Being a B2B marketer in 2019 is a tough job. The list of tasks you are expected to perform is extensive. At a minimum, your job will entail defining buyer personas, creating timely and relevant content, performing market analysis, and creating stable conversion pipelines. To add insult to injury, even if you perform all these tasks admirably, there is no guarantee that your marketing campaigns are going to be successful.

The reason for this is simple – the digital market is moving at a breakneck pace, so there is a good chance your strategy will become outdated mid-execution. The only way to ensure success is to be one step ahead of the game. Instead of responding to the situation as it unfolds, you will need to anticipate future scenarios before they become a reality, in order to capitalize on them when the moment comes. This is where intent data comes into play. Its claim to fame is the fact that it can help B2B marketers gain a deeper insight into the needs and wants of potential clients, thus helping them craft more effective marketing campaigns.

Because intent data is a relatively recent invention, few B2B marketers are fully acquainted with its uses and benefits. So in order to rectify this state of affairs, we have decided to write a short primer on the topic. Read on, and find out how to leverage intent data to its full extent.

Defining Intent Data

Defining Intent Data Source: idio.ai

The basic definition of B2B intent data is that is a collection of information about the behavior of a particular company. In order to illustrate what intent data is all about, and how it can be applied, it will be helpful to first distinguish between its two major types.

  • Internal intent data or first-party intent data. This type of intent data is derived from the activity your company captures directly via its website, marketing automation platform, or CRM software. First-party intent data enables your company to discover buying signals, because it is based on information relevant to the purchase decision itself. Examples of first-party intent data include which pages a prospect has accessed, the links they followed, time on each page, and others. Predictive-scoring vendors use first-party data obtained from various sources to create customized models to help them identify prospects that are exhibiting buying behavior.
  • External intent data or third-party data. This type of intent data is gathered by different publisher networks in order to be sold to clients. It is collected by means of tracking IP traffic, monitoring user registrations, and collecting data from website cookies. Third-party intent data is useful for determining the kind of articles users read, the content they download, the searches they perform, the comments they leave, and others. Third-party intent data is sold by providers like The Big Willow, Bombora, TechTarget, and others. Companies use third-party intent data for running targeted ads, creating account lists for account-based marketing, and developing personalized content.

Both types of intent data have their respective uses. If the scale of your business operation allows it, you should endeavor to use both when possible. If you have to choose, first-party intent data is generally more accurate, and thus more relevant to your particular business.

The Predictive Nature of Intent Data

The Predictive Nature of Intent Data Source: fileboard.com

As we have mentioned in our introduction, the purported value of intent data is that it allows B2B companies to predict buying behavior from clients. Let us examine this claim more closely, and see whether intent data can actually deliver on its promises.

First, a word on how traditional lead-scoring models work. The way they work is by manually assigning points to each lead based on certain predefined criteria. These models don’t encompass a lead’s complete activity. And since these scores are based on a lot of guesswork, they can be misleading at best, and deceptive at worst. B2B marketing based on traditional lead scoring is therefore not likely to produce impressive results.

In contrast, lead scoring based on first-party intent data uses a more dynamic approach to predict buying behavior. Their main source of data is marketing automation systems, which capture moment-to-moment snapshots of client behavior, thus providing more comprehensive datasets for deriving predictions. These models can predict if a given client is likely to start exhibiting buying behavior, and they can determine with great accuracy the time and context when this will occur.

Third-party intent data offers a lower degree of precision when it comes to predictive modeling. Most of third-party intent data is gathered through IP tracking and website cookies. However, data of this sort is more susceptible to manipulation due to the use of VPN and proxy services, as well as cookie blocking and deletion. Intent signals derived from third-party data is, therefore, less accurate, making it a poor tool for predicting buying behavior.

In conclusion, first-party intent data has the potential to predict buying behavior with a reasonable degree of accuracy, whereas third-party intent data is less helpful in this regard. However, both models are strictly speaking more effective than traditional lead scoring tactics.

Use-Cases for Intent Data

Both first-party and third-party intent data have several scenarios where they can be useful. We will provide a few examples for each, to give you an idea of how to best incorporate them into your B2B marketing strategy.

First-party intent data can be used for:

  • Advanced lead prioritization. First-party intent data allows you rank leads into several different tiers based on their match potential for specific products and services. By using intent data in this way, B2B marketers and sales reps can more easily distinguish between low-potential leads and prospective clients.

Advanced lead prioritization Source: insidesales.com

  • Automatic outreach. In addition to forecasting buying intent as such, first-party intent data can also help marketers predict where a prospect will be within the conversion funnel at a later point in time. This information can then be used in conjunction with even a free CRM system and a marketing automation suite to trigger pre-programmed actions such as sending out emails.
  • Campaign performance measurement. First-party intent data can provide marketers with performance predictions for their campaigns, allowing them to identify which campaigns are driving the engagement, and which are a drain on company resources.

Third-party intent data can be used for:

  • Personalized marketing campaigns. B2B companies can use third-party intent data to discover accounts that are researching topics related to their business niche. They can then use this data to create more effective, personalized marketing campaigns to grab the attention of these accounts.
  • Targeted advertising. Third-party intent data provides information B2B marketers can use to improve the accuracy of their targeted ad campaigns.

Intent Data In Action

If you are anxious to start using intent data straight away, consider the following scenario.

You are running a business that makes and sells accounting software. Your primary targets are medium-sized companies that need assistance with their accounting. In order to increase sales, you decide to launch an email marketing campaign. You create a list of prospects based on your contacts in the world of finance. Your end goal is to convert these prospects into leads and customers by having them click on a landing page link in the email. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this happening is fairly low – even getting the prospect to open an email can be a difficult task.

How can you increase your email conversion potential in this situation? Intent data holds the key. Instead of targeting accounts en masse, what you could do instead is to try and find out which accounts have been search engines to look for accounting software. You can do this either by preparing intent data of your own or by acquiring third-party intent data. This data will allow you to narrow down your list of prospects. The list will likely include chief technical staff, employees from financial departments, people from compliance, and other individuals expressing intent to buy and use accounting software. All that’s left is to craft customized email content for each of these groups of individuals, giving them a convenient way to manifest their buying intent.

Marketing with Intent

By incorporating intent data into their technology stacks, B2B marketers are on the verge of solving a long-standing marketing issue – how to reach out to the right client at the right time, with the right kind of message. Intent data can also make the job of your sales team much easier. And as more and more B2B companies start using this new approach to marketing, intent data is likely to become a necessity for doing business online. So the sooner you start using it, the better prepared your company will be for the future.

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Daniel Bishop

Daniel Bishop

Content Consultant

Daniel Bishop started off as a content consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Online consulting was perfect for him as he is very social and loves to travel. Settling down, for the time being, he finally found his place as a junior editor for ReallySimpleSystems. Always searching for new opportunities, he loves sharing ideas with other professionals in the digital community.