Buyer intent data is the product of studying people’s behavior in relation to the product or service a business offers. Buyers are smart and ready to do their own research. A company simply needs to reach out to the people paying attention.
According to a recent survey by Gartner, prospects spend 50% of their time seeking information from third-party sources.* Why not study their moves?
What is buyer intent?
Buyer intent looks at aggregated behavioral signals to identify potential prospects in the buying cycle. There are a variety of data points that can represent buying intention.
Intent data can include the following behaviors:
- Web site visits and the frequency of visits
- What specific articles or pages a user is reading
- Which topics seem to interest users most
- Engagement with sales or marketing emails
Essentially, intent data is any type of information that indicates a lead is in the buying phase of their customer journey. The main sources of intent marketing include web traffic, off-site activity, data from your CRM, social media metrics, search intent, and content consumption data.
How is intent data collected?
There are a few types of resources that help businesses capture buyer intent. This includes both internal and external buyer intent tools.
Any data that a company collects on its own is considered “internal data.” Also referred to as “first-party” intent data, it is information that is collected in-house using a variety of systems, such as application logs, a marketing automation platform, or customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Most CRMs will display metrics for what visitors are doing on your site. The benefits of collecting internal data include total control of what you capture and how, accuracy, and security.
Additionally, a business can act immediately on internal data and customize exactly what classifies as purchase intent. There’s no waiting for another party to deliver your data. This provides a good way to get started with buyer intent data.
Another way of collecting intent data is through a third-party data collection company. This is typically sourced through cookies or IP lookups on specific websites. Because collected internal data can be complex, external data provides an easier means to the same end.
External data is distinct from internal business intelligence because it is generated by and purchased from outside agencies. This data is used by the purchaser to filter out potential buyers and is even packaged as marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
However, there are some disadvantages to going this route. The company you choose must always be GDPR-compliant. You’ll also need to set up clear expectations and closely monitor the deliverables for consistent accuracy and value of data you purchase.
Data should be sourced from leading industry sites that consumers are using to educate themselves. Research is usually based on search intent, prior buying patterns, and prior buying patterns.
Key indicators of buyer intent
In order to ensure prospects are exclusively a good fit, do your homework. You need to position the segmenting and targeting work around a buyer persona. Otherwise, you could end up with leads who, on the surface, look good, but may never buy a thing.
The first step is deciding what the company values as important and how to score interactions with key decision-makers. You should also account for who is interacting with your brand. There’s no point in spending time tracking and scoring leads that aren’t a good fit.
Key considerations when compiling intent data include:
How recently has a prospect engaged with the brand? This is super important data. If you wait weeks to contact someone after visiting the site, they probably already made a buying decision.
People waste no time these days and thus, speed matters in sales. The faster you react, the more deals you close.
How often are people coming back? The more they return, the more likely they are to buy. If you see a lead frequently viewing pages for pricing or case studies, you can easily assume they are far into the buying cycle. At this point, the sales team needs to reach out.
Most lead scoring systems count user engagement. If an individual is engaging with content on your site via chat, email, or other forms of interaction, it’s a good indication they are ready to talk.
How is buyer intent data used?
So, once all of this information is collected, what do you do with it?
You can use buyer intent data in a number of ways. For starters, it’s a key asset for customer acquisition. It works to greatly improve segmenting and targeting of account-based marketing campaigns. Intent data also helps to better align your messaging to buyers’ needs.
Some ways in which you can put buyer intent data to use today include:
Intent data gives your sales team a leg up. Sales teams don’t have to wait for buyers to complete an action to identify interest. With simple buyer intent signals, it’s now possible to prioritize outreach based on specific behaviors.
After the sales team converts a prospect, a business can continue to monitor clients who research the competition. This data points to customers who may need additional support or attention. This usually indicates your product or customer service is failing in some way.
Set up triggers that request buyer feedback to help identify gaps for future product development. Intent data helps to uncover problems before buyers even utter a peep. This reduces the churn rate and adds to overall customer satisfaction.
Guide for messaging
Buyer intent data works to strategically target in-market prospects and convert them to quality leads. This type of data provides insight into prospect research history, including specific products and brands.
