The Essential Guide to Intent Data: Leveraging Signals to Increase Revenue

The Team at Sona
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IIn the complex world of B2B sales, characterized by notoriously long sales cycles, large buying teams, and a small pool of potential customers active in the market at any given time, understanding the hidden nuances of buyer behavior is more crucial than ever. Adding to this challenge is that up to 70% of the buying journey is conducted anonymously, with prospects researching extensively online before engaging with sales teams. A pivotal resource in addressing these challenges is intent data—a tool offering strategic solutions and insights into target market behaviors, crucial for tailoring strategies and communications.

This guide aims to demystify intent data by exploring its main categories, uses, and collection methods. By the end, you’ll understand its strategic importance in business and how go-to-market teams can leverage this cutting-edge approach to boost their B2B revenue strategies.

What is the Strategic Importance of Intent Data?

Intent data is now indispensable in the post-pandemic B2B landscape, transforming how businesses interact with prospective buyers. An Insights for Professionals study reports that 99% of companies have seen improvements using intent data, from increased ROI to sales growth. Furthermore, a DemandScience survey indicates a 30% improvement in lead conversion rates among B2B sales and marketing professionals, demonstrating its effectiveness in driving business outcomes.

This data acts as a critical link, providing real-time insights into buyer behavior and interests. It enables companies to predict purchasing decisions and personalize their strategies, enhancing resource allocation efficiency and campaign impact. Moreover, it allows businesses to qualify leads more effectively and focus on high-intent prospects, enhancing engagement and increasing the likelihood of conversion. In a post-pandemic world where precision and digital acumen are critical, these insights are key to gaining a competitive edge and achieving success.

Having underscored the strategic significance of intent data, the next sections of this guide will delve into its definition, types, and effective application in B2B strategies.

What is Intent Data?

A graphic depicting a magnifying glass positioned over various website icons. The magnifying glass represents intent data and the website icons symbolize different online sources where this data can be found. This hightights that intent data is collected from various digital interactions.

The contemporary B2B buying process has significantly transformed, becoming increasingly self-guided and digitally driven. This shift introduces greater complexity and challenges in identifying potential buyers. Here, intent data proves invaluable. But precisely what is intent data?

Definition and Scope of Intent Data

According to Foundry, “intent data is defined as information capturing an individual’s digital behavior, offering insights into their interests, needs, and purchasing intentions. This data encompasses various digital interactions, including website visits, search terms used, content downloads, social media activities, and more. The primary objective of intent data is to equip marketers and sales teams with a comprehensive understanding of a potential customer’s behavior and preferences. This enables them to create more targeted and personalized communications, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of their marketing and sales efforts.”

Simply put, intent data acts as a compass, guiding businesses through the intricate maze of buyer behavior. It aids in identifying active buyers, tailoring outreach, and increasing conversions. It empowers sales and marketing teams to be proactive rather than reactive, ensuring they engage with valuable leads at the peak of their interest.

Evolution of Intent Data Usage

In the post-pandemic digital-first world, the strategic use of intent data is proving to be a game-changer. This approach has evolved from a niche B2B strategy into a foundational element of modern marketing and sales. Initially, this strategy was used mainly in the B2B sector to target potential buyers. With the emergence of data tools for resolving anonymous identities, like Sona Identification, its application has expanded, allowing B2Bs to excel in a precision-focused environment.

Buyer Intent Data: A Specific Focus

Buyer intent data, a more specific subset of intent data, zeroes in on signals that indicate a user’s likelihood to make a purchase. It includes interactions such as visiting product comparison pages, engaging with pricing information, or reading product reviews. The strength of buyer intent data lies in its ability to identify leads who are actively researching a pain point and thus closer to the decision-making stage. This allows members of a sales team to focus their efforts on prospects with a higher propensity to purchase.

While general intent data is invaluable for shaping broad marketing strategies and content creation, buyer intent data is particularly critical for sales teams in timing their outreach and tailoring their communication. Recognizing the distinct roles these types of data play in different business functions ensures a more targeted and efficient approach to both marketing and sales.

