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The Difference Between Predictive Analytics and Intent Monitoring

Posted September 25, 2017

The Difference Between Predictive Analytics and Intent Monitoring

Posted September 25, 2017

As marketers search for solutions to their B2B outreach challenges, a sea of tools, apps, and technologies has emerged, with each vendor claiming to have the answer. For customers evaluating these options, it’s easy to become confused, particularly when so many providers are tossing around the word “intent.” Some predictive analytics platforms, for example, are claiming to offer intent data … but what does that truly mean in actual use cases? Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between predictive analytics and intent monitoring, as well as the key considerations in selecting the best option for your B2B marketing strategy.

How Do Predictive Analytics Work for B2B Outreach?

Predictive analytics leverages “big data” to make predictions about unknown, future events. Using techniques such as data mining, statistics, modeling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI), these platforms pull in data from a variety of resources — sales data, customer profiles, etc. — to predict who will buy what, and when. Some platforms may incorporate intent data, but it’s almost always blended with historical information.

The first challenge associated with predictive analytics, is that it relies heavily on what has happened in the past; this may or may not be an accurate indicator of what will happen in the future. The second challenge is that it is based on a complex interaction of models and algorithms, any one of which could become inaccurate or obsolete at any moment. Intent monitoring, however, addresses both of these challenges, offering a simpler, more elegant solution.

Intent Monitoring: From Predictive to Descriptive

If predictive analytics is like looking into a crystal ball, intent monitoring is like looking out the window at what’s actually happening.

Intent monitoring is, technically, “predictive” in the sense that helps us gauge the likelihood of a specific event occurring. However, unlike predictive analytics, it does not rely on complex models and algorithms. As Matt Senatore wrote in a recent column for SiriusDecisions, “it’s descriptive and fact-based.”

Unlike predictive analytics, intent monitoring platforms can alert B2B outreach teams to specific potential customers which may not have even been on their radar. These platforms track online activity around topics related to the company’s products and services and uncover the domains and locations from which said activity is coming. If the organizations behind those domains appear to be a good match, they can then be added to the list of target accounts.

Intent monitoring platforms also look at the actual online activity among contacts within those target accounts. If targeted contacts suddenly begin searching keywords, reading blog posts, downloading resources, and participating in online forums that all focus on a specific topic, there’s a strong possibility a buying decision is in the works. Intent monitoring platforms can alert B2B marketing teams to these types of activity spikes, giving them the opportunity to respond even before an intent to buy is openly expressed.

Another advantage of intent monitoring platforms is that they’re far simpler to implement and use. Predictive analytics require integration with numerous sources of data — including sales, marketing, customer service, accounting, and others — and relies on complex technology to spin that historical data into actionable results. Intent monitoring, in contrast, simply watches what’s going on within the organizations that you care about in real time. No database integrations (nor the security headaches that go along with them), no fussy algorithms to maintain and update — just reliable, current data.

The Fortune Is In The Follow-Up

Of course, even the best intel is of little use when you don’t act upon it. Far too many organizations spend tremendous amounts of time, effort, and resources finding out who their best leads are, and when those contacts might be ready to buy, only to drop the ball when it comes to the follow-up.

That’s why it’s so important to have a “playbook” or action plan in place, for when those buying signals arise. Think about ways to engage those contacts and gently guide them towards the buying decision, including:

  • Offering resources such as checklists or assessments to assist in the buying process
  • Inviting them to webinars or free demos
  • Offering a complimentary consultation

Solutions For A Complex B2B Marketing Landscape

B2B outreach is far more complex today than ever before. The contacts we’re trying to reach are busier, and they have the means of tuning out any unwanted marketing messages. This is all the more reason to learn as much as we can about what they need, and how they go about finding it. Predictive analytics can offer an educated guess, by using past data to predict future outcomes … but today, there’s a better way.

By leveraging the power of intent monitoring, we can get inside the minds of those who need our products and services, using the best indicators we have available: actual insights into what they’re doing online. Instead of blasting a one-for-all marketing message, we can use these insights to begin a conversation that guides them in the direction of their goals. By combining the intel from intent monitoring with a strategic follow-up plan, you are in a much more perfect position to turn B2B leads into prospects, and prospects into customers.