What is B2B Intent Data? How to Use it Effectively

Shahin Hoda 11  mins read March 21st, 2023 (Updated: March 11th, 2024)


Over the last several years, we have created a lot of content around Account-Based Marketing (ABM) - from the ultimate ABM strategy template to Account-Based Marketing examples.

What is B2B Intent Data & How to Use it Effectively

If you're unfamiliar with it, ABM pushes for a strong collaboration between marketing and sales teams to create customised campaigns for specific accounts.

While the sales and marketing teams' alignment is critical, another essential component for ABM to be successful is targeting the account stakeholders at the right time. You need to have information on the buyer's desire to purchase. This is where intent data helps.

By leveraging the power of intent data, you can take the benefits of an Account-Based Marketing strategy to the next level. 

Understanding a buyer's intent is a useful tool that enables you to target accounts proactively and tailor your marketing and sales campaigns accordingly. 

This approach not only helps you achieve better ROI but also ensures that your marketing efforts really are focused on the most promising prospects. With the right data in hand, you can create a more effective and personalised customer experience that resonates with your target audience.

Intent data is a newer concept than ABM but has shown great results for organisations that use it.

According to SalesIntel, their buyer intent data services have led to a 300% increase in conversion rates for their clients; It has also reduced their sales cycle time by 50% and improved customer retention by 36%.

Despite the benefits above, many marketers are still in the process of figuring it out. A survey conducted by Ascend2 in 2021 found that only 28% of marketers had an intent data strategy.

So, what is intent data, why is it important, and how can we leverage it in ABM? In this article, I will answer all these questions.

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    What is Intent Data?

    B2B intent data is the information that reflects a potential buyer's interest in purchasing a product or service through their online and offline activities. These activities may include visiting a website, downloading a whitepaper, or interacting with relevant content, just to name a few. Intent data provides insight into a buyer’s purchase behaviour and the next step that they would potentially take to evaluate the product or service they are interested in.

    What is Intent Data?

    Intent data can be gathered from multiple sources like website tracking tools, social media platforms, and professional data providers.

    It's a unique way to gauge a buyer's intent and optimise your marketing and sales campaigns accordingly. 

    Why is Intent Data Important? 

    Coming to the next question, why is intent data important?

    I hinted at the significance of utilising intent data in the previous section.

    To explore this further, let me provide you with an example.

    Imagine you are preparing to launch an ABM campaign for an IT cybersecurity company. The target accounts are in the retail industry. You have identified the sales professionals who are working with you to produce the account list.

    Why Use Intent Data?

    It is very important to ensure that you select the right accounts in your ABM campaign, and it's a good idea to get help from your top sales representative to achieve this. Usually, their suggestions are enough, but the challenge that most teams face is prioritising the accounts.

    If you know that a particular account stakeholder has been to your website multiple times already, then this information on their "intent" would help you score that account higher on the target list, meaning you will prioritise it over other accounts.

    Remember, having data on a potential buyer's journey and purchase intent will help you better customise your messaging. This is what ABM is all about.

    Another example that highlights the importance of intent data is gauging the efficacy of the content you have created as a part of your ABM strategy.

    Suppose a key decision maker from a target market or account downloads your industry report and reads several articles on your website. In that case, it is a leading indicator of your campaign, resulting in revenue.

    The intent data, in this case, can also be used by your sales rep or team to carry out further outbound calls. Because there is a positive intent from the buyer, the sales team has a better chance of taking the prospect to closure, which means a better return on time invested for your sales reps.

    Types of Intent Data 

    Intent Data can be classified into three categories: first, second, and third-party data.

    Types of Intent Data

    1. First-Party Data

    The term "first-party data" pertains to the data a company gathers from its own website, visitors or clients.

    This information is acquired from the company's marketing channels and includes site visits, email opens, and social media interactions with potential customers.

    Here's an example for more context.

    Consider a software company that provides a complimentary trial of its project management software to a prospective client. The client uses the software for a week and eventually decides against buying the paid version. During the trial period, the software company gathers data on the client's actions, including the software features they used, the amount of time they spent on it, how many projects they created and the overall content consumption pattern.

    The intent data collected in this case is classified as first-party intent data since it was directly gathered from the software company's marketing channel based on the prospective client's interactions and online searches.

    2. Second-Party Data

    Second-party intent data is used for the information gathered by one company (known as the first party) and then transferred or sold to another company (known as the second party).

    An example of this could be a marketing agency that collects data on behalf of its client. This usually entails engagement data such as information on the behaviour of visitors to their client's website or the open rates of their client's emails.