Research by Gartner found that “by the end of 2022, more than 70% of B2B marketers will utilize third-party intent data to target prospects or engage groups of buyers in selected accounts.”*
Buyer intent data can be used to better craft unique and specific messaging that speaks to segmented audiences in different ways. Rather than using generic marketing tactics, you can better align your outreach with specific interest signals that buyers leave, such as cookie crumbs across third-party sites.
Pros & cons of buyer intent data
When it comes to using this type of data to conduct business, there are two sides to the coin. Here are some pros and cons:
For a sales team, closing deals is the top priority. Buyer intent data simplifies prospecting with a layer of business intelligence. Knowing who is looking at what content means you can tailor messaging with more direct targeting.
It also means sales can engage leads as early as possible while collecting information on how and what prospects are researching. Sales will be able to prospect SQLs in a fraction of the time.
Improve outbound sales
This is about working smarter, not harder. The sales cycle can be long. Giving your team direct access to buyer intent data allows them to reach out to the most qualified leads and spend less time on people who aren’t really interested.
It also increases the ROI of your B2B content syndication efforts. See who’s reaching out and target more efficiently.
Practice advanced sales prioritization with buyer intent data that lights the way. Traditional lead scoring relies on adding points when certain actions are taken.
Intent data helps to uncover additional avenues a lead takes during the buying cycle. This can be used in a more precise way to predict purchase intent and prioritize contacts.
Personalization & targeting
Intent data helps both the sales and marketing departments to run more accurate account-based campaigns. Successful outreach, including buyer enablement, is built on personalization.
The most effective way to improve B2B campaigns is to provide a continuous stream of relevant content. It allows you to strategically nurture leads by segmenting lists and adjusting the messages accordingly.
When you closely understand consumer problems, you can create more relevant content. Buyer intent data helps to uncover common obstacles and issues people run into that pertain to the product or service you provide.
These insights can be used to better guide content creation and increase inbound leads. Create content that directly reflects exactly what people are interested in and watch the social return on investment skyrocket.
When it comes to purchasing buyer intent data from a third party, there is no true way to confirm the data is accurate. You are simply relying on good faith that the company is giving you correct information.
Leads can be anywhere
Third-party agencies that provide external buyer data include leads that can be anywhere in the funnel. Rather than focus on one buyer stage, most outside sources will send them to you along the entire journey.
That means, purchasing buyer data with the intent of using it for top-of-the-funnel messaging can be risky. Your business is going in directly for the sale when some buyers may just be getting to know you. It comes off as pushy.
Being too specific in targeting can lead a sales team right back to blind targeting. There is such a thing as over-personalization. Zeroing in on super-specific characteristics of a potential buyer can cut out people that are actually willing to buy.
You risk not reaching a wide enough audience and missing out on sales. You should employ critical thinking to determine the fine line between being too general or too specific in your messaging.
Waiting to reach out
Having sales and marketing wait to respond to buyers reaching out can cost you. Sometimes outbound cold-calling is the best form of gathering new leads.
The worst issue a business can run into when purchasing buyer intent data is that it was captured in a way that’s deemed “non-compliant” with the latest data security standards and regulations. Control and management is necessary to ensure the data is being used properly.
If it’s not used correctly, you can face non-compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which can lead to some hefty fines.
Is buyer intent data worth it?
It all depends on how a business wants to spend its money. Top-of-the-funnel leads require a lot more time and attention. This means fewer leads for your money.
Perhaps a better option is to purchase buyer intent when prospects are part-way down the funnel and use CRM and internal data before that. You can then allocate resources to more profitable endeavors, such as ad spend, customer engagement campaigns, and content creation.
Buyer intent data is most valuable when a business has a well-crafted buyer persona and has the capacity to follow through with leads in a timely manner. A poorly crafted buyer persona or failure to pay attention to details means wasted money on missed opportunities.
Many businesses start targeting before they have fully segmented the audience. Narrow the focus and build out the value prop with relevant content. Then, it will make more sense to purchase buyer intent data. This establishes buyer confidence that your company can solve their biggest problems.
*“Emerging Technology Analysis: Leveraging Intent Data for Marketing and Demand Generation.” Alan Antin. Gartner. February 11, 2020.