B2B buyer behavior has shifted dramatically to independent, online research. Due to the volume of content and online resources in nearly every industry, most people on your buying committees can perform their own research on their own time, and are likely to make a decision before ever talking to your sales team.
This is where timing is key, because it’s critical to identify when your ideal buyers are actively doing their research. The days of creating inbound programs and waiting for prospects to get in touch with you first are becoming less effective. When you wait, you miss out on potential earned revenue from buyers who are ready to buy your solution now.
What is B2B intent data?
The essence of B2B intent data is to proactively identify potential buyers searching online for similar products and services that your company is selling. Wouldn’t it be great to communicate directly with folks in the market, actively looking for solutions that your company offers? Intent data allows you to identify and target these specific folks, almost in real-time.
For example, when online users browse the internet, they leave a trail of intent signals in their path—page clicks, time spent on a page, and more. B2B intent data is a collected set of those signals. The type of intent signals a user is leaving and the strength of those signals can indicate a user’s interest in your product, which is invaluable for creating targeted marketing campaigns or delivering strong sales cadences.
Signs of buyer intent
The type of signals that your team tracks will depend on your goals and where you’re getting the data, but here are some examples of intent data signals that most B2B marketing and sales teams will find valuable:
- Visiting high-value web pages where the content has keywords (intent topics) that demonstrates purchase intent, such as products, services, features, comparisons, reviews, pricing, demo requests, free trials, etc.). For example, if a user searches and reads an article about “cloud computing” and “big data,” that means that they have an interest in, and potentially the intent to purchase, services related to those topics.
- Comparing vendors on a third-party review website. This could include your product vs. a competitor’s or even simply comparing two of your competitors. For example, if a user was comparing “Google Cloud” and “Amazon Web Services”, that means that they have intent to purchase services related to those intent topics.
- Opening and/or engaging with emails with subject lines and body content that indicate possible purchase intent. This is something not typically provided by vendors—you would get this from your internal tech stack.
- Clicking on ads with keywords terms (intent topics) like “services,” “software,” “outsourcing,” “consulting,” “providers,” “companies,” and “reviews.”
- Downloads of resources such as case studies and eBooks, especially those that are not simply informational and may indicate purchase intent. This can be vendor comparison guides, case studies, and more.
- Spikes in content consumption—either on your website or on third-party websites.
With B2B intent data, you can prioritize in-market accounts, personalize messaging to the topics ideal buyers are researching, engage the entire buying committee across digital marketing channels, and convert serious, high-intent buyers before your competition does.
As buyer intent is updated, you can create a consistent process to get in front of the right buyers each week. For marketing and sales teams, the ability to target buyers with the highest intent, and strike while the iron is still hot, translates into:
- Higher ROI on inbound, outbound, and account-based marketing campaigns
- Higher engagement across the buying committee for in-market accounts
- Higher-quality leads funneling from marketing to sales each week
- Shorten sales cycles, more pipeline, and higher win rates
- Vastly higher efficiency and less time wasted on prospects with “bad timing”
B2B intent data isn’t new, but how to leverage it and operationalize it continues to be misunderstood. Many revenue-generating teams haven’t yet discovered how to utilize and operationalize this data to the best of their ability. Here, we review everything a successful revenue team should know and do with B2B intent data. Most importantly, we’ll show you how to leverage B2B intent data to create prioritized, consistent, and repeatable pipeline generation processes that will generate high-quality, intent-based leads and accounts to exceed target numbers each month.
What types of intent data are there?
There are three types of intent data out there, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
First-party intent data
This type of intent data represents an opportunity for you to gather data on folks who visit your website and engage with your digital content. This is the data you directly collect across your marketing tech stack. If your team has a CRM, website cookies enabled, email tracking, marketing automation, or social listening tools, you’re collecting first-party intent data.
Since you already observe this data and have full access to it, this is obviously a great starting point. You can do a lot with first-party intent data. The issue that most teams face is that first-party intent data can be limiting, making it difficult to expand your reach. You know which prospects are interested in your solution, but you don’t have a way to tap into prospects who are interested in a solution you offer but have not discovered your website yet.
Second-party intent data
This is essentially another company’s first-party data that you purchase. For example, you can purchase first-party data from the G2 and other objective review sites. The downside to second-party intent data is that it can be limiting and isn’t always as accurate as third-party intent data, which is typically aggregated and verified across multiple sources.
Third-party intent data
Data platform providers and aggregators collect information from a network or collective of sources and can provide you with B2B intent data. For example, Bombora and Demand Gen Report, would be typical vendors of third party intent data.
The advantage here is that your team can significantly broaden their reach, tapping into new prospects and audiences they would otherwise not.
The downsides are that other competitors can also purchase third-party intent data from the same provider, so the data you’re receiving won’t necessarily be unique to you, unlike first-party intent data which you own and control. The other downside is that it can be hard to vet which data providers actually provide quality intent data.
For the most fresh, accurate, and verified data, marketers and sales teams should be comparing AI-driven data platforms, rather than traditional aggregators. We explain the difference between data providers in this free eBook.
How to use B2B intent data
Prioritizing your Go-to-Market, creating more leads, and generating sales pipeline in a consistent, repeatable way.
One of the most popular benefits of B2B intent data is generating intent topics (for content marketing plans), account lists, ideal customer profiles (ICPs), and buyer persona criterias. These functions are foundational to operationalizing intent data to generate demand and sales pipeline. These actions also help create great sales-marketing alignment. When teams are on the same page as to what leads they should target and pursue and when they should execute, they are at their most efficient.