    This data is subsequently shared with the client, who can utilise it to enhance their marketing endeavours.

    This form of data is classified as second-party intent data as it is collected by the agency (the first party) and then shared with the client (the second party).

    3. Third-Party Intent Data

    The term "third-party intent data" pertains to data gathered by companies or groups without direct affiliation with the user or company that plans to utilise it.

    An example here is an intent data provider that accumulates data on prospective buyers' visits online, social media activity, and behaviour on other websites.

    This data is then consolidated and sold to companies wishing to gain insight into their desired target audience.

    How to Collect Intent Data

    Now that we know the different types of intent data, I will discuss how intent data is collected.

    If a business has a marketing team, either within the organisation or outsourced, it can establish appropriate procedures and systems to acquire first-hand purchase intent data.

    How to Use Intent Data

    Here are some conventional methods that most companies use.

    • Track website traffic, bounce rate, time on page, conversions, and specific actions indicating intent using web analytics software like Google Analytics.
    • Leverage cookies to understand user behaviour on websites and track customer activity.
    • Implement CRM software like HubSpot or Salesforce that helps manage customer data, including contact information, purchase history and sales interactions. A CRM also enables customer segmentation based on buyer groups, behaviour and preferences.
    • Utilise marketing automation software such as Marketo or Mailchimp for personalised email campaigns and tracking engagement and ABM metrics.
    • Use social media listening tools to monitor brand, product, and competitor mentions. A very common tool that companies can use for social listening is Google Alerts. Some other B2B focused tools are Brandwatch and Oktopost.
    • Engage with prospects by tracking conversations using tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social.
    • Analyse search data to understand what keywords and phrases people are using to find their website or products. Many organisations use tools like Google Search Console or SEMrush to track search rankings, traffic, and user behaviour.

    I will skip covering the second-party data because it's a variation of first-party data.

    Moving to third-party intent data. If you want to gather it, you will have to depend on providers who specialise in this field. These intent data providers have various methods of acquiring information from outside sources.

    Some of them are as follows:

    Using Publishing Co-ops

    Publishing co-ops are groups of publishers who exchange website visitor data with one another and fellow data providers.

    Bombora gathers intent data from 4,000+ B2B websites in its co-op.

    Using Advertising Networks

    Advertising networks link advertisers and publishers while monitoring the online activities of users who view or click their ads.

    Demandbase collects intent data from 40 billion web interactions monthly using its advertising network.

    Using individual Websites

    Individual websites are specific domains that offer content or services related to a particular industry or topic. 

    TechTarget collects intent data from its network of 140+ technology-specific websites.

    Regardless of the method by which the data is collected, while selecting the right ABM platform for your company, you should look at things like ease of integration, your current use case and pricing for each of the above players.

    How to Use Intent Data Effectively? 

    In this next section, I wanted to cover some industry best practices for making the best of all kinds of buyer data you have.

    Here are some ways:

    1. Early Opportunities

    Use intent signal data to tap into prospects showing interest before competitors.

    Prioritise outreach and tailor messages based on their intent signals.

    Example Case Study: Source: Bombora

    The value of leveraging intent data in getting ahead of the competition is priceless.. In this example, Snowflake’s ABM pod identified high content consumption activity online from a prospect account early on. The marketing and the sales teams moved fast and partnered to close the deal in 3 months.

    Intent Data: Early Opportunities

    2. Score and Segment Your Accounts

    Utilise intent data to score and segment accounts based on engagement and buying readiness. Use this data to create dynamic lists that update automatically and focus on the most qualified accounts for nurturing that would potentially convert.

    Example Case Study: Source: Bombora

    In this example, Seatrade Maritime, used Bombora’s solutions to segment and score accounts for their programmatic ABM campaign.

    Intent Data: Score and Segment Your Accounts

    3. Don't Forget Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

    Intent data can aid in targeting high-purchase intent accounts that match your ideal customer profile. Create personalised campaigns to address their pain points and offer relevant solutions. Also, use intent data to identify similar accounts to your target accounts.

    Example Case Study: Source: 6Sense

    In this example, LaunchDarkly embeds intent data in its ABM strategy to drive more conversions.

    Intent Data: Don't Forget Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

    4. Refine Your Content Strategy

    Intent data helps create audience-specific content that aligns with their interests and needs. It helps find the topics or keywords they search for and create content that solves their problems. As a marketer, you may use intent data also to optimise content for SEO and other distribution channels.

    Example Case Study: Source: Bombora

    SugarCRM leveraged intent data service and products offered by Bombora and Tribilio to score accounts for SDR outreach. SugarCRM’s SDR was also armed with the right content and insights all in one place, where they could pitch to prospects with relevant content. 

