What B2B Marketers Need To Know About Buying Intent Data

October 13, 2022 Content Team

What you’ll learn

  • An understanding of third-, second-, and first-party intent data.
  • Key considerations for intent data investment.
  • Common mistakes to avoid regarding intent data.

Key Takeaways

  • Not all intent data should be used as a qualifier for a buyer’s cycle.
  • Different parties of intent data signal different stages in the buyer’s journey.
  • You need the right technology before you buy intent data.
  • Both the vendors you use, as well as your organisation itself, should be data privacy compliant - it’s not enough to rely just on vendor compliance.

There’s a big difference between what people intend to do and what they actually do. While this statement may seem like common sense for most people, it’s logic that isn’t always applied in digital marketing. Many marketers see intent data as a strong indicator that a potential prospect will buy their product or service, but the truth is that not all intent data means the same thing - and there are even pitfalls that many marketers fall into when using intent data.

This year, at the EMEA Forrester B2B Summit, we attended their talk on What B2B Marketers Need To Know About Buying Intent Data. In it, they discussed their findings on first-, second-, and third-party intent data and even highlighted some best practices around the topic.

In this blog post, we’ll summarise the presentation and outline some of our favourite takeaways from the talk.

What is Intent Data?

To understand what intent data is, we need to understand what intent signals are. Intent signals are evidence that an individual or group has demonstrated interest in a particular product or service - but it’s not proof that they will definitely follow through.

Intent signals are marketed by data vendors over very broad categories as intent data, each with their own value and specific indicators. Generally speaking, these categories are third-, second-, and first-party intent data.

Third-party intent data

Third-party intent data is behavioural data purchased from a vendor that did not participate in the interaction. It is usually associated with keywords, topics, products purchased and offers in order to be used as an indicator of interest. Neither your organisation or the vendor collecting the data has interacted with the participant, and instead just collects the data as it stands. Due to this, third-party data lacks specific details and can only provide account-level details.

Where is this data from?

  • Bidstream vendors - data on bidding keywords
  • Site visitors from publisher co-ops - shared website interaction data
  • Web scraping - the collection of public data

What can you use this data for?

  • Early buyer’s cycle uses
  • Broad market trends and interest
  • Prioritising active buying cycle accounts in your market
  • Aggregated validation on which accounts you should be targeting

Privacy considerations

  • Mostly excludes explicit consent
  • Web scraping of public data has fewer concerns

Second-party intent data

Second-party intent data is data that is collected using their own first-party methods. They then take this data and sell it to other parties, like yourself. The interaction that second-party vendors have with participants allows greater potential for gathering consent, and can even enable them to give you specific contact details of interested parties. Second-party data is often provided by vendors who offer topical research on industries, technology or other categories. Participants opt in and provide information in order to access resources on offer by the second-party vendor.

Where is this data from?

  • Review sites and online communities - visitor interaction and feedback
  • Content syndication services - shared website interaction data
  • Trade shows and external events - attendee feedback and details

What can you use this data for?

  • Identifying late-stage evaluation activity in the buyer’s cycle
  • Opt-in outreach initiatives
  • To better understand the competition

Privacy considerations

  • Review sites and communities typically collect explicit consent.
  • Content syndication relies on privacy policies of each vendor.
  • Most events will only share opt-in data.

First-party intent data

First-party data refers to data you collect based on direct interactions with external parties. This also includes interactions that are initiated by external parties intentionally and willingly. While first-party data is usually thought of as web traffic from known and unknown contacts, it’s actually much broader than that. Email responses, interactions at virtual events, opportunity data in your CRM, and in-person interactions are just some of the few first-party data sources you can use.

First-party data also has some of the widest use-cases out of all the intent data sets, and can be used across the buyer’s cycle. You also have full control over the data capture, storage and deletion stages, which means you have the greatest control over consent.

Where is this data from?

  • Web traffic - visitor interaction and feedback
  • Virtual and live events - live interactions and networking
  • CRM systems - opportunities and contacts

What can you use this data for?

  • Used across the buyer’s cycle
  • Similar account-level uses as third party data
  • Similar contact-level uses as second party data

Privacy considerations

  • Fully controlled privacy compliance.
  • Identifying anonymous traffic can still create concerns

Key considerations for Intent Data

Here are some tips and insights we gained from the presentation that you may find useful when considering using intent data for your own business.

Tip 1 - Figure out your goals

Before investing in any data or technology, you should know specifically why you need the data and what you intend on using it for. Data technology and intent data is not inexpensive, and there are many tools used for a variety of data. Having a plan of action before you spend your money will save you time, frustration and budget.

Tip 2 - Tech before data

Unless you either own the technology or plan to own it within the next two months, you should always ensure you have the technology on hand before you buy intent data. Intent data degrades over time and becomes more irrelevant as it gets older. While it is possible to manually incorporate the data yourself, this is a monumental effort that should not be taken lightly. For most marketers, make sure you have the right tech on-hand before you buy any intent data.

Tip 3 - It’s going to be in English

The majority of third- and second-party data are from English sources, and vendors using natural language processing focus on English-based machine learning. This means that you’re going to have a difficult time finding large swathes of intent data in languages other than English. Most non-English speaking countries rely on first-party intent data to operate.

Tip 4 - Not all intent signals are created equally

Once you have accumulated intent signals, it’s just as important to figure out what those signals mean in terms of the account’s buying cycle. Certain signals may show highly specific shopping behaviours in the late stage of the buying cycle while others may just show mild interest. You can use your first-party intent data and the match behaviour and trends to second- and third-party intent data. This will enable you to figure out which signal is useful data for which step in your buyer’s journey, and which account is closer to a sale.

Tip 5 - It’s all about quality

Not every intent signal is useful. A person merely browning a website does not mean that his company will invest in your product. Therefore, it’s critical that marketing and vendors should only pass on intent data that is of an agreed upon quality. You will be able to understand which intent signals are worth the effort based on your first-party trends and experience.

Tip 6 - Compliance is the job of everyone

You should not only rely on vendors to be compliant when it comes to data protection and privacy. Every company that uses the data is responsible for protecting it and ensuring that privacy and compliance are kept to standard.

Get started with intent

Intent data is very useful for today’s digital marketers, and can be powerful if used correctly. By following the above insights, you should have a solid idea of how to get started. Forrester posits that the best way to get started with intent data is by following three simple action points:

Define - identify sources of intent data to capture and build a roadmap of existing data.

Apply - identify technology gaps that limit the use of intent, while implementing a process to capture and track buying groups to maximise the use of intent.

Accelerate - Invest in third-party intent to improve targeting, and second-party intent to expand your leads.

If you would like some guidance for your own digital marketing and insight generation, contact LeadFabric today. We’ll examine your needs, set up a solid plan and get you on the road to success in no time.

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