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We’ve all been hearing about buyer intent data for several years.

And we’ve all been waiting for it to make its way into our workflows and change our lives. Yet in 2020, the promise of this data still seems unfulfilled for a lot of sales and marketers.

Let’s put it this way: Your prospects are out there right now, hunting for a solution to a problem you can solve. They’re searching online, consuming content, forming opinions on solutions, and learning about options to relieve their pain.

But they’re not asking for help from your sales team.


“In theory, the digital footprint that B2B buyers create may actually be bigger, or at least have more depth and breadth. So, why is it easier for a small floral delivery service to target a B2C buyer online than, say, a 1,000-person data security company that provides its services exclusively to financial services companies based in the United States?”

Henry Shuck, ZoomInfo CEO, in Forbes

The average B2B buyer is mostly through the buyer journey before they ever engage with a salesperson.

So how do you intercept buyers in the early part of their journey?

How do you ensure they don’t fly under the radar and end up with a competitor in the end? You use intent data.

Read on to learn how sales and marketing teams are using it to beat competitors to the door, and shortcut a long sales cycle.

What is Intent Data?

“Intent data” is online behavior-based activity across the internet (not just on your website) that links buyers and accounts to a topic.

This buyer activity includes:

  • Downloads of whitepapers, case studies, tech publications
  • Website visits
  • Product reviews
  • Time on website pages related to industry topics
  • Online subscriptions to newsletters and updates
  • Views of infographics
  • Attendance of webinars
  • Spikes in content consumption on a given topic

When buyers have pain points, they visit websites, read articles, download ebooks and whitepapers – and generally rack up a lot of digital footprints as they consume content across the internet. (B2B buyers – they’re just like the rest of us!)

Organizations that can collect and use online data – behavioral signals – are able to reach buyers much earlier in the process, guiding the decision-making process before a competitor even knows about their prospect’s interest.

But most of the time, the first salesperson through the door wins the business.

Buying intent indicators represents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies.

How is Intent Data Different than Other Web Tracking Data?

When prospective buyers hit your website, you can track the activity and bump up lead scores. Or at the very least, when someone fills out and submits a form on your website, you can nurture them with ads and email, and potentially convert them.

Great. But what about all those prospects that are researching solutions like yours elsewhere on the web?

What if they’re researching, but not on your website? When your prospects go to other websites, you have no visibility into their activity or implied intent.

Where Does Buyer Intent Data Come From?

87% of pre-purchase research is done online: Web searches and content consumption is a strong signal of buyer intent.

The first thing to know about intent data is that most predictive search activity takes place on websites … that isn’t yours. A lot of marketers are happy to just track traffic on their own corporate website – let alone other websites.

So the easiest way to get your hands on this data is to buy it from a third-party vendor.

Data vendors collect and aggregate online research activity from a data-sharing co-op that includes thousands of B2B websites and media publishers. From these publishers and websites, they also analyze billions of content consumption events.

By aggregating activities each week, they create baselines for each company’s average content consumption over time – and look for surges above normal levels of topic searches.

Of course, it’s hard to act on raw data. Data vendors’ algorithms typically factor in the amount of content consumed, the number of content consumers, the type of content consumed, time on page, scrolling speed, and other indicators to generate a surge score for each company on each topic.

And don’t mistake a buyer’s disinterest in content – they are just engaging later in the sales cycle.

Company surge data allows providers to send relevant information in an unobtrusive way at the right time in their research journey.

It also helps down funnel salespeople focus their time when those opportunities are coming to fruition and want to hear from them.

How Do You Use B2B Intent Data in 2020?

Initiating go-to market plans are effective to customers and prospects because of intent data. It helps sales and marketing teams with segmenting activity and contacting the right people.

Companies that don’t use predictive intelligence data are limiting their response to data from their own website, while their potential buyer has likely been trying to solve a pain point for weeks.

There are three main use cases for sales and marketing teams using intent data in 2020:

  1. Identify early buyer interest: Purchase intent signals help identify which companies are actively researching your solution – before they fill out a form on your site or engage with your sales or marketing teams.
  2. Lead scoring and prioritizing accounts: Use predictive purchase data to weight your lead scoring model: Give priority to companies that demonstrate interest and purchase intent – before they initiate the buying process with a competitor.
  3. Analyze and retain customers: Get real-time visibility into which customers are researching topics and solutions. Insights like this on existing customers make it possible to up-sell proactively, as well as identify pain points – before you’re blindsided by customers who failed to renew or bought an offering from a competitor they didn’t know you had.

Why is Predictive Data Important for B2B Sales?

According to TOPO’s Account-Based Technology Report, intent data is the fastest-growing solution in the sales tech stack. (Translation: If your competitors haven’t already started to use it, they’re thinking about it.)

Get in Front of Buyers Earlier in the Buying Process

Most B2B customers prefer to research independently online. Predictive purchase data allows sales and marketing teams to initiate contact with buyers earlier in the buying cycle.

We don’t expect this trend of self-guided buyer research to change anytime soon.

And companies who wait for prospective buyers to stumble across a landing page are going to be late to the game.

Other benefits of utilizing predictive data include:

  • Identifying and leveraging a vast amount of contacts for account targeting, finding the ideal buyer
  • Having opportunity with potential customers that haven’t directly engaged with sales and marketing teams yet
  • Calculating more effective sales and marketing plans using content consumption
  • Maintaining and personalizing relationships with lead

What are Other Types of B2B Data?

To make intent data actionable, it’s helpful to have other types of data, too. Thinking about buyer data occurs in three categories: Fit, Intent, and Opportunity.

Infographic explaining fit, opportunity and intent data.

Fit Data

Fit data includes all the different ways of segmenting and scoring prospects (technographic data) and accounts (firmographic data). This includes demographics like job level, job function, age, and location. It also includes company firmographics such as tech stack, size/revenue, industry, and budget.

Fit data is pretty static. It can tell you whether an organization or an individual contact is generally a good fit – but says nothing about context or timing.

Opportunity Data

We refer to opportunity data as “Scoops.” These indicate favorable conditions, within an organization, for a sale. Scoops are company events like new rounds of funding, moves and shake-ups in the C-suite, mergers and acquisitions, new store openings. And all of these signals show favorable conditions for a sale.

Intent Data

This tells you that the time is right. People are actively showing intent to purchase a solution. It’s important because it shows that the timing is right to engage.

When you combine intent data with other signals and a strong fit, the likelihood of success is much higher.

It’s helpful to know when there’s activity at a company, but if you don’t know who to engage with and don’t have a phone number or email address for them, it may be insightful, but it isn’t actionable.

The data trifecta of Fit, Opportunity, and Intent puts all the pieces together.

Ultimately, intent data allows sales and marketing teams to provide more timely service to customers. The sales game never really changes. But every new advantage translates to deals won.

About the author

Justin Withers

Justin is the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Corporate Development at ZoomInfo. He brings a decade of experience driving pipeline and revenue growth at B2B technology companies.

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