Intent data is a hot topic right now, especially with all the buzz around cookies potentially going away (although Google keeps pushing its timeline back). Vendors need data in order to best market their products, but it can be difficult to provide the right messaging when you don’t know where in the buying journey a prospect is. Intent data is valuable because it tries to identify people who are actively researching products from other web traffic.
So, what is intent data and what does it look like in practice?
What Is Intent Data?
Intent data shows which prospects are actively searching for solutions to their problems. First-party intent data is the most valuable because it comes directly from the business and is often stored in web analytics tools like Google Analytics. Third-party intent data, on the other hand, comes from third-party sites where potential buyers are doing their research before they contact vendors.
Third-party data is more difficult to come by, but it’s also typically still valuable because buyers now handle about 70% of the buying journey on their own. This intent data can help you get to prospects earlier and make your case before they start comparing vendors. However, you don’t always have insights into the sources third parties use to collect their intent data, and the loss of cookie tracking could be an issue in time.
How Buyers Show Intent
Buyers show intent in many different ways, and not all actions show the same level of intent.
Buyers are handling more of the buying journey on their own now, meaning they consume much more content than they used to. And a lot of this content is on third-party sites. Intent data can show you the kinds of content buyers are consuming to give you insight into where they are in their buying process.
For example, a buyer reading an article called “What is Project Management Software?” isn’t likely to be as ready to convert as a buyer reading an article titled “Best Project Management Tools”. And traffic that clicks through from a top product page or article to a vendor’s page is even better.
When a buyer fills out a form requesting a meeting or additional information on your website, it typically means they’re ready to buy soon. Either they’ve narrowed their list down to a few vendors and they’re looking for a little more information, they have a problem they actively need to solve, or they’re ready to initiate a sales conversation. The buyer is willing to trade their contact information for the asset they’re trying to access, meaning they’re likely expecting you to contact them.
Ad clicks can show purchase intent, but they also may not. For example, approximately 25-30% of ad clicks on the mobile versions of Facebook and Instagram are accidental. These clicks obviously don’t show intent, so how can you identify ad clicks that do? Besides the click, you should look at the time the user spent on the landing page from the ad, whether they took the intended action, and if they visited other pages on the site. Any of these actions can show some level of purchase intent, while a user who clicks an ad and immediately bounces off the page would not.
Following or interacting with a brand on social media doesn’t directly imply purchase intent. However, social media followers already have awareness of your brand, and if they run into a problem that your business can solve, they’re more likely to come to you for help. Providing consistent value on your social media channels for free is a great way to build brand loyalty over time and convert those followers into buyers.
The Dark Funnel
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of ways that people show intent that we can’t see or track. For example, a buyer asking a friend for recommendations is a sign of intent, but it’s an interaction the vendor will never see. These types of interactions are part of the dark funnel, and vendors can be sure they’re occurring, even if they can’t see them.
What to Do with Intent Data
Now that you know how intent data can manifest, what should you do with it? Use intent data to improve your current marketing campaigns, segmenting leads based on where they actually are in the process and personalizing them to increase the likelihood of a conversion. Additionally, you can incorporate artificial intelligence into your intent data to help you determine earlier whether or not a prospect is likely to buy based on their early actions.
Intent data can also help sales and marketing align with account-based marketing. It can help you create campaigns specific to the pain points of the companies you serve, so your content will be more likely to resonate with them. For example, a cybersecurity business that works with a major hospital group could create a campaign surrounding HIPAA compliance and telehealth.
How to Gather Intent Data
The trickiest part of using intent data is probably figuring out how to get your hands on it. You likely already have some intent data within your organization and just need to figure out where it lives. Check your Google Analytics account if you have one (and go ahead and set one up if you don’t—it’s free!) and look at your email campaign reports, social media, and any surveys or forms you’ve sent to customers.
In most cases, you’ll have to purchase third-party intent data, but you’ll want to ensure their method of collection is trustworthy (i.e. will they be transparent about how they’re collecting the data?). Some vendors provide intent data platforms that you can use to track potential leads across their buying journey, but you can also work with third-party research sites to learn what their audience is looking for.
TechnologyAdvice has an audience of over 100 million technology buyers that we leverage as part of our lead generation solutions. Our intent clicks product delivers high-quality and high-intent users directly to your website. We can help you meet buyers across the funnel and help you personalize your campaigns to better capture the interest of your ideal audience.