What is Intent Data?

Intent Data is a term you will be hearing more about if you in B2B sales or marketing.  There are two types of Intent Data, internal and external.  Internal is the information we collect about buyers on our own online web sites such as what pages they read, what blogs they looked at, what content they downloaded, etc., that indicates a potential intent to buy.  External Intent Data are data that is collected about a buyer via the web, including search, online communities, social media, trade publications, review sites, or other online browsing outside of our control that possibly indicates some intent or future action.  Based on the signals this behavior is giving off, way by reading product reviews, we could assume interest in a particular product. These signals could be added to our lead score to indicate a more likely buyer.

How useful is Intent Data?

This pretty much sounds like a dream come true for B2B marketers. Buyers are leaving evidence of their intent to buy all around us!  All we have to do is pick it up!  Well, before you go any further, Intent Data may or may not be useful for your particular product or service.

Gartner analyst Todd Berkowitz spelled out when it’s useful and when it’s not so much, in a recent blog.

If you have a mature, well-established market, say selling to the late majority who spend a lot of time researching and comparing prices and vendors, then Intent Data may provide early signals of interest.  Remember that stat that says that a buyer spends more than 2/3 of the sales cycle before they talk to a sales rep?  Intent Data could help you break into that research time earlier and get a jump on your competitor by helping you reach out at the right time, when they are most receptive.

When it’s not very useful is in new or emerging markets. If it’s too early for a buyer to be looking for a particular solution to a problem, then they won’t be leaving many signals.  If you were very clever you might be able to use it for some Challenger sale if you had a clear understanding of the symptoms they might be displaying, but probably not.

How do we get access to external Intent Data?

So once we decide that we have the type of solution that Intent Data would give us a reasonable indication of desire or interest, how do we get our hands on it?

There are a number of sources of Intent Data:

  • Ad networks
  • Search engines
  • Social Media such as LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Communities
  • Industry and Trade Publications
  • Reseller and Partner Digital Ecosystems
  • Analysts

Some of these sources you can purchase second party data from directly such as ad networks, trade publications, partners, and analysts.  Others may not open their ecosystem at all, some of what include that same list of analysts or closed trade associations.  Others such as communities or social media may not sell the information but getting at it might be tricky.  This is where a whole new generation of AI-powered predictive intelligence tools or marketing analytics companies are launching to collect up all of this information across the B2B web and make it useful for marketing and sales.

AI is helping turn massive piles of data into actionable insight into the buyer’s journey. And leading marketers are also turning to machine learning to help make sense of the data.

Once you’ve decided that the signals from Intent Data are right for your marketing and solution, take some time researching the many solutions that are emerging. This TechTarget article has some useful tips on selecting a vendor.