Your prospects may be looking for a solution to a problem that your company can solve. But they’re not contacting your salespeople for help. They’re searching for answers, reading content and comparing options online.
Mike Farrell joins us to talk about intent data—buying signals that show which prospects are actively looking for potential solutions. Hear how you can use intent data to reach higher quality leads earlier in the buyer journey. Plus, provide the most relevant content to address their pain points and guide their decision-making process.
Highlights From This Episode:
- What is intent data
- Examples of intent signals
- Tracking and collecting intent data
- How to use intent data in lead generation campaigns
- Identifying a prospect's readiness to buy
- Improving lead quality and scoring
- Using intent data for lead nurturing and content syndication
Watch the Live Recording
Full Episode Transcripts
Tessa Burg: Welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation brought to you by Tenlo Radio. I’m your host, Tessa Burg. And today we’re joined by the CEO of Green Leads, Mike Farrell. Hello, Mike, thanks for joining the show.
Mike Farrell: All right, Tessa, thank you. Glad to be here.
Tessa Burg: So today’s topic is about lead generation, which is appropriate since the title of our podcast is Lead(er) Generation, and we wanted to explore how to generate more high quality leads. Can you tell us a little bit about Green Leads and what you do?
Mike Farrell: Sure thing, so Green Leads has been around since 2007 in the lead generation business, we also do appointment generation. So lead generation we do is centered around content syndication, promoting that content out to generate those opt-in leads to put into the marketing funnel. And have the outbound calling folks to do appointment generation, and in both of those instances, we try to encourage our clients to use the intent data that we can get through our intent platform to get better outcomes.
Tessa Burg: So you said a couple of things in there that are really interesting. I’m familiar with using content marketing and content in general to engage prospects. Can you tell me a little bit about what does content syndication include?
Mike Farrell: Sure, everybody, all the marketers out there you’re generating great content and you’re promoting it to your current list, you’re getting people to come to your website through Google searches and so forth using that content. But content syndication is just another way to get that content out to your target audience. So we have an opt-in audience of about 70 million prospects globally, we do this on a global scale, and so we can take your content, any client’s content based on their target audience, their ICP, whatever those accounts are, what those personas are, and we’ll build that outbound list and promote that content to them to get them to a landing page, to download that content, and obviously it fill out the lead form and an opt in. So now you have an opt-in lead that that marketer can put into their marketing automation system.
Tessa Burg: So for content syndication, it’s all about matching the right person against who the customer is trying to reach, and then exposing the client’s content to them via email, via social. Do you use any other channels?
Mike Farrell: No, that’s it, that’s it, and it’s very effective. Many marketers will use it to augment what they’re doing to generate that top of funnel, mid funnel leads ’cause we can do that on a simple contact form, but we also can do what we call highly qualified leads, which is add three questions into that lead form so you can gather some more information from that prospect. Obviously, the content has to be interesting enough for someone to wanna download that. The whole purpose is to get your awareness out there, reach a bigger audience than you’re reaching on your own and get those opt-in leads.
Tessa Burg: You mentioned earlier this concept of intent. How do you know? So for us the ideal customer profile, persona data, is typically static, like either market research has been conducted, or we got feedback from the sales team and we construct those tools, but intent can change at any time. How do you identify a specific prospects intent or readiness to buy?
Mike Farrell: Good question. So our lead generation, our content syndication, that’s an intense signal, right? These are all intent signals. So we do is we have a platform, we can put your ICP, put your personas into this platform with all your key words, and we can basically put a digital mat around your audience and monitor what’s going on in the public web. Could be, you know, consuming some articles, it could be on a Reddit board or some kind of message board on a particular… All these different keywords that might be a trigger, it could be attending an event, we would put all those kinds of events in there so we can track who’s attending event, who’s commenting on Twitter, all the different hashtags, and then we’re gonna harvest that information so we know not just the company that is showing that signal, but who are the potential people based on your persona that are those signals, could be sending those signals. And the key is that the way to use that and to try to activate those intense signals and those leads is to then go outbound to them with a more personalized message, whether it’s an email, a subject line or an outbound phone call, we now know what the trigger was, what was it that they were engaging online? So it allows for a better interaction and a better engagement of a conversation, whether that be over the phone or via email. And that’s kind of the best way to use that intent. We don’t know where they are in the buyer’s journey, right? Until we have that engagement with them and find out where they are.
