Now more than ever, prospective B2B buyers are shopping for and researching potential new solutions online. However, this increase does not always translate into more inbound leads. On average, only 2% of your website visitors will fill out a form, and to make matters worse, once they do, they are likely nearing the end of their buying process. This phenomenon is likely due to the fact that today's B2B buyers are wary of salespeople and have access to unprecedented amounts of digital information. Buyers can answer product questions, get pricing, compare services, and more all without ever reaching out to a sales rep.
Unfortunately, for your sales team, this means that buyers are forming opinions and making purchasing decisions about your products on their own. But the good news is that leveraging buyer intent data allows you to identify when companies are interested and when to reach out at the perfect time to add value to the conversation and influence their buying decision earlier than your competitors. Read on to discover the different types of buyer intent data, how to build an effective intent data strategy, some powerful use cases, and finally, things to look for when choosing an intent data vendor.
What is Intent Data?
As the name suggests, buyer intent data is a broad term for information about your target audience that indicates an increased interest (or intent) in buying a product or service like yours. Intent data signals encompass a wide variety of actions your audience can take outside of filling out a contact form on your website, including online research and content consumption, webinar attendance, website visits, engagement on social media, ebook/whitepaper/guide downloads, review sites, and more. This information is tremendously useful to sales and marketing teams because it gives them the ability to deliver highly customized messaging to their target audience based on what they are interested in. In addition, this data can be used to power every aspect of your account-based marketing (ABM) strategy.
Types of Intent Data
First-party intent data is information collected by you about your audience across your digital properties (website, blog, etc.) that indicates an elevated interest (or intent) to purchase. This could include things like:
- Visiting a certain number of pages
- Email interactions
- Content downloads
- Form fills
Each one of these actions can be factored into an account score that indicates a company's level of interest and can inform the outreach action this visitor might be receptive to.
Leveraging first-party intent data is like having your prospective customers tell you exactly what they want, how interested they are, and exactly when to reach out.
Benefits of First-Party Data: The main benefits of using first-party data are cost, ownership, and reliability. Because first-party intent data is gathered through an established relationship between you and your audience, it is generally considered more reliable and valuable than any other type of intent data. In addition, since you collect the data yourself, you don’t need to purchase this data from any second- or third-party data suppliers. Once you’ve set up your collection platforms, you can just sit back and start collecting. The last (and arguably best) thing about first-party data is the fact that you own it and thus can use it for whatever you want – there are no companies telling you what you can and cannot do with this data. This also opens up the door for greater customization and flexibility with this data since you can define and collect any custom criteria or data points that are important to you.
Limitations of First-Party Data: The limitations of first-party intent data are reach and scalability. Since this data is collected about your specific audience, you are limited to only gathering insights on the number of visitors browsing your site and visiting your digital assets. For example, if your website only gets 300 users and a handful of content downloads per month, it will be hard to build a large enough audience to set up an effective targeted ad campaign.
Second-party intent data is another company's first-party data that you acquire directly from them either through purchasing or through a data partnership.
Benefits of Second-Party Data: Second-party intent data helps to tackle the potential scalability issue of using first-party data by increasing the pool of audience data on which you can build campaigns. Additionally, building relationships with second-party data suppliers fosters trust and collaboration and can be highly beneficial for both companies.
Limitations of Second-Party Data: While second-party intent data solves the main scalability issue of first-party data, it is not without its drawbacks. Just like with first-party intent data, you are again limited to only the first-party reach of the company you are buying from. Furthermore, companies are not giving this data away for free. Gaining access to another company’s first-party data often requires either payment and/or access to your first-party data in exchange. Finally, the issue of data quality cannot be overlooked. Unlike the intent data collected by you, second-party data is collected by others, meaning you have no control or even knowledge of exactly how and when the data was collected. This makes choosing the right second-party data vendor incredibly important to the success of your campaigns. The top-tier second-party data companies like Foundry have vast publishing networks that provide a deep network of trustworthy intent signals that can provide tremendously powerful audience insights.
Third-party intent data is defined as activities, events, and intelligence across multiple different sources aside from those taking place on a website, such as:
- Social media engagement
- Participation in online forums
- Review site activity
- Topic-specific content consumption
This data is then aggregated into third-party intent audiences and sold as a package on which you can build audiences and campaigns.
Benefits of Third-Party Data: Since third-party intent data is gathered from multiple sources, there is a nearly endless amount available, which greatly increases your reach. This makes building audiences and campaigns much easier.
