receive web-powered direct mail about items they’ve looked at recently, or they could receive an individualized catalog that is created to anticipate their needs. People without strong ties to your brand could receive a promo code that will persuade them to choose your site over a competitor, where you can work to build a customer experience that makes it easier to come back to your business again and again.

Start Incorporating Buyer Intent Data in Your Direct Marketing Programs

There are many companies that simply choose to say, “We don’t do direct mail.” However, it’s fair to ask why. The truth is, anything that can be done via a triggered email can also be done with automated postcards. Postcards can continue the conversation with individuals who have opted out of email marketing or with those who haven’t provided an email address. They add balance to your existing trigger programs, rather than trying to replace them. In fact, postcards require little effort on the part of the business and provide valuable messaging; and postcards also come with an exponentially higher response rate than automated emails.

Using web-powered direct mail solves many of the problems that plague modern marketers. Direct mail stands out in the eyes of a customer, and it facilitates the one-on-one conversation with customers that all marketers covet. It utilizes the same technology that makes digital marketing so efficient, but it’s even more effective. And with direct marketing, data you’ve collected across all of your marketing platforms can be used to send a unique message that’s sure to catch the eye of your desired audience, separating you from your competition while enhancing the customer experience in a fun way.


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