09/23/2013 04:48 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2013

Content Consumption Monitoring: Bringing a Customer-Centric Approach to B2B

When Twitter introduced keyword targeting this past spring, the industry was abuzz with the news. The move represented Twitter's first foray into intent targeting, a huge opportunity for brands attempting to reach in-market shoppers.

In fact, intent targeting has been a buzzword in the consumer marketing space for eons. Search, after all, is all about targeting intent. It makes sense: someone searching for "SUV, third-row seat" is very likely in the market for a large family car.

The mystery is why this hasn't caught on in B2B marketing. As notes, "According to a recent study by Forrester Research, only 45 percent of B2B marketers are collecting behavioral data. You need to collect behavioral data to be able to use it. If less than half of B2B marketers are collecting and using, does this represent B2B's biggest missed opportunity?"


We rely on a broad set of tools in B2B marketing, from live events to email and search -- most of which work relatively well, and nearly all of which rely entirely upon educational content. But apart from search, intent targeting is absent from our toolset. Some more adventurous B2B marketers may experiment with retargeting display, but that's about the extent of our exploration of intent.

The missed opportunity seems virtually tragic when you consider how ripe for intent targeting our market is. As mentioned, most B2B marketers rely on unique content, from blog posts to video white papers. We tend to have long sales cycles during which we have to persuade multiple stakeholders to purchase our products. If we're using content to educate those stakeholders and drive those decisions, doesn't it make sense to understand their behavior as it relates to intent-to-purchase?

Consider this: If you're marketing payroll services, wouldn't you want to know when your Fortune 500 prospect is consuming content about payroll services? Wouldn't it be useful to know if they're downloading whitepapers or attending webinars on the topic? Content consumption monitoring provides the insights that will allow you to strategically place your relevant content along their path. This is certainly more efficient marketing: targeting prospects who have demonstrated their intent to buy beats spending time and money nurturing year-old trade show leads who may or may not have made a purchase elsewhere. Your prospects are more likely to purchase once they've demonstrated intent, which leads to the improvement in sales and ROI - and that's the goal, isn't it?

From the prospect's perspective, this would actually create a relevant and even helpful experience and be customer centric. If that prospect were searching the Internet for informative materials to guide their purchase decision, it would be helpful to receive an invitation to a webinar on "How to Choose the Right Payroll Service for Your Growing Business." Or to see a display ad about the payroll services company that just won a national customer satisfaction award. Or, even better, to receive a personalized email offering a free trial of your payroll service.

These are the tactics used consistently by consumer marketers. They are part of the trend known as "customer-centric marketing," an overall marketing philosophy that is based on leveraging data to create better customer experiences. The problem is that we, in B2B marketing, occasionally forget that our B2B prospects are ultimately consumers -- human beings, who happen to be in their workplace as they make this particular purchase decision. As human beings, relevance and quality are important to them; possibly more so, since there is probably pressure to make the right decision for their organization.

The moral of the story: listen to buyer signals. Tuning into your prospect's content consumption allows you to provide information as needed by creating a customer-centric strategy that will not only be appreciated by your prospects but rewarded with purchase consideration.