Intent data: what it is and how to get started

The use of intent data is on the rise, and for good reason: it's hard to miss the promise of increasing people's visibility when actively searching for a purchase.

But, as with most new digital marketing tools, there is a lot of confusion about what intent data actually is, what it can do, and how it can be more effective in your marketing funnel.

Even if you've already chosen an intent data tool, you may struggle to best fit it into your sales and marketing process and tech stack. With so much promise, intent data could be a disappointment for teams struggling to make their data actionable.

Here is an overview of what we currently know about intent data.

Intent data is third party data

You already have access to your own first party engagement data. It's what you collect on your own channels, through email marketing, website, etc. It shows who is responding to your marketing.

Intention data, on the other hand, is data from third-party providers. It's collected on channels you don't own and it shows what kind of research a person or team is doing on other websites.

For example, let's say you want to find out which companies haven't visited your website, but are still actively searching for your product category. These companies would otherwise be invisible to you, but intent data can help you determine if they are in the market for a solution that you can offer.

Intent data is information about what someone has viewed online. The material viewed and the frequency of interaction signal how interested this person is. Intentional data providers aggregate this information to signal that a buying team is actively seeking a solution.

Some intent data providers only provide information from a web property or a limited number of properties. Others aggregate data from many more sources. In either case, it is important that you and your team have a thorough understanding of the data source so that you understand what you are seeing.

It's another input, not the whole picture

Intent data doesn't solve all marketing problems. Deliberate data signals provide a timely glimpse of what was previously hidden, but it's not a silver bullet. Intention signals can best provide clarity and direction when used in conjunction with other data and good operating practices.

To make intent data actionable, determine how you want to use it. There are a few main uses.

First, intent data can help prioritize leads. You can use it to identify people and accounts who are actively looking for a solution like yours. From there, you can market them or let sales prioritize them.

Second, intent data can tailor your messages to better reach your audience. By collecting third-party data, you can find out what topics people are researching and respond in-kind – whether through one-on-one meetings with SDRs, care campaigns, or other means. This gives you valuable insight into what interests your audience, which translates into a significant advantage in the sales process.

The intended data is maturing, but marketers are not yet fully leveraging it

Intent data is no longer in its infancy, but that doesn't mean it's as widespread or maximized as it could or should be. The remaining step is to make intent data actionable. And what good is intent data if it's just stored in your system instead of being optimally used?

Part of the problem stems from a lack of standardization across platforms – from reporting to deployment models. Some platforms offer easy-to-read dashboards that integrate with commonly used technologies like Salesforce, while others run in Excel spreadsheets.

The way that intent data is captured, delivered, and reported will certainly become more standardized as the metric matures, which will be helpful for marketers who want to make the most of it tactically.

As with most new data sources and marketing trends, intent data has come a long way since it emerged. But it will be a while before it becomes the crystal ball we want.

If you intend to use intent data, it is important to learn as much as you can for the time being – and realize that there is a lot more to learn as it evolves and as marketers learn how to better use and leverage their insights practical business applications.

Additional resources on intent data

How marketers can generate their own first-party intent data

Buying Data With Buyer Intention: A Marketer's Introduction

Seven Ways Intent Data maximizes marketing budget and improves sales performance

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