Limitations of Third-Party Data: Because third-party vendors base their data on inferred or implicit traits rather than actual audience responses, it could be seen as less reliable than first- or second-party data. Furthermore, just like second-party intent data, you do not own it, so you are bound by the restrictions set up by the third-party data supplier. Finally, most companies will have access to the same third-party data pools meaning the audience data you purchase can easily be acquired and used by your competitors.
How to Build an Intent Data Strategy
Initially, you may want to start out with just one type of intent data. Often the easiest and quickest way to get started is through first-party data since it is gathered directly from your website and does not require outside companies to provide it to you. However, as you progress in your intent data journey, you may find that leveraging multiple types of intent data (like first and second, second and third, first and third, etc.) can provide more benefits while mitigating the drawbacks of relying on just one type of data. Solutions like Foundry's Neon offer multiple types of intent data integrated into one powerful platform – making it much easier to implement and use their data.
Once you have determined which type(s) of intent data your teams will use, it is vital to develop a battle plan to use your data to hit the ground running and make the most out of the data. This can mean working with sales and marketing to determine your MQL and SQL threshold, what the handoff from marketing to sales looks like, what additional content assets your team will send in their outreach, the specific messaging strategy the teams will use, and more. For more information about how to build a tactical intent data strategy, check out our webinar on-demand with G2.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but once you have your strategy in place, you have to actually use it! In the next section, we’ll cover some powerful ways your teams can use intent data to increase leads and drive higher conversion rates.
How to Use Intent Data
Buyer intent data is tremendously useful to sales and marketing teams because it gives them the ability to deliver highly customized messaging to their target audience based on what they are interested in. In addition, this data can be used to power every aspect of your account-based marketing strategy, including:
- Identifying In-Market Buyers – By looking at the companies showing buying intent for different products you offer, you can see things like which industries are most engaged with your content, what size company tends to show the most buying intent, etc. Integrating your intent data into an account scoring model may also allow you to discover untapped market segments that are interested in your products which you may want to target in the future.
- Building Ad Retargeting Campaigns – Ad retargeting is one of the most effective ways to recapture website visitors that have left your site without converting. By adding intent data to your Google Ads platform, you can dynamically adjust your ad bids to win more ad placements for high-value accounts.
- Personalizing Website Content – Once you know what a company is interested in, you can use tools like Google Optimize or Adobe Target to dynamically customize your website, from images to text, navigation, and more.
- Creating Custom Sales and Marketing Campaigns – Once you know which accounts are interested in which products, you can create customized outreach messages that speak directly to the pain points they may be experiencing and how your products can solve them.
- Monitoring Campaign Success – It may sound redundant, but companies showing buying intent are probably in the market to buy your products. By looking deeper into who these companies actually are and what they are interested in, you can gain valuable insights into how well your ABM campaigns are performing (i.e., bringing in the right kind of traffic) and provide much deeper marketing attribution for your organization.
How to Choose the Right Intent Data Vendor
The percentage of identifiable traffic from companies can vary widely based on a number of factors, like your specific industry, product, service, etc. However, an excellent question to ask your potential intent data vendor is how many identifiable companies they have in their database. This will give you an idea of how robust their data is and how many companies they can possibly identify.
One main benefit of using intent data is having the ability to reach out and proactively engage with your buyers when they are the most interested. This is much easier to do when your team receives real-time alerts when accounts are showing elevated buying intent.
If you are running an intent data-based sales or marketing campaign, it is almost useless to see that AT&T or Comcast visited your site 1,500 times last month. Many small to medium-sized companies lease IP addresses from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and without the proper technology in place, the trail ends here. The same goes for filtering out public WiFi – a form fill from a Starbucks WiFi is not valuable.
However, good intent data companies can identify when an IP address belongs to an ISP or public WiFi and filter them out. With these filters in place, you can be sure you are working with actionable business intelligence to power your account-based strategies.
Learning a new platform and process can be a time-consuming task. By choosing an intent data vendor that seamlessly integrates into your existing technology stack, you can drastically reduce the time and learning curve associated with adopting a new platform while providing your team with the data they need.
The Future Of B2B Buyer Intent Data
While we cannot know exactly what our potential customers are thinking, leveraging intent data can give us valuable insights into what they are looking for. Intent data can also be a powerful predictor of which companies are more likely to buy right now – giving you valuable insight into who you should be focusing your messaging on to drive better sales and marketing campaigns and increase your conversion rates and, ultimately, revenue.