How to use B2B Intent Data

By utilizing first and third-party intent data, B2B demand generation is enhanced with relevant, timely, and insightful data points that can be leveraged by both inbound marketing and outbound sales teams. We’ll dive into how intent data is created, how your organization can obtain it, and how best to use it to generate more demand for your products and services.

The B2B Buyer’s Journey

A buyer’s journey is the three-stage active research process – the Awareness Stage, the Consideration Stage, and the Decision Stage – undertaken by a potential buyer before making a purchase. In the Awareness Stage, a potential buyer has become aware of a problem he or she is experiencing and begins researching the issue. Next is the Consideration Stage, where buyers have clearly defined their problem and seek a resolution. Finally, during the Decision Stage, the potential buyer compiles a list of all available goods and services and selects the one he or she will purchase. 

The buyer’s journey above describes the Business-to-Consumer (“B2C”) buyer’s journey. But, what about when the transaction is Business-to-Business (“B2B”)? The buyer’s journey applies in the B2B context as well but differs in the sense that the B2B buyer’s journey is more complex. Usually there are multiple stakeholders, concerns over timing and departmental budget constraints. The decision makers are usually a team of people who all have some level of input on the purchase decision. Each member brings their own opinions and information to the team that must be reconciled before making a decision. 

Knowing how the members of the buying team do their research is critical. After all, a potential buyer must know about a solution and the alternatives if they are going to select it. This is doubly important in the B2B context because once a team member wants to vet your solution, they have to then convince the others to agree with them. Unsurprisingly, the internet plays a large role in this process. Google processes an average of 40,000 queries per second, and while not all of them are conducted by someone on a buyer’s journey, a substantial portion of those searches can lead a potential buyer to interact with the seller.

Statistics show that 87% of the Buyer’s Journey is now done digitally and that B2B buyers are usually 57% complete with their buyer’s journey before engaging with a sales team. So, by the time potential customers reach out to you, they’ve already spent a large amount of time on the internet researching their problem and generating intent data while forming opinions on what to do. By utilizing intent data, you can reach the buying team earlier in their buyer’s journey.

What is Intent Data?

Intent Data is the name given to various information generated from a potential buyer’s internet activity. As potential buyers search the web, they will visit industry websites, download whitepapers and case studies, or spend time on webpages reading articles and product reviews – thus generating a digital footprint and creating intent data. Over time, as this digital footprint becomes larger, it signals a strong likelihood that they are progressing through their buyer’s journey and will likely be receptive to an approach from your team. Given that 74% of B2B buyers ultimately select the vendor that first provided value when they conducted research, utilizing Intent Data is essential to generating leads and closing deals in the modern age.

B2B Intent Data description by Bombora
Credit: Bombora

This umbrella term used to refer to different subsets of data collectively describes the following subsets:

  • First-Party intent data (also called Internal Intent Data)
  • Third-Party intent data (also called External Intent Data) 

Fist-Party Data

First-Party Intent Data is data captured on a company’s website. For example, when a potential buyer clicks on your website and fills out a contact form. There are at least two forms of First-Party intent data that is collected. The first form of intent data would be the IP address; the second one would be the information on the contact form. Most webpages already collect First-Party intent data through analytics tools, application logs, and marketing automation platforms. Other examples of First-Party intent data you can collect include offer downloads, event registrations, page views, the time spent on each page, email opens and click-throughs. This information can be used to generate leads since it contains highly predictive buy signals through seeing which content on a company’s website is relevant to the buyer’s journey.

Someone generating First-Party intent data is probably in the Awareness or Consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. Members of your marketing team can use this data to gather information about a potential buyer and tailor the outreach to that potential buyer. Reaching them at this early stage is crucial because, as stated earlier, 74% of B2B buyers ultimately select the vendor that first provided value when they were conducting research.

While most first-party intent data requires a website visitor to self-identify themselves through a form completion, one technique that is extremely valuable but underutilized relies on reverse IP address lookups. Using tools such as ZoomInfo, Drift, or Clearbit, adding a line of code to your website can unlock a list of companies that have visited your pages, providing your sales team with new accounts to prospect for targeted outreach.

Third-Party Data

With Third-Party Intent Data you can gain access to data captured all over the web. An example of this subset of intent data encompasses online engagement data sold by data vendors like Bombora and Businesses can use Third-Party intent data to determine which of their accounts are consuming content on a particular topic even if the prospect does not visit their website. This allows for targeted advertising, structuring account-based marketing strategies around accounts that are consuming more of a certain type of content. Put simply, Third-Party intent data can help determine which potential buyers have commenced the buyer’s journey and allow your marketing and sales teams to structure their approaches accordingly.

Intent data isn’t binary in nature. Released weekly by intent data providers, companies such as Bombora and ZoomInfo provide a surge score which shows how much content is being consumed, and a signal strength which denotes how many different contacts at the account are consuming the topical content. 