What Are the Types of Intent Data?

There are two primary types of intent data: first-party and third-party. Both primary types are further divided into “known” and “anonymous.” Understanding these types is crucial for business professionals to devise effective, data-driven, and customer-focused revenue strategies.

First-Party Intent Data

First-party intent data is information a business gathers from its own channels, offering detailed insights into customer interactions and preferences specific to that business. Its accuracy and relevance make it highly valuable to the company’s audience. Known and anonymous data are distinctly categorized:

Known First-Party Intent Data

This information is collected directly from individuals who provide their details on a company’s various digital channels. It offers detailed insights into identified individuals, their interactions, and expressed interests. This data is crucial for personalization and targeted marketing efforts, as it allows businesses to engage with customers based on known preferences.

Anonymous First-Party Intent Data

Refers to information gathered from users who interact with a company’s digital platforms without revealing their identity. It provides insights into general user behavior and trends, aiding in understanding broader engagement patterns and informing content strategy and market positioning.

Third-Party Intent Data

Third-party intent data refers to information about user or customer behavior and interests collected and compiled by external intent data providers, rather than the business itself. It expands a business’s understanding of consumer behavior beyond its immediate audience, offering insights into broader market trends and potential customer segments. Here, too, a distinction is made between known and anonymous:

Known Third-Party Intent Data

This type of intent data offers insights into the behaviors and preferences of identified individuals on other websites and various external platforms, providing a broader perspective beyond a company’s immediate audience.

Anonymous Third-Party Intent Data

This type of intent data is information gathered about the behaviors and actions of anonymous visitors on external websites or platforms This insight reveals broader market trends and is crucial for strategic planning, helping businesses identify general market opportunities and areas for expansion.

Combining Intent Data for a Comprehensive View

Insights for Professionals reports that in 2020, over half of marketers combined first-party with third-party data, an essential strategy for maximizing intent data’s potential. While first-party intent data provides in-depth, relevant insights from user interactions on a company’s platform, third-party intent data adds breadth, encompassing a comprehensive market view with customer actions beyond direct brand interactions.

Integrating both types offers a comprehensive view of customer behaviors during their buying journey. This comprehensive approach uncovers valuable patterns and trends, yielding the most accurate and actionable insights. Such holistic analysis empowers data-driven decision-making and the creation of personalized experiences that deeply resonate with audiences at every touchpoint, significantly enhancing marketing and sales effectiveness.

Intent Data vs. Predictive Intent

The B2B landscape is shaped by two key data paradigms: intent data and predictive intent. Understanding their differences is crucial, as both play pivotal roles in effective strategy development.

Intent data, both first-party and third-party, offers immediate insights into customer behaviors and interests. These insights provide a real-time snapshot of customer engagement and purchase intent. It’s instrumental in crafting targeted marketing campaigns and personalizing customer experiences.

In contrast, predictive intent, often encompassed within predictive analytics, uses statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to forecast future behaviors and trends. These predictive models analyze historical data, market trends, and other data to anticipate customer needs and market shifts, offering a strategic advantage in long-term planning.

The integration of intent data and predictive intent offers a comprehensive view of the buyer's journey, spanning from immediate interests to future possibilities. Combining these two data types forms a potent combination: intent data provides immediate, actionable intelligence for dynamic responses, while predictive analytics offers a strategic, future-focused perspective. Such a holistic approach enables data-driven decision-making and fosters the creation of personalized campaigns throughout the entire buying cycle.

How is Intent Data Collected?

Computer collecting the different categories of intent data, which are first-party (known and anonymous) and third-party (known and anonymous

Now that we better understand this concept, let’s explore how intent data is collected, which varies depending on the type you are seeking

First-Party Intent Data Collection

First-party intent data is directly gathered from a company’s digital platforms, with collection methods varying between known and anonymous data.

