Quantifying Impact: How Intent Metrics Validate Upper and Mid-Funnel Marketing Channels

As a growth marketing agency, we are constantly seeking ways to grow revenue for our partners. We often do that by analyzing each marketing channel, and scaling those that have the best ROI. Sounds simple, right?

When you start to think through how user behavior differs across channels, marketing decisions quickly become anything but simple – especially if you operate under a freemium business model with a lead cycle that can take a significant amount of time. Sophisticated data systems can often tell you your exact return on investment, broken down by channel and even campaign. But sometimes, that data story isn’t intuitive.

What happens when we don’t see bottom of funnel conversions on a channel we know works for lead gen, but hasn’t yielded many paying customers? Where should we dive in? Can we better understand our audience? How can we find the cog in our marketing wheel? Intent metrics. 

Intent metrics allow us to assess the layer between qualified lead and paying customer to better understand our audience and ultimately make optimizations to drive more down funnel results upper and mid funnel channels. 

What is an intent metric? 

Intent metrics are a set of measurements used to gauge the level of interest, engagement, and intention displayed by users or potential customers towards a particular brand, product, or service.

These metrics help assess the effectiveness of marketing efforts at various stages of the customer journey, particularly in the upper and mid-funnel stages where the focus is on generating awareness, capturing attention, and nurturing interest.

Intent metrics often go beyond traditional metrics like qualified leads or conversion. They typically aim to capture deeper insights into consumer behavior and intent. They provide qualitative and quantitative data that indicates the likelihood of a user taking a desired action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or requesting more information.

Who is an intent metric best for? 

If your business or product offers a free account or free trail feature, an intent metric could be helpful for you. If your product sees a longer than normal sales cycle, an intent metric may be helpful for you. With the longer sales cycle, you can make faster decisions around campaign optimizations before a user drops off. There is no more

With Teachable, we were able to take insights from our free users to optimize campaigns at the top of the funnel and the middle of the funnel, which ultimately drove more paid users over time. 

Creating intent metrics unique to your business

Creating intent metrics for your brand involves a strategic approach to tracking and measuring user behavior and engagement throughout the customer journey. The intent metrics you track should be unique to your audience, your customer journey, and the leading indicators that often precede conversion actions on your site. 

Start by identifying the key actions or behaviors that indicate user intent and align with your marketing objectives. These actions can vary depending on your industry and business model. Examples include clicking on a specific call-to-action, downloading a resource, adding items to a cart, or subscribing to a newsletter.

This takes a lot of research from both marketing and product teams. You first try to find where the conversion rate drops in your user flows. We often analyze this by channel – the point of drop off can be different from a Meta ad compared to a Google search ad because the users intent with your brand is drastically different. 

How we built intent metrics for our partner Teachable

With our partner Teachable, an online course creation platform, intent metrics allowed us to flip our top of funnel and middle of funnel strategy upside down.

A bit of helpful background: In Teachable’s user flow, there are three distinct actions that we track and optimize for:

  • Lead (email capture)
  • Free Account Created
  • Subscriber

Through paid social channels, we had successfully driven a ton of leads (top of funnel) and free account (middle of funnel) users to the Teachable product. Our CPLs and CPAs were incredibly healthy. But we weren’t seeing a ton of those free accounts convert to paying subscribers.

We asked ourselves, “Is this a product issue? Are free users unhappy with what they are getting? Is paid social simply not the channel for us? Is the right audience even on paid social? How do we drive higher intent users to the product from top of funnel channels?” Before we would open the “product versus marketing” can of worms, the intent metric was introduced. 

Historically with Teachable, if a lead or free user did not come back to the product within 5 days after signing up for a free account, they were likely to never convert to a paid account. The Teachable team had done enough research internally to know this to be true. With that information, the team was able to roll out an intent metric to track users who came back to the product after signing up for a free account within: 

  • 1 day
  • 3 days
  • 5 days

With the above information, we were able to assess what was driving the highest intent among users by:

  • Channel
  • Campaign
  • Audience
  • Creative asset

We were able to look at everything above and see which was driving the most 1 day, 3 day, and 5 day logins. This allowed us to assess the success of every aspect of a media mix – channel, campaign, audience and creative – to make better campaign optimization decisions. 

How to use intent metrics in your marketing plan

By reporting on intent metrics as well as leads and free accounts, we were able to completely shift our approach to campaign optimizations. Rather than look at hard and dry KPIs, we could look at more holistic metrics to allow us to better understand the behavior of those we were reaching. 

We could finally see who was coming back to the product to log in, and from where they converted onto the free product in the first place. We used this data to adjust campaigns based on where we were seeing the highest intent.

There are a multitude of insights an intent metric can provide, but we lean on them to answer questions that help shape our growth strategy when we aren’t seeing immediate revenue-generating success on certain channels. 