    “Now, instead of just opening a spreadsheet, SugarCRM’s SDRs start their day with insights from an email from G2 (showing which businesses have been directly checking out Sugar on G2 reviews) and an email from Bombora with a list of which businesses have been reading relevant topical articles and even researching their competitors.

    After seeing which accounts are most active, they are able to see more details faster, determine the best medium and content for outreach, and add them to relevant marketing campaigns in a few clicks.” - Taken Directly from Bombora

    Intent Data: Refine Your Content Strategy

    5. Targeted Advertising

    Use intent data to target prospects who are actively searching for solutions like yours through online ads. Create relevant ads and landing pages to provide prospective buyers with relevant information and offers. Retarget prospects who have engaged with your content but haven't converted yet.

    Example Case Study: Source: Clearbit

    This is an interesting example where Gorgias used Clearbit to target a very specific users with ads on social channels based on the intent data.

    Intent Data: Targeted Advertising

    6. Fuel Your Sales Pipeline

    Incorporating intent data with the sales intelligence of your team can help you generate qualified accounts and opportunities. It can be used to trigger timely follow-ups with interested prospects and provide insights for sales conversations, such as topics of interest, challenges, and competitors.

    Example Case Study: Source: Bombora

    We will continue with the SugarCRM example from the the previous section here. SugarCRM leveraged Bombora and Triblio to reach out high intent accounts in a relevant way, thereby uncovering close to USD 2 million in pipeline.

    Intent Data: Fuel Your Sales Pipeline

    Benefits of Using Intent Data for B2B Companies

    We are in the last leg of this article. I have gone through a lot of content so far, but this is the section that reinforces the use of intent data.

    Some of the benefits of using it are as follows:

    1. Improved Understanding of Customer Needs and Preferences 

    Intent data will help you understand your customers' interests and goals, enabling you to customise your offerings and messages to meet customer expectations and resolve their issues.

    2. More Targeted Marketing and Sales Efforts 

    Intent data helps businesses like yours to find potential prospects showing interest in their solution even before they contact competitors or fill out a contact form on your website.

    This helps prioritise outreach efforts and focus on qualified accounts. Furthermore, personalised marketing campaigns can be created using intent data to address specific pain points and offer relevant solutions.

    3. Enhanced Customer Experience

    Intent data aids in providing timely content. It offers to align with customers' intent signals and track their position in the buying process. This helps companies build trust and loyalty with the existing accounts and prospects. All of the above subsequently improves customer satisfaction.

    4. Increased Sales and Revenue

    Intent data analyses the behaviour of potential customers, such as demo requests or white paper downloads, to help businesses find highly interested accounts.

    This results in more qualified accounts, timely follow-ups, and shorter sales cycles for closing more deals.

    When Should You Use Intent Data?

    We discussed what is intent data, how to use it, and how it's collected. If you are wondering if intent data is right for you, then this last section of the article will clear your doubts.

    We here at xGrowth feel that if you have the following three characters in your organisation, then intent data is for you!

    1. Long Sales Cycle Length

    If your sales and marketing teams are struggling with lengthy deal cycles, then an intent-based marketing framework combined with the principles of ABM can be valuable in overcoming challenges in the buying decision stages and gaining audience insights.

    2. MarTech Maturity

    To best use ABM and intent data, I do feel that medium to high MarTech maturity is a must. This means having the right systems and processes, such as a CRM and marketing automation tool, to effectively collect, connect, process and utilise buyer insights.

    3. Alignment Between Sales and Marketing Teams

    Just like in ABM, marketing and sales teams should be working towards reaching a defined set of accounts. They should be looking at the same source of intent data to take decisions in collaboration with each other. So, if both the sales and marketing teams are on the same page, the impact of intent data can be really powerful. 

    Final Thoughts

    Well, that's all I had for this article. The world of intent data and account-based marketing are intertwined. Intent data has become increasingly relevant for ABM and B2B marketing as the buying process becomes more complex. 

    As I discussed above, there are several tools that marketers can leverage to collect and analyse buyer intent information. While selecting the right tool and platform is challenging, using it in your ABM campaigns could be trickier. 

    I hope that the content above provides you with some practical and strategic tips. At xGrowth, we have used intent data for many of our projects. Check out how our teams have been working on some amazing Account-Based Marketing programs in this ABM campaign examples Singapore piece. 

    The journey can be intimidating, and I can understand that. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need a helping hand from an ABM expert, reach out to us.

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