Fact, fiction and fantasy - decoding the intent data buzz

Ed Marsh | Dec 17, 2018

Understanding Intent Data - the hottest topic in revenue growth

“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” – Albert Einstein

Of course that's true of businesses just as it is of each of us - and change is hard. So it's important to be clear about when it's appropriate. That's not on a whim!

When the buzz around some new tool or tactic starts to grow, companies have to dig in a bit to understand what's hype, what's real, and what's the value to them. Of course the corollary is what's the likely disruption....and is it worth it.

Well, now that buzz is intent data. And likelyyou're going to be hearing about how your company should use third party intent data to grow leads, support ABM, empower your sales and marketing teams, etc.

Let's unpack it. There's a lot here because it's a trending and complicated topic! This is like a handy guide to learn more. (Ff you would rather see than read, then let's book a 30 minute call. We'll talk about it and look at some data together.) Want to skip ahead? Here are the highlights.

Why is it important?

What is intent data?

Are there different types?

What's the hype?

What are common use cases?

What do we actually get?

Can it integrate with HubSpot, Salesforce and other tools?

Is it global? local?

Is it a fit for every company?

What are barriers to adoption?

What's the fiction & fantasy?

Is it legal?

What's it take to get started?

See it in action & learn more.

Why is Third Party Data important?

Consistent growth takes multiple concurrent efforts. Inbound & content marketing drive leads. So do PPC, trade shows, magazine ads, sales channel, referral marketing, PR and more. But outbound sales prospecting remains an important part of consistent revenue growth. Just look at tech companies - they're masters of it!

So if it's important, then you have a choice. Prospect to random names on stagnant lists....or talk to the prospective buyers that are actually taking action indicating they're looking.

What is intent data?

intent data is like xray vision into unknown prospects thinkingThere's no clear, consistent definition. Basically it's a view into who's actively researching and buying a given product or service. The idea is that knowing who's actively researching can help to target marketing and sales messages and energy. It's a huge advance over static lists and traditional prospecting.

You might also hear it called buyer intent data, trigger data or purchase intent data.

Basically it's like x-ray vision into the research and buying thoughts of prospects you know, and many you've never heard of.

Are there different types?

Yes. And there are huge differences that lurk in the technical detail behind the innocuous sounding terms and marketing claims. So it's important to understand how intent data is collected.

  • Some list providers are describing variations of their traditional products with intent language. DiscoverOrg, ZoomInfo, and RainKing may be familiar names. And some tools focus on "enrichment," or providing additional detail and context around potential leads. LeadIQ and LinkedIn Sales Navigator are examples. Clearbit includes elements of both.
  • Predictive tools work to anticipate potential behavior. 6Sense and Lattice Engines are examples
  • "De-anonymizing" visitors to your own website is a niche play that Lead Forensics, Voogy and Visual Visitor
  • The majority of intent data tools rely on observations of anonymous activity by IP address. If your prospects are of a sufficient size to have static IP addresses, then reverse IP lookup can be used to associate a company name with the activity. HOWEVER, in most cases there's no way to know who the actual person was taking the action. Nevertheless many providers of this surge type data are audacious enough to provide contact details, sourced from other data, and "overlaid." In other words they imply that they know who took anonymous action. The data therefore isn't reliable for most segmented marketing and sales follow up. Companies in this category include Bombora, True Influence, The Big Willow (now part of Aberdeen) and Mintingo
  • Real intent data provides the name and contact details for the specific person that took the action which indicates intent. This means it can be used for marketing and sales - even complex sales & buying team insights. Sales Fracking™ Buyer Intent Data is an example of contact level™ third party intent data.

Check them all out. And then let's talk.

What's the hype?

Why's everyone worked up about it? Besides the fact that many third party data providers are tossing the hip "AI" tag into their marketing and descriptions, why is intent data quickly gaining traction?

That's simple. Marketing and selling are getting harder and harder. The allure of knowing who's actually active in the market, taking action anywhere on the web indicating trigger events and research/purchase intent - including your competitors' sites - is understandable.

Bombora made a big splash at Dreamforce this year and since then there's been an increase in buzz around the whole intent data topic as sales teams dream about intercepting prospects in their buying journey.

And we've all heard a sales person say "When we're at the table, we win. We just need to be at the right table. Just tell me who's buying now!"

Well....here you go!

What are common use cases?

  • The most common use case is a list of active buyers for SDRs or BDRs to work.
  • Supplement ABM - by identifying actual contacts - and overcome the frustrating limitation of the popular approach. But surge data only provides company info - don't you want to know who?
  • With knowledge of the real contacts, it's a powerful tool for buying team intelligence for complex sales. Learn and observe behind the scenes players.
  • Target & key account monitoring
  • Competitive tracking - track trends among competitors
  • Reducing customer churn - knowing which customers are exploring competitors
  • Horizontal sales growth - discover customers looking for other products / services you sell
  • Boost sales & marketing alignment through better, deeper collaboration
  • Improve lead follow up by integrating your own first party intent data from your site

Heard enough? Ready to talk? Let's connect for 30 minutes and we'll look at some data and talk about your requirements.