  • Can we justify spend on this channel? 
  • What should our budget breakdown across channels look like based on ROI? 
  • Are we reaching our audience on this platform? 
  • Which piece of creative is working? 
  • Ultimately, did this drive down funnel results? 

A holistic approach to intent metrics

Not only could we get in the granular details with intent metrics, we could also zoom out more holistically. I often get the question, “How do you back into budgets? How do you decipher where to properly allocate dollars?” We could now assess channel health as a whole, and look at where we wanted to allocate ad budgets. This allowed us to truly see where we should be spending our time and money. 

With Teachable, we learned that although we saw intent from our paid social channels, we saw the highest intent on paid search (naturally). Because of this, we were able to make monthly and quarterly budget recommendations that would provide the most value and return to the business. This didn’t mean we would use the intent metric to shut off channels entirely, but it did allow us to make more strategic budgetary decisions across channels. Because of this, we have been able to drive more down funnel results. 

Re-optimizing campaigns based on intent metrics

You have all of this data now, so what do you do with it? With Teachable, we used this to assess if anything was working within upper and mid funnel channels. Specifically, we looked at: 

  • Intent by campaign: Is one campaign driving higher intent than another? Perhaps messaging is stronger on one campaign than the other. 
  • Intent by audience: Is one audience driving higher intent than another? Perhaps targeting on this social platform is more spot on for this audience than the other. 
  • Intent by creative: Is one piece of creative driving higher intent than another? We can use this information to inform our next round of evergreen production. We can also shift budgets to certain pieces of creative that are driving the highest intent. 

This allowed us to make smarter decisions on our top of funnel channels, justifying to a Board of Directors or a C-Suite the spend on specific channels.

This also allowed us to make more informed decisions on creative and messaging. We could now look at an ad headline and say, “This is bringing users back to the product for 4 days, rather than 1. Let’s lean into this messaging. This is bringing a stronger user to the product.” 

How to evolve your reporting

Intent metrics are tricky metrics to layer in reporting. It’s not an easy item to introduce. 

Today, we use the intent metric as a holistic metric to assess the health of channels, campaigns, audiences, and creative. Right now we keep this out of our daily and weekly reporting. We don’t believe a variation in intent percentages on a Monday versus a Tuesday are good enough reason to remove a creative asset from the mix. Because of that, we report on a monthly and quarterly basis. We dive in and take a look at:

  • Highest intent by channel
  • Highest intent by campaign
  • Highest intent by audience
  • Highest intent by creative

And vice versa we will look at:

  • Lowest intent by channel
  • Lowest intent by campaign
  • Lowest intent by audience
  • Lowest intent by creative

As we look at this, we make shifts within campaigns based on where we are seeing success. We may realize that a creative asset with a wonderful CPL doesn’t have high intent down funnel, with that we will likely sunset that creative asset. Holistically, we are shifting budgets within campaigns and making monthly and quarterly budget recommendations based on our findings.

That’s not to say we are not frequently sitting with the intent metric on a daily basis. For example, when kicking off a new round of creative production, we will go to the intent metric to glean insights for the next round. When asked questions from leadership such as, “Which audience is performing the best on Facebook right now?” We can quickly lean into the intent metric for an answer.

Validating that intent metrics lead to conversions

The most important thing is to correlate the intent metric with revenue. If you can’t do that, the metric will become obsolete to leadership. 

Once you lean into intent metrics, what changes? Do you see a faster free to paid conversion rate? Do you see an uptick in paid subscriptions from a certain channel? Use this information to not only justify the importance of intent metric usage, but to make strategic decisions across your marketing channels. 

With Teachable, we have seen a direct correlation with intent percentages and Free User to Paid User conversions. It’s actually uncanny. When assessing intent percentages on a graph, and layering the free to paid conversion rate over this, the trend is nearly identical. Intent = Paid Conversions for Teachable. Because of this insight, we can confidently sunset a campaign or creative asset and have a very clear why behind it.

Because of this, we have proven to see a direct ROI by leaning into the intent metric. By finding learnings like this, you will see faster adoption by executive and marketing teams. Lean into these metrics, and they will soon be a leading indicator your team uses for marketing channel, campaign, and creative health. 

Why you should incorporate intent metrics into your planning process

The intent metric has allowed us to learn so much about our audience. As a growth partner, usually we’re assessing key performance indicators, conversion rates, and making strategic decisions from there. The intent metric has allowed us to look a layer deeper after that original conversion event takes place.

Because of this, we know our audience better, we make smarter decisions surrounding advertising spend, and we feel confident we’re moving the needle in the right direction to provide down funnel revenue results.  

Interested in talking to Hannah about intent metrics for your business? Let’s talk!