Topic Data, Context, and the Intent Data Industry

Nonetheless, Third-Party intent data is unstructured and voluminous, which often sets limitations on quality and value. Third-Party intent data is frequently broken down to show the topic the user is looking into, referred to as Topic Data. This Topic Data might appear convenient at first, but marketers still have to decipher which individuals to contact. To make use of Topic Data, the marketing team needs context, which can then unlock the value of Third-Party intent data. Seeing the patterns within will not help generate sales if you do not know who generated the pattern. For example, knowing that an anonymous user visited a website once will not help generate a sale. However, seeing multiple users from the same company searching for a variety of related topics can help the marketing team assess who this potential buyer is, where they are on their buyer’s journey, what their pain points are, the solutions they’re considering, potential competitors, and who the members of the buying team are.

There are a variety of solutions to help Third-Party intent data purchasers make sense of their Topic Data. Companies like LinkedIn Sales Navigator provide a collection of verified demographic, firmographic, and technographic data.

B2B Intent Data Providers - 6sense, Pardot, Bombora, Demandbase, Clearbit, Drift, Zoominfo

Companies like 6Sense offer predictive tools, which combine First-Party intent data with Second-Party and Third-Party Topic Data to mine leads and allow you to focus on likely target accounts. Clearbit offers to enrich data through contextual information and reverse IP lookup. Services like Demandbase offer Account-based marketing (“ABM”) software to directly apply your intent data. Other companies like Bombora sell intent data and provide direct integration with CRM platforms like Salesforce. This allows Salesforce users to attach the topics their target audience is researching directly to their account records while using the platform and is of high value to account executives and BDRs who can access this information directly from the CRM.

ZoomInfo recently severed their relationship with Bombora and now offers their own machine-generated intent data with similar topics and data sources. ZoomInfo also has an additional intent offering called Scoops, that is gathered by humans who call businesses to find out what initiatives they are pursuing. ZoomInfo’s intent data and Scoops can be utilized along with the rest of ZoomInfo’s sales intelligence features such as firmographic and technographic data points to provide deep insights into which accounts are ideal for your account-based marketing programs.

How Sales Teams Can Use Intent Data

Properly using B2B intent data can create a variety of benefits and opportunities for sales and marketing teams. Your sales team can use intent data to develop vital insights into what their accounts are thinking and stay ahead of the competition. Intent data can streamline sales productivity by allowing your teams to sort through their marketing leads and their long list of target accounts. By combining intent data with account scoring models, your sales team will gain clarity into which accounts and organizations should be prioritized by revealing which are likely in active buying cycles. With active buyers identified, your sales team can then engage them with relevant talk tracks and personalized messages. The result is more deals in the sales pipeline. 

Intent Data can help you close more deals by providing more information about what is happening within the buying team. With sufficient context and tools such as Pardot which track a user’s actions and behavior on your website, intent data could provide insight into where the individual members of the buying team stand and who specifically is engaging with your content.

Intent data can also reduce churn and increase upsells. Context-rich B2B intent data can show which of your existing accounts are researching competitors or searching for additional products you sell. Armed with this information, your sales team can intervene before the non-renewal notification comes in, or can generate a new upsell with an additional product or service.

How Marketing Teams Can Use Intent Data

Intent Data also has a variety of applications for your marketing team. In today’s modern world, the “spray-and-pray” approach is not nearly as efficient as the newer marketing approaches that exist using analytics. The greatest challenge of B2B marketers today is to cut through the noise and grab the attention of their target audience. Using intent data can provide insight into who to target and which message will resonate with them. Intent data could uncover anonymous web visitors’ firmographic attributes and uncover topics that your topic audience is interested in. 

Using these insights, your marketing team can generate more value from its campaigns by focusing digital advertising on the right accounts: businesses currently interested in purchasing what you sell. With the insights intent data provides, your marketing team will know how to tailor content and advertising messages based on the prospects’ topics of interest and how to sequence this content during the different stages of the buyer’s journey so that prospects are nurtured into leads for the sales team to pursue.

Event marketing is another area where intent data can be valuable to the marketing team. Meetings and events are powerful marketing channels and given that they require an enormous investment of time and resources, filling every seat is an absolute must. Using intent data, event organizers could secure an improved return on investment by identifying accounts and geographic regions interested in their products and services. They can also look at intent data about the event and the data of registered attendees and past attendees to create a profile of someone that would probably attend the event if he or she knew of it. The marketing team can then send focused direct outreach and ads to an audience with interests that matches the profile. The result is greater outreach and attendance.

Selecting The Right Intent Data Provider

Intent data is key to increasing your B2B sales and marketing teams’ productivity and alignment. However, understanding the type of data you need, how to get it, and how to best make use of it is more complicated than it seems. Not all intent data is the same and not every vendor sells a solution compatible with your needs. Second Eclipse can assist you to in developing the right B2B marketing strategy that leverages intent data to unlock insights and develop campaigns that deliver a strong ROI for your organization. Contact us to discuss how your company can use B2B intent data to generate more opportunities for your sales team.