Intents are the intentions behind the actions of users and customers. If we know the intention of a contact in a certain situation, in a certain context, we can address the contact with currently relevant content. Intent we recognize in the touchpoint, each touchpoint is thereby a learning opportunity. With marketing automation, suitable content is then placed – completely automatically.

We talked with Björn Nagelmann in #scxtalk about opportunities and the challenges of detecting intents in the context of marketing automation.

The whole talk is available as a video on YouTube.

Here’s some background on how to recognize intents

Intent marketing is about being able to say as a business: Ah, I see why you’re here, I see what you want.

Why is the recognition of intents important for the customer approach?

Recognizing intent is important in any interaction so that we understand what the other person “really” wants. Otherwise, it happens quickly that we – simply said – talk past each other. Then we don’t feel understood, feel like we’re in the wrong place, and move on.

In the online customer approach – or rather customer interaction – it is now just as important to understand what the counterpart currently wants. The goal is always to take a step forward in the relationship. From lead to customer, from test customer to convinced customer.

In this context, one thing above all is important: personalization. Contacts and customers are less and less willing to follow a rigid process that is not tailored to them.

Every touchpoint with contacts or customers is an opportunity to learn, to understand. What is important here is that we also shape the interaction in such a way that we can also learn something from the other person. With our channels, this is still relatively simple: for example, we can offer visitors various options on the website via call-to-actions and then see which direction they take and accompany and serve them further along the way.

Every action or non-action is a revelation. With everything that users and customers do, they show what we want or do not want.

How can we recognize user intents or customer intents in touchpoints?

The recognition of the intents is sometimes better, sometimes worse, depending on the communication, synchronous vs. asynchronous, or depending on which interaction is possible in a channel at all.

E.g. we can’t dynamically adjust a video on YouTube ad hoc. A conversation via voice bot or chat bot is more like it. Provided there is some intelligence behind it. The selection in an eShop, for example, can be adjusted according to patterns in search behavior. We can also design websites or apps dynamically to a certain extent.

It becomes more difficult to determine intents when we are on other channels and when we don’t have sovereignty over the channel. Then we have to play by the rules of the channel. Especially the big platforms like Facebook and Google are a step ahead of us here. They collect a lot of data, evaluate it, but don’t share all the findings with us.

Google’s advantage is, that users tell them what they are looking for at the exact moment they are looking for it: By typing in search terms, phrases, or questions. This much Google reveals: A recent study published by Google’s Zero Moment of Truth shows that consumer search behavior is driven by six needs: The need for surprise, help, reassurance, education, thrill, or the need to be impressed. These needs and goals are now not only dependent on the product category, but also on where consumers are in their journey.

What is behind Intent, how can we recognize Intent?

A basic understanding of human needs on the one hand and of relationship building on the other helps us to do this. With our value proposition, we address specific needs – not just once, but at every touchpoint along the journey. The intentions change as the relationship is built up: If users and customers do not yet know us, they usually first look for inspiration and initial information. If users and customers have already decided in favor of us, but would still like to secure their decision, they can do this, for example, by using alternative scenarios.

A good example of relationship building in implementation is retargeting ads: We already know the contacts from previous touchpoints and thus know that they have already made the first steps of the journey. So you already have an awareness of the topic and it is now very likely to be a matter of collecting arguments for a decision.

Examples of needs along Maslow’s hierarchy:


  • Being part of something bigger
  • Leaving a legacy


  • Living according to your own ideas
  • Outgrowing yourself

Aesthetic needs

  • Surrounding yourself with beauty
  • Treating yourself to something nice

Cognitive needs

  • Learning something
  • Being entertained

Individual needs

  • Resting and relaxation
  • Being alone

Social needs

  • Making connections
  • Receiving support

Security needs

  • Finding clarity
  • Maintaining structure

Physiological needs

  • Food
  • Exercising

How can we map intent into touchpoints with marketing automation?

By recognizing the intent in the respective touchpoint – or at least having a hypothesis about it – and placing suitable content – automatically. To do this, my touchpoints already have to be designed in such a way that I can continuously measure, learn, optimize.

Sure I want to generate conversions with my touchpoints. In addition to this performance goal, however, I should also set a learning goal. Because a touchpoint is not only an opportunity to sell but always to learn.

I should think about this when I design my touchpoints: On the website, on landing pages, or in emails, for example, I can offer it different options and thus, recognize which directions contacts take.

Central to this remains that I need to add value and learn something at every touchpoint. That’s my mantra: If you haven’t brought users or customers anything and haven’t learned anything yourself, then the touchpoint was for nothing.

Specifically, this is done with marketing automation via dynamic segments and dynamic campaigns. This allows contacts to navigate their own way through the content offerings. The ongoing analysis takes place in the background. Depending on the actions of the contacts, tags are reassigned, segments are newly formed and campaigns are triggered.

All beginnings are easy.

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