Tessa Burg: I love your description of all of these different types of data points that translate into signals, because if somebody were to do that manually, that could take hours just to one, identify all the signals, then to see who’s going there, and then you’d probably still need some sort of tool to scrape attendees or even access to it. With the platform you’re using, how long does it take to sort of source all that data together to initiate an intent campaign?
Mike Farrell: The setup, I can get anybody on a call and do the setup, you know, and in a few hours, couple of hours, and then once we turn it on, it’s gonna start monitoring. So within a week, we’re gonna have some data, we’re gonna have some intent leads. We typically let it run for about three to four weeks before we take that, all that data and then synthesize it. There’s some false positives you got to get out of there, so you’re really dealing with a good lead list, and then we can really massage it and you know, really find out what the key triggers are, and then strategize on how to activate based on what the most likely, you know, most valuable triggers are that we’re harvesting.
Tessa Burg: So this really looks at a clear formula to improve lead quality being, instead of just finding a list of people whose names and titles match, who you want your prospects to be, take those names and titles and find signals and behaviors that say they actually are ready, or some were in the process of about to buy. So you can sort of blast it all out or, you know, find actual behaviors and triggers.
Mike Farrell: Right, exactly. The analogy I like to use is for anybody that likes to go fishing out there, and I know Tessa, you like to go, you do that, it’s a sonar detector, it’s a fish finder. And if you go out on the ocean, it’s a big ocean, and you’re gonna have a nice day in the sun, but you may not catch any fish unless you have a sonar detector to find out where the fish are. This is gonna say, “Hey, you want a cold call list? Here’s a list of a thousand companies.” Well, how about if you knew which 150 were showing in 10 signals, right? Where are you gonna spend your time? So it’s a way to prioritize your time, but it’s also used, you’re gonna have better conversations. And what we find is from a lead standpoint, whether it’s a lead into a marketing funnel or an appointment, the outcome of those is substantially better, up to 67% improvement in the scoring of those outcomes.
Tessa Burg: Up to 67% improvement in the scoring?
Mike Farrell: Yes.
Tessa Burg: So we have quite a few colleagues, professionals in the B2B marketing community that are still measuring performance based on quantity, you know, asking that question, how many leads, how many leads? When you could ask that question, because you can generate a pretty large list, and you can run a campaign on LinkedIn and by target by title and target by company and get large numbers. How do you have that conversation with clients looking for quantity that quality will lead to higher performing outcomes, or even higher value, higher retained customers.
Mike Farrell: I think you wanna do both, right. You know, in most cases, the people that are looking for quantity, is they’re playing the numbers game, right? Marketing and sales is a numbers game to some degree. So you do have to play the numbers game. And ultimately as a marketer, if you’re being recognized on your contribution to a sales pipeline, or your contribution to the SDR or BDR function, then quantity and quality will help you hit those metrics, those goals. ‘Cause it could just be simply that HQL, which is some custom questions in there that’s gonna make that you have more intelligence about that business, about that person’s desire. Then we take it even a step further and conduct syndication, this is done digitally, is we can even ask them their permission to call from that prospect. So that really shows intent, right? If that person is downloading your content, consuming your content, and they would be welcome to a phone call, that’s a great indication of… So you could do all of it, ’cause in all cases there’s gonna be conversion rates, right? If we do all these different lead types out simultaneously you know, just a straight on MQL is gonna give us a higher conversion rate than an HQL, than our permission to call. But if you do all of them, you still get the chance to fill every stage of your funnel.