Known First-Party Intent Data Collection

Collecting this type of intent data involves collecting user-provided information and data from interactions on the company’s platform. Sources can include:

  • Customer Interactions: Information captured when users fill out forms for newsletters, downloads, or registrations, including details like name, email, and company.
  • Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Automation Platform Data: Information from a company’s customer relationship management and marketing automation systems, tracking email exchanges, calls, and meetings.
  • Email Engagement: Insights from email interactions, such as open and click-through rates, indicating individual engagement levels.
  • E-Commerce Transactions: Analysis of customer data for purchase histories and behaviors on e-commerce platforms, revealing individual buying patterns.
  • Feedback and Surveys: Direct customer feedback and survey responses, providing clear insights into preferences.

Anonymous First-Party Intent Data Collection

This type of intent data is gathered from user interactions on a company’s digital platforms, capturing behavior and engagement patterns without revealing individual identities. Website analytics tools, like Google Analytics, are crucial in this process. These tools track user navigation, measuring aspects such as page views, visit duration, and overall site journey, while maintaining user anonymity. Similarly, on social media platforms, the focus is on gathering information about general engagement. This includes monitoring likes, shares, and comments on posts. These interactions yield insights into content types resonating with audiences, again, while maintaining user anonymity.

Transforming Anonymous First-Party Intent Data into Targetable Profiles

Leveraging anonymous first-party intent data for pattern analysis is crucial, but transforming that data into actionable insights is the real game-changer. This transformation is now possible thanks to advanced account identification tools, like Sona Identification.

Sona Identification de-anonymizes companies already visiting your website and converts them into qualified leads to energize your sales pipeline. It analyzes user interactions such as pages visited, time spent on page, and other important signals to help uncover intent. It intelligently analyzes behavioral patterns and enriches this information with insights from third-party data providers, unveiling the identities behind each interaction. Consequently, Sona Identification turns anonymous data into a rich source of actionable insights, driving targeted actions and allowing for more relevant prospect and customer interactions. 

Third-Party Intent Data Collection

Third-party intent data is typically collected by specialized data providers, like Bombora and Cognism, who aggregate information from various online sources. These intent data providers use advanced techniques to track and analyze IP addresses and other digital footprints users leave across the web. Such data providers monitor user interactions with content on websites, forums, and social media, as well as search behaviors and ad engagement.

This information is often sourced from networks of partnered sites, public records, and other legally available sources. The process uses sophisticated algorithms and big data analytics to comprehensively view user behaviors and trends in specific industries or market segments, ensuring relevance and value for businesses seeking deeper market insights.

How Can Marketing and Sales Teams Use Intent Data to Leverage its Power?

business partners giving a fist bump, signifying the collaboration enabled by intent data between sales and marketing teams.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, revenue teams consistently adopt new strategies to stay competitive. Leading this effort is the strategic use of intent data. This revolutionizes traditional methods, providing businesses numerous opportunities to enhance existing marketing and sales tactics and deeply connect with their audiences. Let’s explore some key ways marketing and sales teams can use these insights for a strategic edge.

Boosting Account-Based Marketing

In B2B marketing, the strategic combination of account-based marketing (ABM) and intent data transforms sales and marketing strategies. ABM, where a revenue team concentrates resources on high-value accounts, becomes more powerful when guided by intent data. Several reasons drive this combination’s success, including:

  • Precision Targeting: Utilizing insights from customer behavior in ABM sharpens focus on actively engaged accounts, leading to more efficient resource allocation.
  • Enhanced Personalization: Intent data informs ABM strategies, enabling customized messaging and tactics that align with the unique needs of valuable leads.
  • Sales and Marketing Alignment: This combination promotes a unified approach between sales and marketing teams, giving both teams a comprehensive view of target accounts to align their efforts towards shared goals. LinkedIn research indicates that organizations with well-aligned sales and marketing teams are 67% more effective at closing deals.

For a deeper dive into ABM strategies, check out The Essential Guide To Account-Based Marketing: Empower Your Go-To-Market Team for Success.

Enhancing Lead Scoring and Prioritization

Incorporating intent data into a lead-scoring model has emerged as a transformative strategy. Analyzing behavioral signals, such as content engagement, search patterns, and website interactions, helps companies assess each lead’s interest level and purchase intent. This method surpasses traditional models based on demographic and firmographic data, by incorporating real-time intent signals that reflect a prospect’s current interest level and likelihood of conversion.

