Your prospects are out there right now, hunting for a solution to a problem you can solve. They’re searching online, consuming content, learning about options to relieve their pain, and forming opinions about solutions.
But they’re not asking for help from your sales team.
The average B2B buyer is 67% of the way through the buyer journey before they ever engage with a salesperson (SiriusDecisions).
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?
Your website is likely one of your biggest lead sources … but it goes without saying that it’s not the only source of content online.
There are dozens, if not thousands, of sites with content related to your solution.
Marketers can expand their reach by buying leads from some content publishers or advertising on some third-party sites, but budget and accessibility to third-party sites can limit reach. Which means there’s not always control over the final destination.
With visibility limited to digital behavior tracked on your own corporate website, lead and account scoring provides a purview to a fraction of the opportunities developing all around. These signals, aggregated across a company, and measured against normal levels of baseline activity for a given topic can be a strong indication of purchase intent and they often surface long before prospects visit your site or your competitors.
Content consumption is a strong signal of intent because:
- 89% of buyers do online research to support their decision before making a purchase (ThinkWithGoogle)
- 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Demand Gen Report, 2016)
The bad news: Sales has a shrinking window of opportunity to engage with buyers; statistically, it’s likely that buyers have already made up their minds – or at least narrowed things down – before sales ever gets an opportunity to influence their selection.
Unfortunately, sales does not reward second or third place. One winner is selected, and all the other competitors who did not make the cut have to go back to the drawing board, the next prospect.
The good news: Organizations that are able to collect and make sense of online data – namely, behavioral signals – can reach buyers much earlier in the process, guiding the decision-making process before a competitor even knows their prospect is interested.
Identifying and acting on Intent data from B2B buyers represents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies.
Here is a comprehensive introduction to intent data – and how sales and marketing teams are using it to beat competitors to the door, and shortcut a long sales cycle.
What is Intent data?
What is Intent data? “Intent data” is online behavior-based activity across the internet that links buyers and accounts to a solution, idea, or related topic. This 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!)
The problem? Most of this activity takes place elsewhere – on other websites.
So how is Intent data different from standard web-based tracking data?
When prospective buyers hit your website, you can track the activity and bump up lead scores accordingly. Or at the very least, when someone fills out and submits a form on your website, you can continue to nurture them and potentially convert them.
That’s 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.
With intent data, you do.
Why is predictive intent important for B2B sales?
According to TOPO’s 2018 Account-Based Technology Report, Intent Data is the fastest growing solution in the Sales Tech stack. (Translation: If your competitors haven’t already invested in Intent data, they’re thinking about it.)
Get in front of buyers earlier in the buying process.
Meanwhile, according to a report by Forrester, 68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online. Intent 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 increasingly late to the game.
Use cases for Intent data
Companies that don’t use intent data are limiting their reach to the signals coming from their own website or marketing properties. Intent data provides the ability to drastically expand reach to thousands of sites.
How is Intent data used by sales and marketing teams? There are three main use cases:
- Identify early buyer interest: Intent data helps 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.
- Lead scoring and prioritizing accounts: Use Intent data to weight your lead scoring model: Give priority to companies that actively demonstrate interest and purchase intent – before they initiate the buying process with a competitor.
- Analyze and retain customers: Get real-time visibility into which customers are researching topics and solutions. Insight like this into existing customers makes it possible to upsell 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.
Where does Intent data come from?
Intent data vendors like Bombora collect and aggregate online research activity – from thousands of B2B websites and media publishers who participate in a data sharing co-op. By aggregating billions of activities each week, they are able to profile a company’s content consumption over time and understand when Surges above normal levels.
Bombora’s Surge algorithm factors 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.
A Surge is triggered when a company exhibits an increased level of research activity or content consumption compared to its historical baseline for a given topic. Companies “surging” on certain topics are strong indicators of purchase intent or interest in certain products or services.
Where can I find Intent data?
Companies like Bombora to analyze billions of lines of this cookie data every day, with the goal of alerting sellers when is the right time to engage with which account about a topic or solution. Other providers like The Big Willow, IDG, and TechTarget offer different variations of Intent data.
DiscoverOrg’s OppAlerts function incorporates Intent data from Bombora, collected and analyzed from:
- 4,000 corporate websites and media publishers
- 40 billion unique buying signals quarterly
- 2 billion devices and millions of prospective buyers
DiscoverOrg curates the strongest signals from Bombora’s Surge feed – and turns them into actionable buying signals on 1400 topics, such as Data Center Power, Robotic Process Automation, and Sales CRMs.
DiscoverOrg customers can proactively search categories to identify accounts who are actively searching for related solutions – or get alerted automatically about spikes in related buyer intent.
Which companies are looking for your solution right now? Find out now.
The trifecta: Fit + Opportunity + Intent data
This article on intent data is the third of a 3-part series about predictive data, that covers Fit, Opportunity, and Intent data – the trifecta of predictive purchase data in the B2B sales and marketing space.
Fit Data – Account firmographics, technologies and contact data are relatively static. They can tell you about whether an organization or a particular contact is generally a good fit, but just knowing there’s a fit doesn’t tell you if they’re receptive at this time.
Opportunity Data – Scoops signal when the conditions in an organization are favorable for making a purchase. They can tell you if a company has funding, if they have budget for a particular solution, or if a key executive has departed or joined a company. All of these signals indicate favorable conditions, but again fall short of telling you whether or not there is activity or movement related to your solution.
Intent Data – Intent data tells you what people are actually doing – the activities they are conducting that are evidence of intent to research and potentially purchase a solution. Intent data is important because it can signal interest and 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.
Intent data is swimming around out there. Catch that, and you’ve landed your next big deal.