Business to Business Intent Data: What is it and How Can it Be Used?
With the buying process shifting significantly online, marketing teams have focused on optimizing their digital tool arsenal. This has led to a rise in the importance of buyer intent data. Intent data provides sales and marketing teams a way to gauge, research, and anticipate the potential wants or needs of their prospects.
The concept of what B2B intent data probably comes across as being simpler than it really is. Before getting into using intent data itself, first and third-party intent data providers, and some of their differences, it would be helpful to know what intent data is and what its primary functions are for businesses.
What is B2B Intent Data
Due to the increase users digital footprints, large amounts of user data have been collected. This data is not simply limited to browser search history, previous purchases, or frequently visited sites. It is comprised of data that can provide clues into the future purchase behaviors of internet users.
The difference between all the data collected and specific intent data is important: intent data helps marketing teams create a profile of a business or prospect as they compile each bit of information and only utilize the pieces that are truly relevant.
There are four main steps that are a part of the generation and collection processes of intent data – uploading, matching, identifying, and predicting.
- Uploading is essentially grouping together the initial data collected.
- Matching involves pairing previous searches together that are relevant.
- Identifying begins to outline a company’s purchase intent.
- Predicting tries to determine what they are looking for exactly. Or what similar products/services could be offered by B2B marketers.
One of the major difficulties in using intent or B2B data is that there is a significant level of variation that comes with the amount of information received.
Some data may be sourced from social media- based information that could be useful in certain situations but isn’t particularly valuable on its own. Other data may be taken from just the right time in a company’s activities, being both consistent with previous pieces of information collected and can easily be fashioned into a recognizable trend as a result.
Unfortunately, the mix between these two ends of the quality spectrum are wild and often cause B2B customers to lose trust in the customer data they receive. It can easily lead to such customers disregarding third party data in favor of their own strategies.
While this isn’t wholly wrong, it continually makes it difficult to prove to customers that the data can still be trustworthy even if quality is all over the place. This variation is something that B2B marketing efforts fail to account for. Constantly lacking data that is complete and accurate is a side effect of the industry.
In time, enough data is collected to produce a profile complete with detailed/accurate client predictions and trends, but the timeframe to do so is often longer than most customers are willing to wait.
Regardless of these setbacks, even the most basic forms of intent data can provide a huge advantage to firms. It doesn’t have to be outstanding to give sales and marketing teams an edge. If it works well enough, marketing team can reach out to the right audiences with a proper, relatable message.
A large part of generating appropriate marketing is utilizing behavioral intent data correctly. Rather than thinking about behavioral data as a different ‘type’ of intent data, it should really be viewed as recognizing the full potential of the data gathered already.
Incorporating behavioral intent data is key because it is the real time interactions that potential clients may have with media that the company has distributed. Specifically, this does not draw on data dumps that are old. In fact, this piece of intent data is based solely on the most recent activities of possible customers.
It is far more involved in calculating and predicting coming actions based on said data to give marketers that extra level of insight and intelligence on recent user activity. Recognizing this portion of intent data could be the difference between signing new clients or missing out on them entirely.
How to Use Intent Data
There are several ways that intent data can be used by companies for business to business purposes. And they are all related to increasing revenue one way or another. Generally, intent data can be used in four primary ways (though there’s always room for innovation and branching ideas.)
- Personalizing User/Client Experience (for websites)
2. Identifying Potential Customers
3. Focusing and Prioritizing Leads with Heavy Engagement, and finally
4. Adding a Personal Touch to Promising Investments.
Here’s how each of these methods tends to utilize intent data.
Personalizing User/Client Experience
Most people have seen the little notification that pops up in their browser while visiting a website asking them if they will accept cookies from said website. Although users won’t be blocked from using the website if they choose not to allow them, their overall experience may be less optimized than if they had chosen to allow them.
Cookies are one of the most common ways for businesses to collect intent data from potential buyers, whether it focuses on the intent of individuals or a company as a whole. These small pieces of data have been around since 1994 when they were first created by Lou Montulli for Intel. Ever since, they have seen endlessly rising popularity because the data received, specifically what pages they were visiting, can be subjected to web personalization.
There are some programs that exists that act as marketing automation software, but a marketing strategy is developed around the info received to try and encourage or incentivize the user to make a purchase. The best part for users is that, until more information is gathered, the only information available to the business is their search trends.
Using search history to create a setup that exposes a visitor to closely related items has consistently proven to increase the likelihood they will initiate a purchase even if they previously weren’t.
Data gathered from cookies has evolved over the years and have essentially become a requirement on any business website. Not every personalization strategy is the same – there are a few different categories to choose from like vertical-based industry outreach, geolocation, predictive web personalization, behavioral (as previously outlined which creeps its way into most other categories), contact data, and even account-based campaigns. They can be effective tools in the personalization process, though they aren’t useful for every situation across the board.
