Most marketers are all familiar with the knowledge that businesses in 2019 cannot survive without the use of big data. It allows us to analyze bigger batches of information, gives insight into what people do online and helps us act upon their behavior. Yet if you truly want to gain valuable insights from your marketing efforts and want to generate interesting leads that drive revenue, then it’s time to approach buyers on an account-based level and start working with intent data.
But before you do that, let’s have a look at what intent data is and how it can help advancing your day-to-day marketing practices. Read along as we walk you through what you need to know about intent data – and how to use it.
1. What is intent data exactly?
Intent data is the data that can be collected by following the steps a target account takes across the internet. In other words, intent data shows exactly which of your products and services are being researched by which account. You might already use marketing automation to provide you with insights on who visits your website; with intent data you can follow their subsequent online journey across other webpages, too. With these insights you can track the intent of a buyer account and act upon the data that reveals their possible pain points and interests. Certainly, in those situations where your prospects haven’t discovered you yet, or in the event you haven’t succeeded in conveying enough trust that they see you as a potential supplier, intent data will prove to be a treasure trove.
2. Why should I use intent data in my B2B strategy?
As we just explained, you need to earn the engagement from your buyers. Especially in early phases of someone’s buyer’s journey, buyers might not consider you because your web properties are more made to engage with those buyers that already discovered that you might be a potential supplier for them. Early stage is about thought leadership and often that content is found on publisher websites.
Intent data tells you which information you need to jump in the knowledge gap of your (potential) client. And with the data acquired early in the buying process, you can attract high-funnel customers before your competitor shows interest in them.
3. What are the usages of intent data collection?
There are many ways in which you can use intent data. To name a few:
- Intent data can help sales with the prioritization of their efforts: they can find out what appeals to customers who have not engaged with your company yet and make sure they approach them accurately and at the right time. For example, your cold calling BDRs (business development reps) that are asked to call a pre-defined list of accounts. How more on point would those calls be if your rep knows what is at play at the company he is calling.
- You can create a more personal approach toward your website users. If you know what their interests and pain points are, marketing can produce content that responds to your buyer’s needs. For example: we work with Uberflip, that integrates with leading intent data providers. This enables the possibility that a random visitor from account X that visit your landing page will only find that subset of content that is relevant to him or her. Uberflip can do that because being connected to the intent data source, can dynamically serve up the content that speaks to the intent you just discovered.
- Combine your first party data (collected from your own website) and third-party data (gained from intent data) to get full insight into the research topics of your customers. If you know what they are looking for, you can make sure you drive them to your website by showing them the content they need. Think about using that to optimize your top of funnel advertisement strategy by telling your display advertiser what to serve up to whom.
- One of the biggest challenges of every digital marketer is to understand what is at play in their target audience. They might have two options. Either they have gotten a list of named accounts that they absolutely want to market and sell to. Or they need to find those accounts that are showing very high intent. In the first case it is then vital to find an entry point, to find that what will generate the click. With intent data you at least know the topic that will create engagement – the nurturing campaign you then build needs to figure out a way to take the person on a journey that talks about your solution. In the other case, where your target account list is dynamic, intent data will just be the source that manages that dynamic selection process.
4. Why do companies see intent data as the next “big thing”?
Because it really is different than other data tracking practices. Whereas with other types of online data collection you would acquire data from people that directly visit your website, intent data not only gives you information on a (future) buyer’s movements on other web pages – it aggregates those different ‘movements’ from individual person to the account level.
In most B2B scenarios buying is not happening by just one person; it’s done by a committee. Lead generation programs like inbound marketing have been relying on finding that one person that marketing then deems as qualified for handover to sales. But Sales is still left with the heavy burden to find out if the ‘person’ actually also represents the “buying committee’s” need. The result? Lots of lost energy and lots of persons being handed over, which could have been avoided if only marketing would have had a means to decipher the account interest. Intent data can be a very interesting source of information.
5. Is this then what they call Account Based Marketing?
Close. But not entirely. When you are in a situation where marketing still needs to source opportunities which require a handover to sales at some point, then you should not call this ABM yet. We call it marketing to accounts. You’re still living in a world where both marketing and sales operate in their “aligned if done well”-worlds. The role of marketing is to create engagements at scale in a set of accounts and then when the account engagement score surpasses a pre-agreed threshold, Sales comes into play. In a way, marketing is using pretty much the same digital technologies as with person-based marketing, but the starting point is different, as the target segment is much narrower than with person-based marketing.
ABM takes that one step further, where marketing and sales become one. They define the target audience, e.g. by consulting intent data providers and then they orchestrate all of their activities marketing and sales together across the entire sales cycle.
What is different in both cases compared to person-based approaches is that you start targeting with the account in mind. Rather than talking to lots people trying to find out at a later stage, whether they are part of a qualified account, you now know from the start which accounts are interested. Your job as a demand gen marketer is now redefined as finding out clever ways to penetrate that account via all sorts of orchestrated engagements with all the members of the buying committee. It’s just like with marketing automation: There are lots of relevant 1:1 omnichannel conversations, but then within one account. You will be using the same digital channels but in a different way. Some people often refer to a flipped funnel. You start from an account, and you then try to engage with the people working in that account via email (for those that you already had in in your db), or 1:1 advertisement and retargeting platforms.
In other words: intent data shows a shift in the approach of your buyers; it moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach and focuses on a person-centric approach that listens to a buyer’s needs.
6. How can I collect intent data?
Your company might be an expert in collecting data from visitors of your own website, but how do you gather data that isn’t yours? The easiest way is to get access to it through a third party, such as Bombora or Cyance. They collect and combine data from online research behavior across the internet. Usually content on the thousands of publisher website out there. By building profiles of an account’s online behavior over time, they are able to provide you with an accurate description of the company’s interests. And from there you reverse the funnel and start engaging with the buying committee.
7. How does intent data relate to privacy legislation?
When talking about intent data it is firstly important to remember that the data doesn’t show behavior on the individual level, but at a company level. The individuals that drive insights in the behavior are thus anonymous; however, they do drive the insights you eventually get on an account level. In other words, because you do not collect data of an individual but of a whole account, based on their IP address, you comply with privacy legislation such as GDPR.
As third-party consent is a delicate topic, some publishers decide to become part of a Data Co-operative, such as Bombora’s. This co-op uses consensual intent data and still gets the insights they need. In the Co-op, members contribute brand anonymous and privacy compliant data – in return, they get vast amounts of data from other members of the co-op. Thus, whenever you decide to include intent data in your B2B strategy, play it safe and only work with providers that correctly collect third-party consent.