As discussed, there are three types of intent data and teams typically use a mix of intent data types. First-party data is a no-brainer and teams will typically supplement with either second- or third-party intent data. Second- and third-party data usually come in the form of simple documents, like CSVs and Excel files. You can upload and use intent data with a tool like an ABM platform or Google Ads, which refers to them “In-Market Audiences.”
How to operationalize first-party intent data
For the first-party data, coming up with accounts can be as simple as looking into your CRM and marketing automation platforms for leads that displayed some of the signals we listed earlier. However, this typically only includes those accounts who have converted to leads.
Discovering the accounts associated with your remaining traffic can be tricky, as you typically only have IP addresses to go on. To reveal these, you’ll need a solution that can plug into your website and tie the IP addresses back to a database of account names as well as prioritize the accounts based on user behavior—then you’re off to the races.
Here’s how to get started:
- Get a solution to reverse IP lookups on your website.
- Get a feed of the companies visiting your website on a regular schedule. This can be a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule.
- Overlay your ICP account criteria to filter those you wish to prioritize by the amount of intent, the intent topics, and the account ICP filters, to get priority first-party intent accounts.
- Run those Accounts through your CRM and a Verified B2B Data Platform vendor to get a list of Decision-Makers with verified contact info, including work emails, personal emails (for ads), and direct dials.
- Run marketing plays and channels:
- Retargeting on ad networks
- ABM ads
- Social media ads
- Marketing email campaigns
- Sales outreach cadences
- Repeat steps 1-5 on a weekly basis.
This methodology and cadence is fundamental in filtering your audiences down to only the qualified target accounts showing intent. You’ll also need the ICPs filtering these audiences in order to make sure you’re connecting with the right accounts—you don’t want your healthcare finance ads serving to the HR department.
Once you’ve got these profiles and account lists worked out, you’ll need to operationalize them by layering the lists over your audiences in various ways. Below are three strategies using B2B intent data that will help increase demand, improve lead generation, and create deeper engagements with leads—each essential when it comes to enabling your sales team to close deals.
How to operationalize third-party intent data
- Get a solution to find 3rd party intent across a largest breadth of web traffic.
- Get a feed of the companies that have increasing intent for your intent topics on a regular schedule. This can be on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
- Overlay your ICP account criteria to filter those you wish to prioritize by the amount of intent, the intent topics, and the account ICP filters, to get priority third-party intent accounts.
- Run those third-party accounts with intent through your CRM and a Verified B2B Data Platform to get a list of Decision-Makers with verified contact info, including work emails, personal emails (for ads), and direct dials.
- Run marketing plays and channels, and remember to add personalized messaging for those plays using intent keywords, locations, and buyer persona keywords:
- Retargeting ads
- ABM ads
- Social media ads
- Marketing email campaigns
- Sales outreach cadences
- Repeat steps 1-5 on a weekly basis.
Operationalizing intent data: Three use cases
#1: Personalize your website and content strategies
Your website is like a digital storefront and you can use B2B intent data to provide each user with a unique “store layout” (AKA website UX and content flow). What are the common themes and pain points involved in your most highly-consumed content? Whatever it is, that probably deserves a spot above-the-fold on your website—this space can be seen as the attractive store display that draws buyers in.
Stronger UX makes it easier for leads to consume your content, understand your value props, and take action—driving them further down the funnel faster. Along with website UX, you can also use B2B intent data to guide your team’s content strategy. What types of content are leading towards buyers initiating a checkout process? What topics are most widely consumed? These are just a couple ways you can use intent data to guide your team’s content strategy to engage leads more effectively and acquire new leads.
#2: Honing in your targeting for digital ad campaigns
Make the most out of your digital advertising campaigns by taking a large account list and cross-referencing it with a list of accounts showing intent for a specific product or service. You can then create targeted ad experiences that are more relevant to the users. For example, you might find that a certain group of leads have initiated the checkout process more than once but stopped—these leads have greater intent and are likely further down the funnel. Or, you may find that a large portion of your list has been checking the CRM integrations page for your product—you can create more relevant messaging based on this.
You can also use this data to exclude audiences from your campaigns. For example, for those users at target accounts that have not yet shown purchase intent, you can try serving them with lighter content, such as educational pieces. This can help move them into the funnel.
#3: Expanding your digital advertising outreach
This use case above is all about making the most of your current list of leads. Creating deeper engagements is crucial to generating higher-quality leads, but intent data can also be used to generate entirely new leads. Marketing teams can use intent data to create a whole new audience to serve ads to, introducing new prospects to your brand and driving them into the funnel.
The importance of quality intent data
In a recent study, the biggest B2B intent data challenge that marketers faced was data quality, followed closely by not knowing how to make intent data actionable. Blogs like this one are great starting points for creating a solid intent data strategy, but it’s important to realize that those efforts won’t be rewarded if your team is handling bad quality data to start with.
When it comes to vetting your provider and measuring the quality of the third-party B2B intent data you’re purchasing, you should ask:
- Where are you sourcing your data from, and how often do you verify that the data is accurate?
- If your provider says that they verify once or twice a year—or worse, never—you’re doing a disservice to your team. A lot can change at a company within the span of a quarter—new team members, new budgets, new leadership and decision-makers.
- Another big warning sign is when providers say they can instantly verify large quantities of data for you instantly upon request. Even though technology has come a long way, it should still take several hours to ensure that your data is accurate, verified, and enriched.
- How easy is it to use your platform? Does it integrate well with my team’s CRM?
- If you can’t easily access or use your data, what good is it? When scheduling a demo with your data provider, try to assess the ease of implementation.
- Ask your provider what onboarding and support looks like. The last thing you want are technical roadblocks towards winning the results your team deserves.
These are must-ask questions when you’re evaluating B2B data providers. If you need more help, check out this guide to evaluating and choosing B2B data providers to set you on the best path to high-quality B2B intent data: