As marketers, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to create content that not only boosts our brand, but speaks to the consumer in a way that is not only helpful, but personable. We want to promote our product for sure, but how do we do it in a way that doesn’t A) trip your average consumer’s cynicism sensors (“Oh God, it’s another one of these blogs,”) and B) create something authentic and genuinely helpful that they will enjoy.

We use a lot of different metrics to create content, but here’s one that, sadly, we don’t talk about too often: Intent-based marketing.

Intent-based marketing is exactly what you think it is: it’s marketing that centers on what the consumer wants — specifically, it focuses on what their intent is when they make a purchase.

Using an intent-based approach can not only bring in more customers by leaning in to what they want and adjusting SEO and other metrics accordingly, but it can also inform our own approach and better create content that is in line with what consumers actually want to see.

How does Intent-based Marketing work?

Intent-based marketing works a little differently than a demographic-based marketing approach, because its emphasis is on what the customer wants, rather than who the customer is. It can get a bit daunting, though, because when people search for something, it’s not always a straightforward thing, and there are many different ways to measure out consumer intent. Demographics are easy and fast, but intent can be a bit tricky, but more rewarding in the long-run.

First, let’s talk about how consumers look for information. How do you determine their ‘intent’? What kind of ‘intent’ do they have?

Think about what you do when you try to make a purchase. How do you go about it? In marketing terms, here are the three types of searches that customers make for new purchases:

Informational – They’re just looking for information. If your site gets traffic because of an informational query, it’s probably because they’re looking into the sorts of products you sell, or made a basic industry question and your site had the highest ranking on the search results.

They’re going to be less likely to make a purchase right away, because they’re just gathering information, but don’t count these sorts of visitors out. Having a myriad of informational content that can link to potential relevant products is a good way to both alleviate their curiosity and get them towards your product all at the same time. For people making these kinds of queries, you’re going to want to make sure that your information is not just accurate, but well-researched.

Navigational – They’re looking for a very specific web site. No more, no less. Some good content might pique their curiosity to stay awhile, but that’ll end up being incidental.

Transactional – They’re explicitly looking to make a purchase. These are the people to get excited about, because the chances are pretty high that they’re going to up and purchase something, and pushing them in that direction is far easier than the other two types of customers.

For people like this, make sure you not only have content that will satisfy their queries and get them to where they need to go, but make sure it’s thorough. Make sure it answers potential questions that a potential paying customer would ask an associate in a store, and make sure it’s easy to navigate to.

Having easy-to-read content that answers a customer’s questions, keeps them around, and straddles that balance between candid honesty and the good old fashioned sales pitch is good to have for any type of customer, but for someone ready to buy, it can turn a “maybe” into a “definitely”.

Taking these types of customers, gathering data based on their inquiries, purchases, and other factors, and creating content based on that information, is what intent is all about. We look at what people want to know and in what situations, and we create content and form marketing strategies to meet that need.

It isn’t about throwing random items down a chute and seeing what’s on the other side, though. You need to be on-the-ball with what the consumers want, and be the absolute best response you can be to a potential inquiry, or it’s not going to work.

Like all things, you need to approach this with care and delicacy.

Delicacy. Right. But why intent-based marketing? Why not something else?

There are a few reasons. Some have to do with the current market changing, and others are just plain common sense. Here are just a few:

We need to use new approaches to catch up with the times.

The fact of the matter is that the old models just aren’t cutting it anymore.

In theory, using good old demographics is fine. The numbers say it’s worked for years, and numbers and charts wouldn’t be wrong, right?

Let me put it this way: when it comes to people not wanting to buy a product, or feeling disillusioned with a product, one of the primary reasons that I’ve been told is that marketers don’t really understand what they want.

Is this conjecture? In a way. Consider, though, the mainstream video game industry, with its piles of hot takes concerning marketing execs or major companies putting in features or creating ads that don’t reflect the actual community that they’re trying to sell to. A lot of the time, they reflect a baseline understanding of ‘who’ their customers are supposed to be (18-34 year old males), but they don’t really consider ‘what’ they want.