Tessa Burg: So even though targeting by intent produces higher quality leads, it’s not a silver bullet, you know, just as gathering data around that intent, there’s not one source just doing this, doesn’t solve all of your lead activities. You think it should be, as you said earlier, complimentary and as part of a full sort of approach to lead generation.
Mike Farrell: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, just like you’re not gonna rely just on inbound leads, you have to go outbound. You have to do many different things. You’re not gonna just say, “I’m gonna just do this flavor of lead.” You’re gonna do events, right? You know, you’re gonna have a mix of marketing mix of lead generation activity. And then you can measure which ones are gonna be performing the best and through the pipeline.
Tessa Burg: Yes, in your answer, you’ve hit on some really nice setup steps too, for people who might be looking to revamp their lead generation program. So first it’s really important that B2B marketers understand scoring, what are they gonna score? Why are they gonna score it? And then get that baseline now so that they can see the type of lift and contribution they get from layering on an intent approach. The other piece that you hit on that I think is really important is content, and that, you know, the content has to be compelling for people to even want to engage. Have you seen any patterns of type of content that gets the most interest from people who are in that intent phase to buy?
Mike Farrell: Well, that’s a good question. It depends on the audience, you know, anything to deal with future trends is always something that people will be curious about. If there’s certain, you know, specific pain out in the marketplace, if I’m targeting a security, maybe it’s about ransomware, ’cause, you know, there’s a lot of fear about that. If I’m targeting for an HR solution, maybe it’s about the turnover issue and talent acquisition issues that are out there. Don’t make it about your product, make it about the business problem that people have. That’s what they’re searching for when they go online, they’re searching for solving a problem, so make it about that.
Tessa Burg: That’s a great piece of advice. One comment I hear a lot is, “I don’t think our audience is online.” And just a sort of package that, we work with a lot of B2B companies and manufacturing and construction service, a lot of people who are working with contractors and physical work, and they’re not sure the owners of those companies or the buyers that work at those companies really use online. Have you found that there are certain audiences that just, however they’re doing it, have avoided the internet or using Google to help solve problems?
Mike Farrell: You know, that I think is becoming less and less of a situation. I mean, let’s face it, baby boomers are kind of retiring out of the workforce and you really have this… You know, the millennial generation is really the biggest chunk of the workforce right now and moving it to senior level positions and, you know, in decision-maker positions. So part of it’s a generational shift, and I think that definitely is gonna continue to happen, and I think there could be people that are less, but it may not… If the owner themselves is not Googling something, which I think they… Let’s say most people are doing some of that, right? Then we’ll probably have some staff members do it. That senior executives not gonna do it themselves, they’re probably gonna give that project to someone else to go vet, “Hey, this is our business problem, go research some solutions, right?” It may not even be the C-level person that’s doing the researching, but they’re gonna delegate that to some staff.
Tessa Burg: Yes, I’ve seen that many times at businesses where, you know, the leaders might not be the people who are actually setting down and gathering all the options, but we’ve seen great content, also help the researchers champion that up the chain and to have those decision-maker conversations.
Mike Farrell: Any executive is still gonna need that comfort that this is a good decision, right? So if that content brings in some third-party research data that says, you know, Gartner says this, or Forrester says that, or Frost & Sullivan says this, those are the things that can help that C-level executive get comfortable with that, whatever is being recommended.
Mike Farrell: I really like the word comfort, and I was just thinking if we’re syndicating this content, and we’re gathering data on the triggers, what mechanisms inside the platform are serving as points of validation back to the marketer or back to the client generating the leads that, yes, these are the behaviors, or this is how we know this is a high quality lead. How are you calling that out? Or how is it learning those patterns?
