Intent Data

Intent data is a broad term for information that indicates a potential buyer's interest in a specific product or service based on their online behavior. This information is tremendously useful to sales and marketing teams because it gives them the ability to deliver highly customized messaging to their target audience based on what they are interested in. Intent data can be broken up into two categories: first-party and third-party intent data.

What is First-Party Intent Data?

Information collected from your website about your visitors, such as page views, content downloads, form fills, etc. indicate a potential buyer’s interest in your products or services. First-party intent data can be used for a variety of sales and marketing applications. 

This is the first step in developing an effective account-based marketing strategy. Tracking buyer intent gives B2B marketers valuable insight into which accounts are visiting their website and what content they are engaging with. Marketers use this information to discover new target accounts as well as identify when to reach out to those prospective in-market buyers. 

In a perfect world, every prospective buyer would know exactly what their organization needs and reach out when they’re ready to purchase your solution. But unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and you need to rely on business intelligence to optimize your sales and marketing efforts. On average, only 2% of website visitors will convert via form fills, direct emails, etc. This results in a large percentage of potentially interested accounts leaving your website with no interaction and placing the burden in the hands of retargeting campaigns, or crossing your fingers they will return and fill out the form. Adding a chat feature can increase the interaction rates, but there is still a large percentage of visitors who will simply vanish – lost to the sea of competitors who are capitalizing on this data. 

Leveraging real-time buyer intent data allows sales and marketing teams to take a proactive approach by reaching out to interested accounts regardless of if they leave without saying hello. 

The easiest way to visualize this is with an example. 

Imagine this scenario:

Company X visits your website, views five pages about your products, then looks at a few case studies, and finally visits your pricing page. This anonymous visitor then leaves your site without contacting you.

It would be all too easy to just chalk that up as a loss and move on, but a good marketer knows that within this anonymous traffic there is valuable data to be gathered (as long as the proper technology is used). 

Based on the clickpath of the website visitor, we can assume that Company X is in the market for a solution like yours. Why? 

  • The visitor read deeply into your product offerings. 
  • They read case studies to visualize the benefits in the context of their organization. 
  • They have already (at least on some level) considered purchasing your product by looking at the pricing page. 

Thus, it would be reasonable to assume this is a company you should reach out to. This might be a very simplified and specific example, but you see the point – what was once an anonymous website visitor is now a wealth of intent data that can be used for sales and marketing efforts.

How to Gather First-Party Data

The good news is that you don’t have to look too hard to find it. You need only look to your most powerful sales and marketing engine – your website. Your website is a 24-hour sales rep for in-market buyers and also a wealth of information about your target accounts.

Platforms like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics are great at showing overall website traffic and page views while website visitor tracking technologies can take that information and identify specific accounts, providing you with both pieces of the puzzle to execute an effective marketing strategy. 

There are two main avenues to explore when talking about identifying anonymous website visitors – Cookies and IP address lookups. 

Cookies are small pieces of data a website stores on a visitor’s browser that can track a wide range of behaviors and attributes. 

IP address lookup (IP address intelligence) - this technology identifies the IP address of every website visitor and provides information about the company. 

For the sake of brevity, I won’t dive into the pros and cons of each method but the main idea is to gather as much information as possible about the accounts showing interest in your solutions and enhance your account-based sales and marketing strategies. 

The first step in building an effective account-based strategy is identification, and first-party intent data is the key. If you aren’t already utilizing the gold mine of data you’re sitting on, I would highly suggest changing that. You undoubtedly spent a lot of time, energy, and money creating your website – if you want to get the most value out of it, implementing a strategy to leverage first-party intent data should be at the top of your to-do list. It will give you a much greater understanding of what your target accounts are interested in and enable you to identify net-new opportunities to nurture and move along the sales process.

Third-Party Intent Data

Data collected from thousands of third-party sites (like online publications and review sites) that track a prospect's research on those sites and gives insight that a buyer is interested in a particular topic. This data can be used to drive content personalization, targeted display ads, and more that match the topic that the prospect is interested in.

Using First-Party Intent Data to Drive Account-based Marketing

Ok so by now you know the impact intent data can have on your account-based sales and marketing strategy, but now let's talk about how you actually do it. 

One of the most effective uses for intent data is determining which accounts visiting your website are ready to enter a sales or marketing funnel. This process is referred to as account scoring and it can be broken down into three major steps. (Although each one of these requires multiple steps on their own (so it's more like three plus a few smaller steps).

1. Define all first-party intent signals 

Sales and marketing teams should collaborate to create a list of possible signals or events that indicate an in-market account (a company that is showing signs they are looking to purchase a solution like yours). These could include downloading a PDF, signing up for a free trial, or reaching out via a form fill or email. These are just some examples to give you an idea of what you should be looking for. 

2. Assign a value to all intent signals

Think of this as a point system that will determine which accounts are showing sufficient interest to engage with them. Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly how to value each intent signal as your company has its own unique goals and strategies. However, we can look at multi-touch attribution for inspiration about weighting each intent signal.

Multi-touch attribution models look at historical sales and marketing data and weight each touchpoint based on which ones a prospect engaged with in the buying process. Did they fill out a form? Attend a webinar? We can extend this principle to our scoring process by placing a higher value on touchpoints that generally indicate increased interest. 

For example, downloading a guide or other gated content might be worth 10 points while looking at a single web page might only be worth 5 points. 

3. Set a "green light" threshold 

Set a total number of intent signals or "points" an account must accumulate to become a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). This will prevent you from spending valuable time and resources marketing to accounts that may have stumbled on your page by accident and instead, focusing on those that are actually interested. 

One word of caution is that MQLs and SQLs are different, and just because an account has shown interest doesn't mean they're necessarily ready to hop on the phone with a sales rep. The threshold for placing an account into the sales process should be much higher than putting them into a marketing campaign. 

For example, the threshold for a website visitor to enter a marketing campaign might be 45 points, while the threshold to warrant a sales action might be 70 points. 

Ok, so now you've got the general idea of what account scoring looks like; let's see how it works in practice.

For this example, let's assume a page view = 5 points, a content download = 10 points, and a contact form = 70 points (you'll see why soon). 

We'll say the "green light" threshold for a marketing campaign is 45 points, and the threshold for a sales action is 70 points. This is why a contact us form fill is 70 points – if a visitor has reached out, they should automatically receive a call or an email from a sales rep.

Let's compare three different companies that visit your website:

Company X: Looks at 5 pages.

5 page views = 25 points

Company Y: Looks at 5 pages, downloads 3 (gated) guide.

5 page views + 3 content downloads = 55 points 

Company Z: Looks at 2 pages and fills out a contact form.

2 page views + contact form fill = 80 points

In this scenario, Company X has not shown enough interest to warrant any actions. Company Y has shown enough intent to at least be placed in a marketing campaign. Finally, even though Company Z has looked at fewer pages overall than either of the other two companies, they have reached out directly and thus should bypass the entire marketing process and be placed directly into the sales process. 

Quick side note: Filling out a contact form in order to receive a piece of gated content is NOT the same, and should not be given the same weight. While engaging with gated content might be a good signal of intent, filling out a contact form should warrant a touch from a salesperson directly as they basically stood up and said, "I'm interested, tell me more." 

Unfortunately, we cannot rely solely on our target accounts to reach out directly. But by now, it should be clear that leveraging buyer intent data is one of the most effective ways to leverage your website traffic to find new leads. Furthermore, understanding where companies are in the buying process will allow you to create personalized messaging that reaches them at the right time.

If you want to see what first-party data looks like and learn more about how to uncover the companies visiting your website, check out our guide to IP address intelligence.