Intent Data: What Is It and How Can You Use It To Drive B2B Sales?

Intent data is behavioral information that helps you verify if a business is interested in your product or services. Here’s how you can use it to target customers with the right content or ads at the right time.

Updated: October 4, 2021

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Let’s picture this scenario: you have a solution to a problem that a group of people has. 

This group could be performing online searches, reading relevant content or comparing options to address their pain points. 

However, they’re not asking your sales team for help. 

In fact, if these people were average B2B buyers, they’re most likely finished with their purchase journey before they ever engage a salesperson. 

Reaching out to them by this time is usually too late, as they’ve probably already contacted your competitors.

Now, what if you could get ahead and intercept them early on in this process?

Well, that’s the idea behind buyer intent data. 

It’s a cutting-edge sales tool that opens a window into the world of a prospect’s purchase journey through subtle signals that place a company in the position to be first in line to make their pitch.

Stick with us as we go through intent data and its usefulness in B2B data-driven marketing.

    What Is Intent Data?

    Intent data is the next big step in the pursuit of data-driven marketing. 

    It is behavioral information about users’ web content consumption that gives insights into their interests.

    It assesses a potential customer’s intent to take a specific action. 

    For businesses that can harness this data, the results could be tremendous. 

    For starters, it would allow them to understand who might be getting closer to making a purchase decision or even the nitty-gritty of the best pathway to a sale or conversion.

    Let’s look at it this way. When buyers face certain problems, they go online to find solutions. 

    The information they get helps them narrow down their options and even make up their minds on the next course of action.

    Now imagine you knew that your prospects were searching for a solution similar to what you offer, and you were able to intercept them soon after they started their search. 

    That’s where intent data comes in. 

    It shows you the leads that are actively researching subjects related to your products on third-party sites.

    The key here is that when research on a particular topic is unusually high, the accounts spike. 

    You can take advantage of this by prioritizing the accounts that are spiking on relevant topics to boost conversions and sales.

    These highly relevant research topics could be in the form of:

    • Product reviews and comparisons.
    • Blogs.
    • Case studies.
    • Message boards like Quora.

    The idea behind it is simple. 

    The company that can take advantage of intent data to reach prospects the fastest wins the business — it’s all about being forward-thinking.

    What Are the Different Types of Intent Data?

    Intent data uses activity indicators like browser cookies to track customer activity, and the two main types are first-party and third-party intent data.

    First-Party Intent Data

    In simple terms, any intent data you collect from your site is first-party intent data. 

    It covers most things you would think of when tracking valuable buyer activity insights. 

    This could be in the form of forms for gated content or IP addresses.

    In truth, if you’ve been monitoring metrics and making decisions from analytic tools or automation platforms on your website, you’re likely already tracking first-party data.

    That said, first-party data may be anonymous when you cannot tie it to a specific buyer or know when you can identify the business or individual with IP identification of previously submitted forms.

    First-party intent data has proven to be very useful. 

    However, the downside to depending solely on it is that you’re only gathering customer data in a single aspect of their journey. 

    As a result, you could be missing ideal prospects that never make it to your website in the first place.

    Third-Party Intent Data

    Third-party intent data is basically any intent data collected on another website. 

    While it also includes IP addresses and filled-in forms, it is usually gathered by intent data providers to buyers.

    Because third-party intent data observe customer research everywhere (well, maybe not everywhere, but you get the idea), it gives you a holistic view of your prospect’s activities.

    This data is very useful since customers often make more than one visit to more than one website before making a sophisticated buying decision. 

    There’s usually a whole series of events, the majority of which happen before the buyer even visits your website.

    Leading organizations combine first and third-party data to get an even better view of the buyer’s journey

    The idea behind this approach is that the former offers visibility for an essential step in the buyer’s journey, while the latter shows us the entire path taken and each misstep or backtrack along that course.

    What Are the Benefits of Using Intent Data?

    Intent data is a real game-changer for any business’s sales and marketing efforts. Here are a few of its benefits.

    Finding active prospects

    Intent data is the difference between finding active and inactive customers. 

    Since it shows you which prospects have the most interest in your solutions, you can prioritize them based on intent. 

    This makes it so much easier for you to identify and go after individuals nearing the end of their search for a solution and allows you to increase your conversion rate. 

    Finding leads with interests

    You can expand on the previous point to identify and target leads that have shown even the smallest amount of interest in your products, especially if they may not have been in your scope initially.

    Gaining audience insights

    Intent data also allows you to learn more about your audience. 