Fun fact: out of mobile gaming sales, only 31 percent fit in that 18-34 year old male demographic.

In an intent-based model — because it’s focused on ‘what’ a consumer is looking for and how to respond to that query — there isn’t a pitfall that fails to account for over 60 percent of the people who engage with a product.

Google is beginning to prioritize intent over domain authority.

I’ll admit, this is a bit of a bold claim, but hear me out.

In a core algorithm update in 2016, Google decided to take intent-based keywords into account. Low-intent keywords and websites with old content that may match the keywords but don’t have any relevancy, plummeted in the rankings.

Just because your domain might be a big player in the SEO space doesn’t mean that they’re always going to be on the top of the lists. A random think-piece from 2005 about an incident at a TCBY isn’t going to hold much relevance to a search where someone is probably trying to find the nearest stop for frozen yogurt or figuring out store hours or something.

Banking on low-intent keywords isn’t really much of an option anymore — if you want to raise your rank, you’re going to have to respond to high-intent keywords and create the best content you can.

If Intent-based marketing is a good idea, what should I do? How should I start?

You can first start by gathering data, but that’s a given. Gathering data based on high-intent keywords in your industry / topic of choice and going from there is a really great place to start and build a foundation.

But you need to think further. Go deeper.

Think about what your customer would want.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

Consider your audience

This is a given. Who is your product aimed at? What kind of people are going to buy your product?

I’m not talking demographics here, I’m more talking about what kind of people would be in this purchasing situation. For example, say you’re a medical products distributor, and you want to create content that gets people to purchase your unique line of wheelchairs.

Think about the kind of people who are going to be doing the research into those wheelchairs, and looking into all the features. On one hand, we can expect people with mobility problems, wanting to buy something to help them get around easier. We can also expect relatives of people with disabilities, caregivers, and medical professionals (if they wish to purchase a wheelchair for patients who use walkers but have a sudden loss of mobility).

Ideally, the best content would be taking the questions that they would ask and answering them with the proper voice and / or medium of delivery. It may take practice to create the right material to hit that sweet spot with your audience, but thankfully, there’s always editing, and you can always try again until you get it right.

Look at multi-word keywords and spin that into content.

If you already have your audience in mind, you might want to analyze the keywords that your audience is using, especially if they’re multi-word keywords (for example, “cheap cute iPhone covers”), and find a way to integrate that into your content strategy.

It’s one thing if people are just typing in words like “wheelchair” or “catheter” or what-have-you, but if there are inquiries like: “sturdy high-comfort wheelchairs for seniors”, you can work with that. Not only is that a query that fills two of the three types of customer intent (transactional and informational), but it’s something that’s easily researchable and can be tied in with your product (if you sell wheelchairs, that is, but you get what I mean).

Don’t be afraid to get creative, and even if it might seem redundant to create content based on particular inquiries. Your SEO will thank you, especially if the content has a high clickthrough rate.

Don’t be afraid to use multiple types of content to get your point across.

The fact of the matter is: not everyone is going to look at the same type of content. Some people will read blogs, others will watch videos, and others still will look at infographics or charts.

Creating content that uses multiple means of delivery can grab customers of different types, satisfying their needs without them needing to leave your site. This might mean using a video, some infographics, writing in a single page, or,  it might mean having a series of videos and a series of blogs. It depends on the product, your audience, and the needs of the business.

Tailoring these different kinds of content to high-intent keywords (such as: using infographics in a blog post to respond to a specific question that a customer might ask) can also be really helpful.

Anything else?

This is only the tip of the iceberg of intent-based marketing, and there is plenty more information that will explain the topic more in-depth. This is meant to give you a basic idea, to dip your toes into the water, so to speak.

Remember: with all things, learning a new strategy takes time. You might not get it right away, but if you keep at it, it will come to you.

Don’t give up!