What do we actually get?

third party intent data can be used to identify prospects who are in market and partially through their customer journey. This type of B2B intent data can be used to deliver relevant content to a potential buyerA weekly list of contacts. It includes first & last name, email, job title, main phone number, company name & URL, city, state & country, Twitter handle (if they have one), LinkedIn profile, industry, company size, flag for customer, target and repeat activity, and the secret sauce...it's in a couple additional fields we call trigger and source. 

Are these all potential buyers? Not necessarily. Accurate intent signals don't always indicate purchase intent. But the data will help to identify prospects who are potentially "in market" and actively researching, and who you can enroll in marketing campaigns.

This will tell you what key term they took action on (where they are in their buying journey/what problem they're trying to solve), what competitor they took action with, etc., etc.

It will even include other key contacts who the algorithm observes participating in the decision process! That's awesome for your complex sales team.

Can it integrate with Salesforce, HubSpot or other tools?

Yes. We can put the leads directly into Salesforce, HubSpot and others - although we recommend against it. You're better off segmenting and following up based on an analysis of the details.

Is it global? Local?

We can provide global data by country, or continent. We can even filter by state and city, but the lead counts for potential buyers will likely be low as you narrow your range to a single metro.

The algorithm works with English key terms, so internet adoption and English search tendencies will impact the volume of leads for given markets.

Is it a fit for every company?

No! It's for B2B businesses that have:

  • transaction or ACV value >$5K
  • outbound sales prospecting resources like BDRs
  • collaboration with marketing and sales - neither can maximize intent data on their own
  • strong marketing strategy and good understanding of their ICP buyer's journey
  • have well coached sales teams and their own marketing tech stack with robust first party intent data

What are barriers to adoption?

  • Honestly, it might be you - I hope not though. I think you're bold and visionary! Prove me right!! Let's talk.
  • Marketing might worry that this flow of active buyer leads replaces the work that they do to develop inbound leads. We also recommend nurturing the leads as members of a custom audience in Facebook. Your marketing team might be too busy.
  • Sales might hesitate because they don't have the business development resources to follow up on the leads
  • Management might...management might just hate the idea of change. After all trade shows have worked for years, right? Like Einstein said, you have to be willing to give up what you are in order to become what you will be!
  • Companies that don't believe in sales process, methodology and systems will struggle.
  • Sales and marketing teams that hope to use intent data as a silver bullet will be dissapointed

What's the fiction and fantasy?

The fiction is what surge data provides. It's simply some anonymous activity from a known IP address that's reported with unrelated contact details for someone that works there and who meets your ideal buyer profile. If it's enough for you to know that someone in a company is active. Great. But most companies actually sell to people - and you need to know who's the buyer.

The fantasy is a sales thing. These prospects are taking action researching - but they're not waiting by the phone with POs written ready for your call. They're leads. Amazing leads. But they have to be sold from a cold start. A sales rep has to start with good outbound prospecting, informed by the data, but cold nevertheless. 

Combining first party and third party data can improve lead scoring by understanding when multiple people from the same company are showing interest.

Is it legal?

Yes. And GDPR compliant. Do you think Salesforce would have made it a prominent part of Dreamforce otherwise?

Amazingly it's all publicly available data.

What's it take to get started?

Sales Fracking is simple to start. Simple documents - 3 month evergreen agreement and MNDA - is the first step. Then we collect the information we need to build the algorithm. We ask for the following:

  • your ideal buyer (job title, company size, industry, geography)
  • competitors (as many as you have - name & URL)
  • target accounts (1,000 would be great, it fuels the machine learning - name & URL)
  • customers (if that's sensitive, then include them among your target accounts - name & URL)
  • key industry events, and thought leaders (names, URLs and social handles)
  • key terms (up to 100 - not long tail. Don't worry, we'll help!)

That normally takes a couple weeks. Then we build the algorithm and test it. That's another couple weeks. Then we start to provide data weekly. We'll send a spreadsheet with the leads. For the first few weeks we'll meet weekly with the marketing and sales teams and tweak the algorithm a couple times. We'll also talk about your sales sequences, email templates, call scripts, Facebook ad nurturing, etc. The data will get better through the first month as the machine learning kicks in, and by the third month you'll be up and running.

Want to learn more about how you could implement a program like this for your business?

Let's set up a 30 minute call. We'll talk through your use case, we'll look at some data, and we'll decide if it's worth trying a 90 day pilot project. No pressure, full information, and a simple yes or no decision. If you love it and see the value, it will be an easy yes. If you're not fired up to try it then it's probably not a fit anyway.

And BTW, if ABM is of interest, check out this Drift webinar on the emerging opportunities at the intersection of conversational marketing, account-based marketing and intent data