    It tells you who they are and how your solution can help them.

    Simply put, intent data is a key factor for gaining audience insights and finding new prospects without losing your hold on existing ones.

    How Do You Collect Intent Data?

    Once you understand the types of intent data, it becomes easier to see how you can collect it.

    Collecting first-party intent data

    You can easily collect first-party intent data by running analytic tools on your website. 

    For example, when prospective buyers visit your platforms, you can track their activity. 

    Similarly, when someone fills and submits a form on your website, you can nurture them with ads and send them an email or two to potentially convert them.

    However, for this to work, your prospects must be researching challenges that your solution can address and they must be doing that research on your website.

    So, what if they’re doing research, just not on your website? 

    That’s where third-party vendors come in to help you with third-party intent data.

    Collecting third-party intent data

    When your prospects visit other websites, you have no visibility of their activity. 

    Hence, the easiest way to access third-party intent data is to buy it from a third-party vendor.

    Because content consumption is a strong indicator of buyer intent, these third-party platforms can aggregate online research activity from data-sharing cooperatives, including B2B websites and media publishers.

    By collecting weekly activities, they can then map out each company’s average content consumption over time. 

    By monitoring this baseline of activity, they can pick out spikes in topic searches.

    These spikes are generated using algorithms that account for several factors, including:

    • The amount and types of content consumed.
    • The number of consumers.
    • On-page time.
    • Scroll speed.

    With this spike data, you can unobtrusively send relevant ads to prospects at the perfect time in their research journey.

    Why Is Intent Data Useful for B2B Marketing?

    Let’s face it: most B2B customers tend to research independently, and we don’t expect this to change anytime soon. 

    Hence making sales in the B2B market is mostly about prioritization and discovery.

    However, it’s quite clear that companies who wait for prospects to stumble across their pages are going to be playing second fiddle to those who take advantage of predictive purchase data.

    That’s the importance of intent data: allowing sales teams to initiate contact with buyers early on in the purchase cycle.

    That said, here’s how we can use intent data in B2B marketing.

    Building effective ABM campaigns

    The Account-based Marketing (ABM) business strategy concentrates resources on a set of target accounts within a market.

    With intent data, you can leverage a vast amount of contacts for targeting and then narrow down the options to find the ideal buyer. 

    This allows you to build effective ABM campaigns by showing the most relevant ads to searching companies at the right time.

    It’s not just ads, though. 

    Content marketing could benefit too, as you’ll be putting your copies in front of the people who need them to get a deal over the line.

    At the end of the day, you are armed with a better idea of the companies interested in your product, your branding is better recognized, your conversions soar, and you can drastically reduce your cost per lead.

    Improve your targeting

    Intent data provides you with an effective means of ordering your leads — that’s right, by intent. 

    This way, you can better understand your ideal customer profile (ICP) — in other words, the buyer groups with the most interest in our solution. 

    These accounts are likely primed to spend and are the ones you want to pay the most attention to.

    Just think about the possibilities. With this information, your sales team can better tailor their campaign efforts. 

    Likewise, your email marketers can build highly relevant campaigns and use more forward CTAs to get these prospects who are already near the end of their decision timeline to take that final step.

    But it doesn’t stop there.

    Because you know which customers need a bit more time, you can maintain and personalize your relationships with them by sending lead nurturing campaigns until they’re ready to make that purchase decision.

    In addition, you can even target potential customers that are yet to engage with your sales and marketing teams directly.

    It’s all invaluable information, and it gives you a layer of flexibility, something that’s hard to come by in B2B marketing.

    Optimize Your Website

    Knowing your ICP is not only about sending campaigns. 

    You can also adjust your website to appeal to your audience. 

    You could create pages tailored to your most frequent visitors, especially those with the highest intent. 

    For example, you could improve access to relevant case studies or provide industry-specific information.

    The only hiccup in this process is that ICP doesn’t always stay the same. 

    Industry changes could make them better or worse matches. 

    However, with intent data, you can constantly calculate our ICP and make minor tweaks to your website to reflect the change.

    Wrap Up: Utilizing Intent Data For Professional Campaigns

    Intent data gives you background information on prospective companies and allows you to target them with better precision, speed and confidence. 

    In addition, it gives complete control of your campaigns by showing you companies that are currently looking for a solution that you offer.

    Despite the many benefits that intent data has, a successful, holistic data-driven approach to marketing requires so much more.

    To get the most out of your campaigns, read this editor of the Rock Content Magazine to learn more about improving your lead generation through data-driven marketing.


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