Imagine lying on a beach. The sun is shining and there’s a familiar scent of SPF in the air. The weather is beautiful with no signs of interruption, so you prepare yourself for a relaxing snooze to the sounds of the waves crashing up on the shore. But right as you’re about to drift off, the familiar “beep” of a metal detector jars you back to consciousness. Beep, beep, beeeeeeeeep.
Now, switch gears and think about the concept of intent data. Just like that kooky metal detector combing the sands of your favorite beach, intent data serves as a beacon for B2B marketers searching for highly qualified leads in a sea of potential customers.
So, how does it work, really? And what kind of signals indicate purchase intent? We’ve got all the answers here, don’t worry. But first, let’s dive into the basics.
What is Intent Data?
Remember what your mother said: be careful what you post on the internet. That’s because the web keeps a digital record of all our comings and goings—it remembers keywords you’ve searched, links you’ve clicked on, and that embarrassing photo of you from last year’s holiday party. These digital “signals” reflect our personal interests and values, essentially creating a persona-like profile that adjusts accordingly with each additional action we take.
With the aid of an intelligent intent data platform, B2B marketers can monitor and record these signals across the entire digital landscape, including websites, ad networks, and social media. These platforms scour billions of behavioral signals to pinpoint specific individuals who have expressed some type of interest in a company’s products or services. From these signals, B2B marketers can then determine how likely a person is to convert, thereby creating a more efficient framework for customer prospecting.
Types of Intent Data
There are two types of intent data available: first-party and third-party. Here’s a quick breakdown of each:
First-Party Intent Data
First-party (a.k.a. internal) intent data consists of all the behavioral insights and signals collected in-house through a company’s digital properties, including its website, marketing automation platform, analytics tools, and/or web apps. For example, if a prospect fills out an online form with their information or requests a specific piece of content to download, these would be considered signals of first-party intent.
However, as much as first-party intent data helps to drive B2B marketing initiatives forward, it still doesn’t provide insights into buyer engagement or activity outside a company’s own digital ecosystem. To discover the interests of prospects elsewhere on the internet, marketers need to look to third-party intent data as well.
Third-Party Intent Data
Third-party (a.k.a. external) intent data describes all the insights and behavioral signals collected outside a company’s digital properties. Typically, marketing teams will call on a third-party vendor to glean insights from target audiences across the web, giving visibility into customer behavior outside the organization. These vendors employ the use of website cookies, public IP addresses, and data co-ops to source key third-party intent.
Combining the power of first-party and third-party intent data allows B2B marketers to have a better view of target audiences’ purchase intent, business goals, behaviors, interests, research, and other online activities.
Types of Intent Data Signals
There are two types of intent data signals: overt and covert. Here’s a helpful chart to learn which one’s which:
Ok, now that you’ve got the basics down and understand the nuances of intent data, let’s take it a step further.
Top Five Signals of Purchase Intent
We recently surveyed over 600 sales and marketing professionals across the United States, asking them which behavioral signals best convey purchase intent among prospects. Here are their top five answers:
1. Website Visits
One of the most important indicators of purchase intent is how frequently a prospect visits a company’s website. The more they come around to check things out, the more they’re likely to invest in a product or service. More importantly, this metric also gives B2B marketers the ability to identify unique visitors from frequent fliers, which helps determine how “sticky” their website really is. For instance, marketers might find certain pages draw frequent visits from existing leads, while those same pages fail to engage occasional visitors. An insight like this can alert marketing teams to a much-needed website redesign or modification to enhance website discoverability.
2. Calls with Sales Reps
This one’s a no-brainer. If a prospect reaches out directly to a sales rep, either by phone, email, or in-app messaging, it’s a clear indication that person is interested in what your company has to offer. On the flip side, B2B marketers can also leverage intent data to vet and qualify leads. These marketing-qualified leads can then be handed off to sales reps to initiate a conversation, helping to streamline the prospecting process and speed the sales cycle entirely.
3. Time Spent on a Website or Landing Page
Obviously, the longer a prospect stays glued to a company’s website, the more likely that person is enjoying and consuming its content. But there’s more to uncover from this metric. According to Contentsquare’s 2021 Digital Experience Benchmark Report, the average time spent on a company website or landing page, regardless of industry, is only 54 seconds. For B2B industries, that average time jumps to one minute and 37 seconds. Getting into nitty gritty details like this gives B2B marketers a good idea of how effective their content is, whether it’s easy to read and understand, or if it’s relevant to target audiences. In other words, this “time spent” metric allows marketers to not only gauge purchase intent, but also how well their website resonates with prospects.
4. CRM Data
Want to have real-time visibility into customer intent? Then it’s time to get integrating. Merging one’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform with a sophisticated solution for intent data creates a well-rounded marketing tech stack that teams can use to supercharge intent data tracking. By integrating the two technologies, B2B marketers can get more advanced insights into customer behavior and discover how factors like recency, geography, and brand competition affect changes in overall intent. Martech analytics can even highlight variations in purchase intent over time, making it easier for B2B marketers to pad their pipeline and pinpoint future opportunities to up-sell.
5. Relevant Keyword Searches
Research shows nearly 72% of all B2B purchases starts with a relevant keyword search, whether it’s through Google, Bing, or some other search engine. Therefore, once marketers get a sense of what their ideal customers search for, they’re better able to target these individuals with relevant content and paid advertising, making the prospecting process far more efficient.
Intent data is like the metal detector of the marketing world. But instead of alerting you to buried treasure in the sand, intent data singles out the most interested, purchase-ready prospects from the billions of people active across the web. It’s a tremendous resource for B2B marketing teams on the hunt for top-quality leads, though it’s important to remember how best to leverage it for ultimate impact.
Want to learn more about intent data use in B2B marketing? Make sure to download our benchmark report, “Intent Data Trends Survey: 2022 Edition.”