Mike Farrell: Well in the platform and we do have a lead score, and there’s an algorithm there obviously. You know, one of the things you look for when the analysis we do once we, you know, like I said, use about three or four weeks’ worth of data, is how many people at that company, how many individual contacts at that company are searching? That’s gonna make the score go up. Versus if it’s just one person showing a trigger versus five or six people showing a trigger. In that, let’s call it 30 days, in that 30-day window, maybe you saw three or four or five triggers from the same person, right? They consume this content, they were on this Reddit board, they connected with somebody on LinkedIn that’s associated with this topic. Or they tweeted about something or was at an event about this time. So that’s gonna give it a higher score, right? ‘Cause now you know, okay, it’s not just a single signal, it’s multiple signals over a short period of time, or it’s multiple people in one organization. So those are where you can prioritize.
Tessa Burg: That is super interesting. And I think another concept that you’re hitting on that’s important for marketers to understand, is it’s really rare that decisions are made in isolation. And that, you know, there could be six to eight people that are part of this process, and if you’re able to engage more people in the decision-making process, then the more likely it is that you’re helping to solve their problem, because again, that’s what the content should be doing. How then do you take it from helping to solve a critical problem for a group of decision-makers into getting in front of them with a sales pitch or a product pitch?
Mike Farrell: If it’s a lead generation campaign and the deliverables of the client is the lead, then it’s up to their SDR, BDR organization to activate that. We have our outbound BDR organization, SDR organization as well, that clients hire us to generate appointments for them. In that case, we’re gonna take that intent list really prioritize it, you know, even further, and then we’re gonna give that to our folks to, and again, use that signal, whatever that signal topic is to be their lead in messaging on the phone and/or whether it’s an email outreach. And then we have literally gotten people on the phone and they have said, “It’s funny, you’re calling me about this topic, we were just discussing this. And what are you a mind reader?” You do get those kind of responses in our phone outreach.
Tessa Burg: I love that example, as you were saying that a light bulb went off in my head that if we are getting and contacting higher quality leads, now we’re also getting better lists that can feed into our other lead tactics. So if we do have campaigns running on paid search, or retargeting or social, we’re taking these leads that have now been validated with intent and trying to target more people like them, you know, to supplement the overall program and maximize our visibility, which is really exciting because it really creates almost like a circle of value. You start at one point, which is your static data, and who do we wanna target, and then start gathering more dynamic data that’s constantly changing and you let it nurture over time, but then the results is really a circle where what you are putting in and the longer it sort of sits in nurtures, can feed in through your whole program.
Mike Farrell: Yeah, and these intent campaigns really should be evergreen, they should be… You know, we can certainly tweak everything that’s in the intent platform, we can change keywords and trigger, you know, hashtags and all those kinds of things. Because who’s in market to this month will change in a couple of months, right? So you wanna always know, who’s kind of going up that adoption curve and, you know, looking to… You know, some of that’s maybe in the buyer’s journey.
Tessa Burg: I think that’s an awesome point.
Mike Farrell: And if you’re running it for a long period of time, if I started now, I get a lot of data, right? I get a lot of signals. Because I just started running it, I don’t know which of these people, how deep they are in the buyer’s journey. But if you’re running it for 12 months and all of a sudden on month 10, I see new companies and new contacts, well, they’re new to the journey, they must be early in the journey, right? Whereas if I’ve seen this person or this company with signals for three or four months, okay, they’re progressing in their journey, right?
Tessa Burg: That’s really interesting. I feel like a lot of B2B marketers do things in sprints, you know, and sort of… And it’s not even that old school, something we did before the pandemic was align things around trade shows, you know, how are we getting more people to the booth? What are we doing with the people at the booth? That again, as this is layered on, you can use what you’re doing, either physical shows or virtual shows, just a part of that content, and that could be another signal of intent, is, you know, are they showing up virtually, are they engaging with the content around those special events to really even maximize your sales presence? I imagine that your programs make marketers finally look like the rock stars they are to sales teams.