Identifying Potential Customers
To quickly provide a description, potential customers discussed here different than the ones outlined in the intent data uses below. Potential customers are clients that haven’t even engaged with the material that’s out there. This is where social media becomes vital to success since identifying potential buyers this way means they’ve probably never heard of the product or service being offered.
What also makes this difficult is that this use is the result of compiling huge amounts of social media data. For larger businesses, this isn’t an issue since they have the capital necessary to integrate and analyze such unstructured data with their marketing teams. They are even able to use it to research the buying potential of their largest clients well before other forms of intent data can catch it.
Smaller businesses have a few tactics to get around this hurdle but are otherwise at a disadvantage until they experience significant growth in the number of new clients they have. This intent data usage strategy may not be viable for every business due to the ambiguous nature and sheer size of the data collected.
Until a solid base has been established, either online or in a local community, reaching out to broader markets will not be beneficial compared to focusing on the current customer base. Regardless of a business’ success in trying to attract new clients, the same data collected can be utilize in a safer manner in the next two uses for intent data.
Focusing and Prioritizing Leads with Frequent Engagement Using Intent Data
Using intent data to focus on users that have frequently engaged with a website is a common tactic in the B2B space. There’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing,’ but if there was, user engagement would be the best way to gauge it the likelihood of getting a sale.
Getting to this point involves a combination of analyzing first and third-party data to produce an optimized lead scoring model. This model is an aggregate of all a user’s activities on the site, from visiting various pages, to navigating to the pricing page, to actually purchasing something. Each action results in a gain of points that increases the user’s score gradually.
In the case that a visitor reaches a certain number of points, the business’ marketing team will be alerted (this will depend heavily on the threshold set by the team). When that happens, it is up to the sales force – or the owner for smaller companies should they participate in such data collection – to reach out to this buyer. In reality, this is incredibly similar to identifying potential buyers, but not quite since the user is already aware of the services being offered.
Additionally, this can be the key to success for any business and can save a lot of effort by setting thresholds. If a user is relatively consistent in their visits, even without ‘gaining enough points’, they should be contacted anyways. Its difficult to strike a balance between being accommodating and overbearing, however, finding it could lead to a sale and therefore rule out the chance of them doing business elsewhere.
Adding Personal Touches to Promising Leads
This B2B sector strategy can be difficult because of the ephemerality of positions throughout various businesses. Trying to compile enough user data to create an accurate picture of who/what company is being dealt with and what they are looking for is difficult.
Just like prioritizing those that frequently engage with available content, taking the time to contact potential buyers directly given proper intent leads can lead to more sales. This can only be done successfully if the data that’s been gathered or received accurately portrays a user.
Sometimes all the pieces that are seemingly disjointed can come together to produce a fantastic lead where all the above information can be discerned from each bit. Unfortunately, more often than not, directly contacting people in certain positions is difficult.
In spite of this, reaching out customers to try and make an additional sale, or possibly just to get feedback on the business as a whole, is an effective use of intent data that can greatly improve future marketing efforts. Just like managing a social media account, user feedback can be the difference between constant and constructive progress of a business or its downfall.
Difference Between Marketing and Sales Teams Using Intent Data
The sales and marketing teams at any business are using the intent data for the same purposes – to ultimately bring in revenue for the company. However, is probably clear that they operate at different parts in the same chain.
How Marketing Uses Intent Data
The marketing side is all about the compilation of data and determining the buying trends or motivations of targets.
They are also heavily involved with analyzing geographic and demographic information of website visitors. They will try to develop all the data collected into easily accessible profiles so that future marketing tactics can be streamlined and pointed to encourage user activity.
Marketing will also use intent data to refine the information to create ad campaigns based on responses received in focus groups.
To summarize, marketing is all about the intent data collection and analysis aspects that go into creating complex marketing strategies. It is all eventually converted into simpler forms so that higher ups can create a fuller picture of their consumer base and eventually provide additional information to the sales teams in the near future.
How The Sales Team Uses Intent Data
The sales teams take the information compiled by the marketing teams and converts it into pinpointed efforts at users or larger accounts. This largely incorporates the latter two ways to use intent data based on following up with the analysis marketing produces. Being able to use intent data to whittle down the number of worthwhile ventures for sales forces is like riding a wave into the future.
Sales will use intent data to prioritize prospects to reach out to first. They may check their CRM to determine who their hottest prospects are. This way they have the best chance of booking a meeting or closing a deal.
There are bound to be efforts to go after newer prospects to foster growth of the business. However the most effort to generate sales will be centered around users and accounts that are noted to be in the market currently.
One last benefit intent data has for salespeople is that it can also heavily increase ROI for the business. This goes hand-in-hand with reduced potential leads to follow and optimized account profiles and can almost be guaranteed to produce a positive return so long as the salesperson acts accordingly.
