Successful marketing teams run an integrated paid, owned and earned ecosystem that’s underpinned by consumer intent.
Their marketing cross-pollinates, delivers a seamless customer experience, increases market share, and makes them a tonne of money. We’ll refer to this group as ‘the winners’.
On the flipside are the ‘also rans’, who despite trying valiantly, often produce activity based on gut feel rather than consumer intent, which is the modern-day equivalent of being a marketing mendicant.
Sure, there’s some grey in the middle and organisations are often at different maturity stages. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s run with this analogy.
The crux of whether or not you’re a master lies in how sophisticated your content and performance marketing is at harnessing and exploiting consumer intent.
What is consumer intent and why should you care?
Given that categorising and mapping intent is largely a data play (aligned to business goals), we thought it was worth a trip through the looking glass with Shaun Polidano, our SEO and search unicorn – aka, the smartest guy we know.
Shaun’s ethos is: the more we know about consumers, the more we can target content and advertisements that appeal to them, draw them in, engage them, and ultimately sell to them.
When mapped and categorised properly, consumer intent unveils a marketing treasure trove of insights you can monetise, because you now specifically understand what someone wants, needs and is looking to solve at each stage of their customer journey.
For example, if someone is searching for ‘calorie counter’, it’s a fair bet they’re trying to understand how many calories are in the particular morsel they’re about to eat.
This is when smart marketers are talking to customers and starting to nurture them along the journey – not passively hoping someone will include their brand in the consideration set.
Once you have these answers, developing a data-led marketing plan becomes a lot simpler – and, bang, our job is much easier.
‘Winning’ marketers understand this. And it’s one of the reasons why they often kick the arse of the also-rans who are left guessing what customers want and when.
Consumer intent is nuanced: it’s sophisticated simplicity
While not every type of search fits into one of these buckets, the majority do. For example, “I want to learn what the word mendicant means” (informational); “I want to find a dentist near me” (navigational); “I want to buy the cheapest dog food” (transactional).
We use valuable data about consumer intent to underpin the entire brand-experience map.
However, we need to be conscious that the customer journey isn’t linear, and simply categorising searches by intent isn’t enough.
This is particularly true for more complex purchases, such as booking a holiday, buying a house or deciding which mortgage broker to go with.
Consumer intent is a money-making machine when paired with SEM
Shaun has an unnerving ability to dissect the data and literally see into people’s minds – and it’s this intent analysis that’s the real secret sauce of performance marketing.
At a channel, SEM is designed to capture intent quickly. However, relying on base algorithms isn’t the best way to leverage the channel. Instead, we can make it work much harder by connecting advertising to consumer intent.
Just as with content, you can’t know what keywords you should be targeting (and why) until you do the full intent analysis to better understand your audience.
We’ve seen this over and over again, where intent-led adverting is the catalyst for massive spikes in sales and conversion. For example, this approach helped SFI, a global natural healthcare company, achieve spectacular results that most can only dream of:
How do you decipher consumer intent?
We’re going to break it down for you. But be warned, watching someone skydive doesn’t mean you know how to jump out of a plane.
Mapping intent correctly is bloody hard stuff and it’s why some of the biggest brands ask us to do it for them.
So how do we do it? To kick it off, our team of bright sparks gets in a room with you – virtually, as the case may be currently – to find out everything there is to know about your brand, products, USPs, goals and touchpoints.
From there, we scurry off to ULab HQ and spend some serious time locked in the warm embrace of ascertaining where data searches interact with business outcomes.
Funnelling specific keywords into the Google Keyword Planner tool enables us to create pictures of who your customers really are, and how to sell to them.
Keyword ranking gives us a clear picture of how important different aspects of your brand or product might be, and what you need to go after in order to create a connection with future customers.
The really interesting part of how this works is that we’re not here to recommend you go after the keywords that always rank in the tens of thousands. These types of keywords and searches are highly competitive in a noisy market, meaning that you may never rank on page one of Google from an organic perspective.
However, we’re the first to acknowledge there’s some strategically important content you won’t rank for but that you still need – you just have to cop the fact that it will always require paid spend behind it if it’s to be discovered by consumers.
Delving lower into the funnel and really drilling down to what you can uniquely offer your customer is how we equip you with the info you’ll need to create content that not only resonates but actually reaches your customer – and doesn’t disappear onto page two of a Google search (which is where the dead bodies are buried by the way, because no-one ever goes there).
Let’s say we compare the search terms ‘marketing’ to ‘how to accelerate your content marketing’. ‘Marketing’ has a massive volume advantage – 40,00 searches per month versus less than 4000.
Intent, however, reveals the true gold. ‘How to accelerate…’ indicates that a user is looking for information to enhance their content operation, and potentially a partner to help them complete the action.
And when this is mapped to location or transactional searches, it gives a pretty fair indication to a business – in this example, ours – that someone is open to reading our myriad of content on this topic, or actively looking to engage with us.
So while it may generate less traffic, that traffic is significantly more valuable compared to a generic term such as ‘marketing’.
Consumer intent: it’s the difference between sophisticated content marketing and lipstick on a pig
As the old adage goes, ‘garbage in, garbage out’. The content is generally near useless, either stuffed full of keywords so it reads like a dog’s breakfast, or so targeted to a specific keyword that you either won’t rank for it or it won’t be strategically important from an intent perspective.
So, how do we design and use keyword searches effectively to create a picture of your consumer?
In short, we talk to you about your business goals and targets, and relate them to your future customer by connecting the two through highly strategised content.
Consumer intent insights enable us to develop a content plan and hierarchy that helps people find the solution they’re looking for. Equally, it maximises traffic potential and maps the content or call-to-action hand-off points to help move people along the customer journey.
Another great example of how intent powers content marketing is HCF’s endometriosis campaign.
HCF wanted to produce content that targeted a specific audience and was helpful, empathetic and medically robust.
Through systematic consumer-intent research, we were able to understand what health topics women cared about.
Once we’d collectively decided to focus on the subject of endometriosis, we could pinpoint the exact language women were using in search, which could then be included and optimised through content. Equally, the data enabled us to map the optimum user journey and develop the web hierarchy.
And surprise, surprise, the campaign delivered HCF’s most successful search results from a content campaign – its landing page, and 15 key search terms, ranked on page one of Google within just four months.
When you strip away all the bells and whistles, using consumer intent to connect with customers on a deeper level is, in reality, a simple strategy to help your business grow. But, as we all know, the simplest of ideas can generate the most incredible results.
And our clients agree.