Marketing to Audience Intent: #MPB2b Keynote Takeaways

Andrea Fryrear on B2B Marketing Strategy

Avinash Kaushik, a Digital Evangelist at Google and the first keynote speaker at this year’s Marketing Profs’ B2B Marketing Forum, is very clear about his problems with modern marketers:

  1. The Sales Funnel essentially a tool of the devil.
  2. Conversion rate is a ridiculous metric.
  3. We are only marketing to people who want one night stands.

So basically, the way we think about the buying process is awful, the way we track our campaigns is fundamentally flawed, and those two things hardly matter because we’re not even marketing to the right people anyway.

If this sounds like a grim way to begin three days of “Making Marketing Magic,” it wasn’t, mostly because Avinash has an uncanny ability to berate an entire profession without coming off as a jerk.

This may have something to do with his comedic timing (which is spot on), or his refusal to pull punches for anybody (his comment about a Google Facebook page: “It’s like they don’t even have a digital evangelist working there!”).

Whatever the reason, one thousand people left the opening keynote ready to start a B2B marketing revolution fueled by four little words:

  1. See
  2. Think
  3. Do
  4. Care.

Each of these represent a specific stage of consumer intent that we must consider and speak to as marketers.

The “See” Audience : Largest & Most Addressable

The biggest audience that you can market to doesn’t want to buy anything from you right now. They’re addressable, which means you can reach them somehow, and they’re qualified, which means they fit your criteria for somebody who might want to buy something someday, but they’re not interested right now.

Let’s take after Avinash and repeat that for emphasis: Not everybody who you’re marketing to is ready to buy something from you right now.

That’s not exactly a revelatory statement, but Avinash challenged us to go to our own websites and ask ourselves what value this audience would find if they visited.

Are we really and truly marketing to them, or not-so-subtly telling them they’re not welcome until they’re ready to click the almighty “Buy Now” button?

SalesForce Walks Into a Bar…

To illustrate the point, Avinash showed us a SalesForce search result on his mobile phone. When he clicked their URL, it opened a page that contained nothing but a lead generation form.

He went back to the search result, clicked on the Enterprise sub-result, and got the exact same form with a slightly different title. He repeated this process several more times, each time clicking a different sub-result, each time getting the exact same form.

At this point there was quite a lot of swearing.

The point was clear: unless he was interested in filling out this form and becoming a bona fide lead, Salesforce had no use for him.

As he put it, “It’s like I’m at the bar and SalesForce walks in completely naked and says, ‘Have sex with me now!!!!’”

Let Them See What You’ve Got

Marketers, he adamantly believes, need to market to everybody in their qualified addressable audience, not just the people who want to jump into bed with us right this second.

This type of audience is the sweet spot of content marketing, but for many of us our strategy is holding us back because it isn’t talking to people who just want to see something interesting right now.

Or, as Avinash put it, “What limits is your content strategy placing on your digital glory?”

For him, it’s not too complicated. There are just three things our content needs to do:

  1. Entertain
  2. Inform
  3. Provide utility

And just to be clear, it needs to do those things for your audience. Not for you.

Once you get that right, then the sexy stuff starts.

The “Think” Audience: Weak Commercial Intent

These are the portions of your audience that would actually let you buy them a drink at a bar, but they’re definitely not ready to go home with you yet. Their intent to buy isn’t strong, but that doesn’t mean you can just ignore them.

Now that they’re a little more interested in your product or service, you’ve got to reach out to them in a different way in a different location. Think people have different intent, so you don’t get to just recycle the stuff you used for the See folks.

This is particularly difficult for B2B marketers because we’re used to focusing on audiences with Do and Care intents. But the Think and See people are a much larger audience, and they can do wonders for your bottom line if you just give them what they’re looking for.

The “Do” Audience: Ready For Purchase

This audience has strong commercial intent; they’re actually ready to push the pretty “Buy Now” button that we’re all such fans of.

But Avinash wasn’t going to let us off the hook just because we were finally back in familiar B2B marketing territory. Instead he advised us to throw out silly metrics like conversion rate.

That’s right. No more conversion rate for any of us.

According to Avinash, “Conversion rate is a stupid metric to use, because you’re judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree. You’re making the fish feel bad, and you’re making a bad decision.”

You should judge a fish based on its ability to swim, a bird on its ability to fly, a giraffe on its ability to eat leaves from the top of a tree…etc.

Instead each of the four intents deserves its own metrics that line up with the channels and goals that align with people at that stage. For example:

This makes a lot of sense, and seems like it would be very freeing for those of us who live and die by conversion rates and the number of leads we can send off to sales.

The “Care” Audience: Those Who Have Purchased

Once people have made a purchase (or two or three) or otherwise displayed their intent to be a loyal consumer of your product, it’s time to care for them.

And just so that we’re all clear, Avinash let’s us know that care is NOT saying, “Here’s our tech support website, with a phone number you will NEVER FIND. We dare you to try!”

Instead we actually have to think about what the intent of this audience and how we can help them accordingly.

How We Market For Intent

While his utter hatred for the funnel is a little bit disruptive, Avinash gave us several tools to help us pivot to marketing to intent.

First is keeping a laser-like focus on how your various channels do (or don’t) match up to the intent of your audience. Something like this:

The second is by making sure you understand which existing channels actually perform well for each of the intents and then using the right ones at the right time. Something like this:

There’s clearly a lot more investigation to be done here (I’m pretty sure I need at least a week to unpack the spreadsheet in that last picture), but Avinash makes a strong case for marketing to the entire journey, not just the one night stand.