Mike Farrell: That is exactly what we want.
Tessa Burg: Are there things that marketers ask for from reporting standpoint, from a data standpoint, that really helps strengthen that sales-marketing alignment?
Mike Farrell: What do they ask for? You know, marketers are very inquisitive, very curious people by nature, I think, so there are a lot of questions, and most of marketers nowadays are very data-driven as well, so there’s a lot of data questions, conversion questions, those kinds of things. But I think the alignment with sales, this intent, it can really be kind of a glue because what do sales want? They want good appointments, they wanna advance somebody into the sales pipeline. And if you can give them though those better appointments or better conversations, those prospects are more engaged in the topic, they’re gonna advance into sales pipeline, and you’re making a big impact on the sales team at that point. So I do think it can be a glue, if it’s this SDR organization is kind of that middle point where, you know, the lead flow goes to them before it goes to an account executive, you’re arming them with better tools too, better leads. So I think you can really win over the sales team, you know, with some of these marketing tactics.
Tessa Burg: I think that is really the goal of most B2B marketers, ’cause it’s like you’re always in service of the sales team, but it’s such a massive challenge to generate quality leads and leads they actually want. So this has been a really valuable conversation. And I think anyone listening should really take a step back and say, where can intent play a role in my lead generation program, knowing that it’s not a silver bullet, but it certainly feeds in to all the tactics that marketers are probably currently running, and could even make them stronger. If any of the listeners wanted to get in touch with you, where can they find you?
Mike Farrell: They can go to our website, greenleads.com, they can out to me directly, I’d be happy to have any conversations with folks, it’s [email protected], so F-A-R-R-E-L-L, I always say Will Ferrell spells it wrong? And yeah, I’d be happy to jump, I’m open most mornings from seven to nine before my meeting starts, so I’m open to have any meetings with anybody to talk more about their business and how we can help.
Tessa Burg: That’s great, I have one last question, I almost forgot and it’s the most important question. What is something that you really wish your clients were doing right now as it relates to intent data that they’re not taking advantage of?
Mike Farrell: To use it multiple ways, right? I think we all kind of get in this linear process-oriented mindset sometimes, and you take it, and they give it to… You know, they have us activate it for appointments, or they take it and run a single play, a single campaign is number one, keep it going for a long period of time, but then find multiple touches you can make with those. ‘Cause it’s still, like you said, it’s not a silver bullet, you still have to touch those prospects multiple times, so that’s not a one-time touch. But you know there’s some level of activity on their part that indicates they’re in the buyer’s journey, so stick with them, with multiple different touches to really activate that lead.
Tessa Burg: I love that because it gives strategic marketers the opportunity to make their strategy more productive. I feel like some of the best marketers know it has to be a connected journey, but they might not have the right data or enough data or these evergreen campaigns that are sort of pumping in the juice to tell them where are the fish that are gonna bite? That is fantastic. All right, we already talked about where people can reach you, it’s greenleads.com, and then if you want to listen to more Tenlo Radio episodes from Lead Generation, you can visit tenlo.com, click on Podcasts, and you’ll see more conversations about how to generate measure and maximize leads. Mike, thanks so much for being our guest today, this was a fun conversation.
Mike Farrell: Thanks, Tessa. And super productive, I’m excited to apply this to myself. And yeah, I hope to hear from you soon that lots of people have begun to incorporate this into their campaigns.
Mike Farrell: Yes, we’ll be in touch.
Tessa Burg: All right.
CEO of Green Leads
Mike Farrell has 30+ years of sales, marketing and business leadership experience, and is currently the CEO of Green Leads. The company provides B2B technology clients—from startup to enterprise—with meetings, lead generation, and content syndication.
Mike has an incredible track record of building companies, growing pipelines and, ultimately, driving revenue. He has extensive experience selling into B2B and public sector markets, building sales development organizations as well as developing channel partnerships.