This approach ensures that prospects with the highest lead scores are identified and prioritized at the top of the sales funnel. Consequently, optimizing time and resources to prioritize accounts with the most promise. Likewise, prospects with low lead scores, suggesting low purchase intent, can be redirected to the marketing team. In this phase, marketers can use personalized and relevant content in nurture campaigns to cultivate these leads until they show stronger purchase intent signals. The result is a lead scoring model that aligns with evolving customer behaviors, improving engagement and conversion rates.

Personalizing Content

Modern customers not only prefer personalization; they expect it. McKinsey’s research supports this, showing that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from companies, and 76% feel frustrated when this expectation is unmet. In this context, utilizing B2B intent data, particularly buyer intent data, has become a crucial tool in meeting these personalization demands.

Tracking digital footprints through buyer intent data enables marketers to tailor content to the specific stage of each account's buying journey, enhancing customer engagement and exceeding expectations for personalization. This approach ensures marketing communications are not only targeted but also resonate deeply with potential buyers at critical moments in their buying journey.

Optimizing Sales Outreach

The strategic use of buyer intent data has transformed sales outreach into a more efficient and impactful process. It provides deep insights into prospective customer behavior, allowing a sales team to refine strategies for optimized timing and relevance of outreach efforts. Sales professionals can engage with prospects at moments of peak interest, leading to increased likelihood of successful conversions and a streamlined sales process. This approach focuses on the most promising leads, as evidenced by a 55% increase in lead conversions among sales leaders who use intent data, according to a DemandScience survey.

Enhancing Ad Targeting

Ad targeting significantly improves when strategically utilizing insights from intent data. This approach allows marketers to tailor ads to their target audience's current interests and needs. Businesses can use these real-time insights to create ads that capture attention and resonate with their ideal buyer, enhancing relevance and impact.

This strategy has increased engagement and click-through rates, leading to a superior advertising ROI. Foundry’s 2023 research revealed that intent data-based ad campaigns were 2.5 times more efficient, showing a staggering 220% increase in click-through rates compared to traditional campaigns. This data-driven approach marks a significant advancement in ad targeting, making each ad placement more impactful and value-driven.


Illustration of a clipboard showcasing an infographic with B2B intent data analytics. Icons represent key metrics, trends, and strategic objectives in B2B marketing, such as target profiles, funnel stages, and conversion rates. The infographic concludes with a high achievement rate, symbolizing successful data-driven decision-making. A hand with a pen indicates readiness to analyze or summarize the presented data.

As we conclude this guide, it’s clear that customer behavioral insights gained from intent data are essential for success in this digital era. These insights offer an unparalleled advantage, equipping businesses with a deep understanding of customer behavior and preferences.

The guide has demonstrated how leveraging intent data sharpens targeting and personalization, transforming business activities’ efficiency in a world where precision and relevance are paramount. Integrating these insights into strategies is essential for B2B businesses navigating the digital marketplace’s complexities, ensuring competitiveness and sustainable growth.

In the world of intent data, knowledge is power. Harness this power, and lead your business into a future where every decision is insightful, every strategy is effective, and every customer interaction is transformative.

Sona: Unveiling Insights to Maximize Growth

Experience the cutting-edge capabilities of the Sona Growth Platform, a game-changing solution for your go-to-market team! Empower your team with the tools and insights necessary to identify active buyers, tailor outreach, and drive more conversions. Sona Identification leverages advanced technology to help you tap into the power of intent data, enabling you to drive revenue growth. Sona Attribution enables your organization to track your online and offline marketing initiatives so you can gain better visibility across all customer touchpoints and invest in the marketing that works. Unlock more pipeline and revenue today with the Sona Growth Platform.

Seize the opportunity to transform your approach to customer engagement - get in touch with us today and discover how Sona can be your strategic partner in leveraging intent data to maximize your business growth!

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