Is Intent the New Experience?

Intent-based marketing is a digital approach focused on meeting specific needs based on particular questions being asked online.

When thinking about ways to reach your audience and meet their needs, you’ve likely considered your overall customer experience, the buyer’s journey for your products and what content might be useful to each prospect as they work up to making a decision.

What you might not have considered — and where intent-based marketing comes into play — are the opportunities available to reach users who are looking for a specific item or piece of information at a specific point in time.

Intent-Based Marketing Theory

When thinking about intent-based marketing and why it’s important, the concept to understand is that it makes more sense to cater your content and tactical efforts to specific user intentions and mindsets based on trigger keywords and phrases.

Users conduct searches for a variety of reasons and it’s up to you to understand those reasons and motivations to optimize your digital marketing strategy.

The difference between intent-based marketing and experience-focused marketing is the ability to reach users at their specific stage of the buyer’s journey. You minimize the risk of accidentally serving awareness-stage content to users who are already prepared to make a decision. Both approaches are SEO-heavy and will rely on robust content marketing automation, but with intent-based marketing you can focus on creating your sales and marketing efforts on specific goals.

Navigational Intent

Users will sometimes search for a brand name rather than navigating directly to the website. Think about how many times you’ve typed “Amazon” or “Facebook” into the browser address bar, knowing that if the URL doesn’t autocomplete, the site you’re looking for will be in the first few results. These users are looking for a specific site and attempting to reach it.

You might think that navigational intent wouldn’t present many opportunities for intent-based marketing tactics, but that’s actually not the case. Branded keywords are often taken for granted, so the chances are that most of your competitors aren’t bidding highly on their own names. Conquesting is a paid search tactic involving bidding on keywords such as competitor brand names and product names. This then positions your name in navigational search results as an alternative for users intending to find those specific brands.

If you plan to use conquesting as a tactic, make sure your landing page meta description specifically and concisely positions you as a better alternative to the branded search query.

Informational Intent

Informational intent is a user’s basic search looking for information or an answer to a question. Most informational searches aren’t directly related to a purchase transaction. Think about your recent search history. Odds are, most searches you’ve conducted have been with informational intent, such as “calories in an apple,” “Star Wars cast,” “capital of Montana” or “Florida native plants.” These types of searches are most common and not very likely to lead to a purchase.

Informational intent is the best opportunity to leverage awareness-level content for your brand. Consider the questions that your ideal customers might be researching that aren’t necessarily related to a purchase and create top of funnel content around those topics. As a completely random example, if your product were, let’s say, a marketing automation platform, you might write blogs about “marketing tactics,” or “how to market to Millennials.”

Consumer Research Intent

Similar to informational intent, consumer research intent is mostly about weighing options in the late awareness and early consideration stages of the buyer’s journey.

These searches might be for reviews, product features and pricing information about a variety of brands before making a purchase decision. Words like “cheapest,” “best” and “reviews” are typically in these search queries, so build content that includes long-tailed keywords.

Borrowing from some of our previous examples, let’s say you’re considering going to a movie this weekend. You might have started with an informational search like “Star Wars cast” and learned that one or two of your favorite actors are in the movie. The consumer research intent search will help you decide whether or not you want to go see the movie. This might include searching “Star Wars reviews” so you can read opinions from other movie-goers (reviews) and professional critics (influencers) to help you decide if you want to head out to the theater this weekend or would rather wait to stream it later on.

Purchase Transaction Intent

This stage of intent-based marketing is the most urgent, using phrases that indicate a user is ready to make a purchase. This includes queries such as “near me,” “open now,” “today” or “delivery.” Leveraging Google My Business and other listing sites such as Yelp will help you reach users with this sense of urgency looking to make a purchase immediately.

For instance, if you’re a restaurant, you’ll likely want to be on Yelp, UberEats and GrubHub to ensure that customers can taste what you have to offer the minute they search for “best burgers near me.”

Continuing our example, once you’ve found reviews and decided that the newest Star Wars movie is worth seeing, you’re likely ready to buy some tickets. You’ll probably search “Star Wars showtimes near me” or something similar, and you might even buy tickets for the next showtime online through a ticketing site or your local theater.

Putting Intent-Based Marketing to Work

The cornerstone of effective intent-based marketing is ensuring a robust SEO and marketing automation strategy. Working to meet specific long-tailed search queries at various stages of the buyer’s journey is a lot easier if you have a clear understanding of what your ideal customer is actually searching for when they find your product and how their mindset impacts their search intent. Hitting someone with informational intent will be put off by transaction-based messaging, while someone ready to make a purchase will be frustrated if they can’t quickly and easily place their order.

Accurate assessment open rates, click-through rates and lead sources as part of your overall marketing efforts can help you inform your keyword research and to develop an intent-based marketing plan. If you use this strategy effectively, you’ll be able to acquire more qualified leads quickly, with less effort than a full experience-based customer journey.

Marketers who take advantage of intent based marketing can leverage this as a competitive edge over the rest of the industry. Be on the lookout for opportunities to optimize your intent-based marketing strategy with SharpSpring’s automated marketing system. To find out more or to request a demo, visit our website today.

Naseem Shah