How Decisional Intent is Shaping B2B Lead Generation

researching how decisional intent is shaping b2b lead generation

In the B2B marketing world, one truth stands above all the rest: lead generation is hard. Generating leads, in theory, isn’t the hard part of lead generation, it’s the scalability issue. How many times have you, as a demand generation marketer, had the issue with lead quality over quantity? Probably countless, right? It’s because there isn’t really a defined method or solution to getting high quality leads that fit all aspects of the marketing funnel in a large number. In fact, most of the leads you generate hit the top of the funnel to begin with, and we don’t need to explain why that’s an issue. So, what’s the solution? A little something called decisional intent.

What is Decisional Intent in Marketing?

Decisional intent in marketing is the process of uncovering buyer’s decision-making patterns through behavioral analysis across multiple content channels. Through understating your buyer’s unique behaviors and how your buyers make decisions, you can then start to market to them more effectively with unique nurtures around those decision-making triggers.

This process can obviously make a huge impact on your lead generation ROI. With this type behavioral research data available, demand generation marketers can now shape their thought leadership content and marketing campaigns around targeted needs, effectively marketing to the middle of the funnel. Instead of trying to engage with every single person that might be in your ICP, you’re focusing on buyers who have started the decision-making process and understand what your products might offer.

The B2B Decision Making Process

According to Gartner, general decision-making for a B2B buyer follows a set number of tasks that focus on specific thought patterns the buyer revisits throughout the purchase process. Those are as follows:

  • Recognizing there is a problem or need. The buying process begins when a business recognizes a problem. The trigger for this moment may be a specific pain point. Alternatively, the business may notice that another company is doing something differently or better.
  • Evaluating and comparing available solutions. Once a business recognizes its problem, it has to consider how to solve it.
  • Defining the requirements for the product or service. The decision-making unit needs to specify what the company is looking for, including:
    • What the product or service should do
    • How much it should cost
    • Any company-specific requirements (e.g., adherence to specific QC/QA criteria)
  • Selecting the supplier. Each organization takes a slightly different approach to choosing a supplier. Some have lengthy formal processes involving committees, RFPs, longlists, and shortlists. Others use a more informal process in which potential suppliers are evaluated and compared in a less structured way, often by a smaller team.
  • Justifying the decision. Once the core decision-making unit has made its decision, the choice needs to be justified to themselves and senior decision-makers. That can entail asking the vendor for references, as well as delivering a presentation to senior management to get their support.

As you can see, the buying process is intricate to say the least. However, being able to engage with a lead during this timeframe is crucial, and that’s what decisional intent allows you to do. In fact, through understanding the buying process as a whole, and having gathered said behavioral data, a marketer can now approach these specific decision-making stages and effectively guide their prospects/ leads through how their solutions address each part.

Challenges With Intent Data

All of this seems like a no-brainer, right? Why wouldn’t someone want this type of information? Well, first off, behavioral analytics and intent isn’t easy to come by. It often times takes countless hours of research, quality assurance checks, data enrichment, and so on to ensure everything is on track. Secondly, and probably the most important part, it’s expensive. Due to the overwhelming amount of work needed to generate this type of decisional data, marketers tend to lean towards onboarding a software or AI to do this for them. Makes sense. However, behavioral analytics software is expensive to onboard.

This might be hitting home for you: time and cost. These words are the bane of a demand generation marketer’s existence. Unfortunately, this problem doesn’t just affect behavioral intent, but intent data across the board. As the need for scalable data intelligence has grown, so has the number of solutions crowding the market. According to a survey we conducted around this topic, 60% of marketers said they were only somewhat successful, or worse, at using intent to generate leads at scale and 66% of those marketers are using 3 or more sources of intent data. The amount of intent needed to generate high quality leads is directly affecting your demand generation ROI.

Actionable Next Steps

So, if intent is expensive, time consuming, and ultimately, ineffective, what can really be done? Didn’t we just talk about how important decisional intent was? Well, this is where you’ll need to focus on a “part” vs the “whole.” Common misconceptions around intent data say that you need intent for every part of the marketing funnel at all times, and that’s just not the case. Actually, you should work to dissect your marketing and focus on engaging with your buyers at specific points throughout the funnel, rather than the whole funnel at all times. Following that train of thought opens up the potential to strategically market around the evolving needs your buyers have. Again, this is how decisional intent can make an impact. As stated, there are a lot of intent solutions and strategies available to marketers now. Some might even argue there are too many.

Regardless of how you approach this, ensuring that you have a strong middle-of-funnel presence with your customers is key to influencing their buying journey and decisional pathways. At the end of the day, decisional intent is a piece to over-arching intent data puzzle, and by fully utilizing everything that it has to offer, you can start scaling your lead generation with high-quality leads that fit your targeted audience.