What is Intent Data?

January 13, 2024

All you need to know about Buyer Intent Data

Buyers in the B2B space will do independent research and come to their own buying conclusions long before they engage with your organization’s sales team. In fact, up to 70% of B2B buyers will have made a decision on a purchase before they make contact with a salesperson. The key to interrupting this process and opening doors to decision making is understanding what buyers are looking for earlier in the process. These vital insights come from early- and late-stage Intent Data.

Identifying Buying Signals

Intent data tells you what a prospect is looking for. It indicates where in the buying journey they are, and what they’re doing about it. It’s the collective online behaviors that signal the products or services they’re interested in, and how ready they are to make a purchase. These buying signals are collected from a wide range of sources that collectively paint a picture of the kind of research the lead is doing. Identifying and understanding these markers creates a framework for clearly recognizing their intentions and allows you to be more proactive in placing your products or services in their path.  

Saving Time with Good Information

Using intent data to understand customer buying signals allows sales professionals to identify areas of interest and establishing that connection. Making good use of intent data gives a seller common ground to meet the prospective buyer on, reduces friction, and allows for better collaboration. This targeted approach empowers traditional account-based marketing strategies by quickly focusing on what matters most to the prospective buyer—rather than relying on generic pitches that hope to cover the right ground eventually.

Very few corporate buyers have the time getting to know you and your product on a call and will prefer to do their research online in their own time. In fact, nearly 80% of buyers prefer warm outreach that builds on a brand relationship rather than the traditional cold call.  

Recognizing Intent Stages

As a record of online activity, there are numerous forms of intent data. Each offers something slightly different in terms of insights into the buyer’s mindset. Capturing and curating data can give the best picture of where buyers are in their journey to make a purchase. The first step is understanding the various buying signals you’re seeing.

  • Informational Intent (Awareness Buying Signals): These markers indicate that a lead is looking to understand a product or service better. They have questions about whether this is the right solution for them, and even whether they need a solution at this stage. This is an information gathering exercise for the prospective buyer, who is trying to make themselves more aware of what is available. At this stage they’re likely to be more open to new brands and products, and willing to consider alternatives. They will have doubts and questions and want to amass as much relevant information as they can to shape the next stage of the buying process.  
  • Investigational Intent (Passive Buying Signals): These leads have self-identified needs and come to some general conclusions about how to meet it. They have a good sense of the options available in the marketplace and are in the process of making comparisons, weighing each option on its apparent merits. They are quite likely already using a product or service to fulfill their requirements but either aren’t satisfied or are looking for a more efficient and effective alternative. Buyers in this mindset may even be quicker to make a buying decision than those with a focus on a specific product, as they have an immediate need and point of comparison.
  • Evaluation Intent (Active Buying Signals): The later stage in the buying cycle, these leads are making a careful evaluation of a brand’s offering. They have clearly identified the parameters of their requirements and through investigation identified a potential solution. They will be exploring the details of the product or service and carefully examining the features, pricing, support, and implementation processes to ensure that a purchase will meet their expectations. These buying signals indicate that a prospective buyer is ready to make a purchase and is completing their due diligence before signing off on the deal.  

Sourcing Intent Data

There is a plethora of information available online about buyer behaviors and brand awareness. While industry trends and surveys can provide a generalized view of the market, those insights are broad and may not apply to a specific lead. The best way to understand their needs and intentions is by examining the data that reveals key buying signals. That information can come from a variety of sources.

  • Search Data: Every time someone enters a query into Google or Bing, that information is captured and available for analysis. Simple keyword research can indicate what topics prospective buyers are interested in, and search engines offer the ability to focus those queries by region and industry. With more than 3 billion searches happening every day, there is an almost endless sea of information available about what prospects are searching for. The terms and keywords being used can reveal what products and solutions most interest your leads.
  • Engagement Data: Consuming online content is a key part of a buyer’s task, providing them with the information they need to justify making a purchasing decision. Their engagement with this content can be tracked to identify which channels, topics, and forms of marketing materials are most effective, or are capturing the most attention. This kind of data usually comes from social media, email marketing systems, and user engagement with white papers, articles, or video content.
  • Firmographic Data: While search engines can provide information based on demographics (the identity of individuals) it’s also essential that sales teams can understand firmographic data—information about the wider organizations they’re part of. This is the data that can be used to categorize the business your leads are part of and helps clarify what their level of interest may be. It can be as simple as their geographic location, the size of their staff, and their ownership structure. Firmographic data can also clarify the technologies they employ, their annual revenues and market reach, and whether the business is growing, maintaining position, or downsizing compared to others in their industry. These segmentations can be identified through research and will clarify the position the target business is in regarding making the kinds of purchasing decisions you’re looking for.
  • Technographic Data: While it seems like a subset of firmographic data, technographic data is specific to a lead’s organization. It examines the technological infrastructures present within a business to better understand how a product or solution will complement the existing systems. Technographic data includes the hardware present and the networks that have been established, as well as the software suites or solutions that are commonly being used. This information is best captured through surveys or questionnaires and reveals the prospective buyer’s present capabilities and any apparent needs.

Validating Buyer Intent

Not all data is created equal, and it’s important to understand the relevance of where intent data can be sourced from to evaluate its relevance to your marketing. Some data can be acquired directly from prospective buyers, while other data is able to be gathered from wider sources in the industry or marketplace. Each has its value and is a significant source of buying signals.

  • First-Party Data: First-party data is information that a lead gives you directly, through interacting with your website and online content. It’s internally collected and comprises things like cookies and the IP addresses of website visitors, as well as completed forms or surveys to create a picture of people’s interest in your products and services. From this data you’ll have insight into what pages they’re visiting, which content they’re downloading, which webinars they’re attending, and which videos they’re watching. Page heatmaps and website analytics will show you their behavior on your sites and give indications of what elements of your offering interest them the most.
  • Second-Party Data: While first-party data can be collected within your own organization, second-party data is buyer intent information that’s collected externally. It leverages another company’s insights, effectively making use of their first-party data. This is often found on review sites like TrustRadius or G2, and covers things like customer surveys, reviews, and interactions with brands displayed there. A lead’s engagement with product categories, webinars, and feedback forms will give an objective view of their interest and intentions towards the relevant products or services.
  • Third-Party Data: In terms of scale, third-party data is by far the most abundant resource your sales team can access. First- and second-party data is limited by how much interaction a prospective buyer has with a particular site. Third-party data has millions of points of reference, drawing from the breadth of the internet to create a picture of the market as it stands. It’s less targeted than the other data sources but aggregates the activity of industries and buyers across numerous channels, generating information about buying trends and brand activity on a global scale. The collective digital footprints of your leads, their competitors, and others engaged in the same industries can help form marketing strategies that meet them where they are in their buying journey.

Shaping Sales with Intent Data

Every time a prospective buyer interacts with your business, it tells you something about their intentions. From following links on your marketing emails to completing surveys and downloading whitepapers, these are the buying signals that can shape your pitch and indicate the best time to build your relationship with them.

Intent data informs the sales cycle by focusing the efforts of your sales team on those leads who are ready to speak to them, maximizing your efforts and providing quicker qualification of leads. Don’t leave your sales calls to chance. Examine the buyer signals their intent data is broadcasting and use it to sharpen your marketing today.

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