To understand how the sales team and marketing team can work together to use intent data, it’s important to have RevOps leads the conversation to find a suitable strategy
Intent Data Providers
Along with the variety of ways that intent data can be used, there are several different intent data providers that all come with their unique benefits. Similar to how there are different methods of using intent data, each of the intent data providers discussed below will also be noted for what they’re ‘good’ compared to the other two. This section will go over the primary differences between the intent data providers ZoomInfo, Bombora, and 6Sense so that readers can get a good idea of how intent data can differ in function and in collection.
ZoomInfo Intent Data
The first of the most popular intent data companies to be covered today is ZoomInfo. This is a company that is widely panned because of its simplicity, painless export process, and the amount of data that is available.
Thousands of users have cited that there’s a lot of information at the fingertips of users for being just one app. It can easily be integrated into many of the related apps that marketing and sales teams use every day that provides seamless transitions between them.
On top of all that, ZoomInfo is well known for the overall effort in manual labor that it can save any salesperson. Finding emails and phone numbers is a cinch and there are thousands that are nearly instantly accessible upon searching for them, and it automates tons of other processes with little to no problems. Along with easy navigation, the ZoomInfo ReachOut browser extension is available to install on Google Chrome itself. This tool is perfect for any market analyst or salesperson looking for an ‘in’ at any potential company.
It allows users access to contact information to any business without the hassle of researching. It’s an effortless way to collect insightful information on various companies out there. Finally, should any information not make sense, ZoomInfo University is available to anyone willing/able to put the time in to explore every facet of the platform. One of the major downsides of ZoomInfo is that it has the least reputable data accuracy when compared to Bombora and 6Sense.
ZoomInfo Intent Data Review
Despite there being many reviews that claim they have no issue with the data that they sought out, plenty of other users noted that it was plain outdated or confused the information between two businesses with similar names. In the same vein, it is not uncommon to run into a company with data that is outdated or missing several components. While these are current issues, the most users note that the developers are constantly working on the problems, being available at all times.
Bombora Intent Data
Bombora boasts the same accessibility and easy to use interface as ZoomInfo. Where ZoomInfo falters a bit, Bombora seems to capitalize as a result. First on Bombora’s list of benefits is their wide range of topics to provide broader research potential to find new and recurrent clients and visitors.
One of the aspects that makes Bombora especially unique is that it offers Bombora Surge, which is built specifically to inform you when a client or potential client is researching a service offered by a company and if they are also doing the same to competitors.
This B2B purchase intent data can be crucial when trying to finish a deal with a client, but the sales/marketing team is unsure what the timeline of the buyer is. This data can also be integrated across various processes throughout a business to help develop a properly aligned sales strategy towards such prospects.
Bombora Intent Data Review
Though the customer service for ZoomInfo and 6Sense are noted to be some of the best around per the reviews, there is an overwhelming mention of this aspect for Bombora.
Nearly every review consistently mentions that, even when they ran into significant issues with some part of the data, their rep was ready and able to help whenever they needed. Pulling back to reality a bit, Bombora is not without its flaws. One of the more common aspects brought up is that it does not provide contact level data – this means that the user must search through an account to find someone to touch base with. There are thousands of businesses with detailed information that can be accessed immediately, so not including the arguably more vital information left some feeling unsatisfied. This last aspect is a bit disappointing, but it is a relatively minor stain on an otherwise impressive intent data provider.
6Sense Intent Data
Last, but certainly not least on for this piece is 6Sense, an intent data provider that is perhaps best for larger companies looking for larger volumes of data and information. What truly sets 6Sense apart from the other two providers explored is their marketing campaign capabilities and overall customization of said campaign. Bombora somewhat gets into this realm since it also offers features like Omni-Channel Tracking and Media Attribution, but it also lacks quality and personalization for maintaining such campaigns.
It is also a great tool for tracking leads across the board through different territories, tracking the stage that a client is at as a customer prospect, and the thorough detail treatment that each organization receives. 6Sense acts as a “sixth sense” when it comes to outlining what an organization/client is doing with their searches, what their preferences are, where they tend to spend their time while visiting the site, and ultimately helps reveal what problems a client may be trying to solve. It is an all-around great tool that helps create a well-rounded profile on clients for anyone that uses it.
6Sense Intent Data Review
This ‘master of none’ reputation is a blessing and a curse. 6Sense covers every base with well above average performance and is capable of integrating easily with other tools being utilized by users. Being an all-around provider means that each aspect is about equally fleshed out but there’s nothing truly special about the platform in comparison.
There are also different weaknesses across the board, from lack of information and cluttered UI, all the way to steep learning curves. None of these facets is especially good or bad, just average. If one single piece of 6Sense is different than the rest, it is related this provider being able to stay consistent among large and small clients, though their tools are built with mid-level- or enterprise- sized businesses in mind.
Though the prospect of B2B intent data may be intimidating at first, especially with the wide variety of providers to choose from. However, it quickly becomes apparent that this data, among such providers, can be easy to understand and ultimately invaluable to any business operation. It can help create user profiles, drive sales, and hopefully create a repeat client that can continually return, allowing businesses to develop distinct relationships with their clients.