Intent Data is starting to become the newest buzzword within the B2B marketing space. If you went to any marketing conference in the past year, you’ve heard everyone ask about B2B intent data. The earliest adopters are already using it in their analytics or to identify their total addressable market. Many of us are still trying to get a handle it.
It’s clear that everybody wants intent data. Marketers get that intent data has practical applications ranging from identifying in-market buyers, lead scoring and nurturing campaigns, to advertising, ABM and more.
Most recently, SiriusDecisions acknowledged the value of intent data when they unveiled a new Demand Waterfall model at the SiriusDecisions Summit 2017.
The latest Demand Unit Waterfall has added two new stages – target demand and active demand – aimed at identifying target buyers before they have raised their hand.
According to SiriusDecisions’ recent blog post:
“Third-party intent data can help determine which demand units not only are in ‘shopping’ mode, but also have experienced an identifiable event that means they could be in-market. This data then helps organizations determine where to aim their outbound marketing efforts.”
Yet, nobody seems sure about how reliable or valuable this intent data is, or what the differences are between various intent data providers in the market.
You might be wondering how reliable or valuable external intent data really is, and how to apply it in practice.
In other words, are these intent signals relevant? Are these intent signals predictive of purchase behavior?
What do we mean by predictive?
By using intent data to refine your lists and audience targets, and executing data-powered advertising and demand generation campaigns, are you able to see a significant lift or increase in conversion rates, deal velocity, and pipeline creation?
The simpler way to think about predictive data is whether or not a lead is ready to talk to my brand. Different intent providers help marketers at different stages in the funnel. But at the end of the day, we’re simply chasing the holy grail of marketing. We want to talk to the right person with the right message at the right time.
In this post, we will offer some guidelines and provide our own data to help you evaluate intent data providers.
How relevant or reliable is B2B intent data?
In general, there are two approaches to gathering intent data:
- Algorithmic / using web crawlers
- Human-volunteered, human verified
There are multiple places where intent data comes from. Places generally fall into two categories:
- Company websites, B2B publishers, business or technology-focused online communities.
- Public data from social media networks, e.g. Twitter
For data to be used to pinpoint real purchase intent, you need to be able to identify the individual that took an action.
Many providers are crawling B2B-focused and general consumer websites for activities that are related to business solutions. These data providers are using methods that allow them to provide intent data at the account or company level.
Bombora, The Big Willow, 6Sense and MRP/Prelytix are a few companies that fall into this category.
How are these intent data providers differentiated?
Others use device tags for more inferred data, but with greater coverage. Still others have their own proprietary technology to identify IP addresses that fire pixels on a page.
Using reverse IP lookup to identify “active” companies is not a perfect solution because IP lookup can only resolve a fraction of IP addresses into accurate domain names, and even fewer outside of North America.
Reliability of the Signal
For data to be used to pinpoint intent, you need to trust that the content of the signal is related to your solution.
As TechTarget pointed out, it’s not enough for an algorithm to find content that matches your product category keyword – let’s say “Flash storage.”
For a niche topic such as “Flash Storage,” there simply isn’t that much highly focused, in-depth content across the entire web. There’s even less that shows up high enough on search engines to drive traffic. As a result, intent data on product categories may not be all that useful.
While some general technology and consumer websites allow data providers to scan their sites and aggregate the information, premium publishers do not allow their sites to be included in these scans. For example, Gartner does not let third-party data providers identify who is reading the latest Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.
How do you want to utilize intent data?
One other important point of consideration is how you want to use this data. A list of active accounts without individual contacts has limited use. You can use account data for ad targeting, for example, but not email marketing.
To gather individual-level intent data, some companies have built resource hubs of valuable content.
TechTarget and The Aberdeen Group employ industry experts to provide high quality editorial content. They’ve built up databases of opt-in users who have explicitly said that they are looking to make purchases in certain technology categories in a given timeframe.
Business-focused video destinations like BrightTalk are known for their webinars on topics like Marketing, Sales, Finance, and IT. BrightTalk can then provide you with a list of leads who have viewed 3rd party content around your space.
Software review sites like G2Crowd and Capterra can show you who is reading reviews in a given product sub-category.
B2B Social Media Data
While user-level intent data may start to sound like the better option, there are limitations to consider. Given the focused nature of these communities, the number of contacts you can find showing interest in your product category may be more limited, and the cost of each intent-based contact will be higher.
Now, let’s consider social-media based intent data.
At this point, Socedo is the only company to provide individual contact level intent data for B2B companies from Twitter activities. We can tell you who is investigating or showing interest in your industry, based on people’s real-time actions on Twitter.
For example, if you’re selling business intelligence software to enterprises using SQL Server, Socedo can tell you whom on Twitter is engaging with other BI vendors, industry influencers, and conferences in your space.
How many people can I find?
One thing to consider with any intent data provider is the match rate: the percentage of contacts or accounts that can be matched to relevant activities.
Cookie-based intent providers scan a portion of the web, and only a fraction of businesses have dedicated IP addresses.
On social media, the data might be public, but not everyone can be identified based on their profiles. Usually, about 10-20% of Twitter handles will match to business email addresses.
Additionally, the activities and topics you’re trying to target may be limited. Just like targeting specific keywords on PPC campaigns can limit the impressions on your ads, searching for people based on one event or influencer alone will yield small results.
That’s why you’ll want a provider that can help you find more prospects of the same quality, based on similar traits.
Evaluate Vendors with the Right Questions
If you’re looking to leverage third party intent data to fuel your marketing programs, be sure to ask the right questions to understand exactly what each data vendor can provide.
- What data sources do you provide? What websites, online communities, or social networks are you getting this data from?
- Are you providing company-level data or individual contact level data?
- Has this data been verified by humans?
- How granular is the data? Can you provide me data on specific actions people have taken (e.g. a Tweet), or do you just provide data at the topic level?
- Do you have your own technology to collect the data, or do you license your data from other providers? Do you gather data from public sites or private tracking?
- What is your data match rate?
- How often do you update or refresh this data?
- What format does the data come in? Can I integrate this data directly into my marketing automation system or CRM?
- Can I use this data to automatically trigger workflows and build smart marketing campaigns?
Intent data itself is extremely valuable for identifying and targeting warm leads, and the higher quality the signals, the better your marketing results will be.
Conversion Data on Socially Engaged Leads
We took lead lists from multiple customers (typically with at least 10,000 leads each), looked at the B2B social media actions from these leads, and studied historical conversion rates across the list.
In all cases, we found that socially engaged leads are more likely to convert compared to the baseline – all leads in an organization’s database.
We’ve also determined that the best time to reach out to someone is within the same day that they showed an interest in your solution space.
We’ve seen statistically significant lifts in email open rates and CTRs when we send someone an email at the “right time,” triggered by their social media actions, versus sending them cadenced nurture emails.
Conversion Rates for a Global Technology Company
One of our customers – one of the largest technology companies in the world – is looking to increase their Lead to MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) rate for a couple of product lines in the U.S. and in Canada. They are tracking Twitter engagement around their own product lines, competitors, and hot topics in their space.
They found that leads who have engaged with their own Twitter handles are anywhere between 200% to 424% more likely to convert into MQLs compared to their baseline conversion rate.
This tech company also found that leads who have engaged with their competitors are about 100% more likely to convert to MQLs compared to their baseline.
When we looked at one segment (U.S. – based leads), we discovered that when leads engage with at least one of their tracked keywords two or more times, they are 100% more likely to convert compared to their baseline.
By lead scoring social actions that have higher conversion rates than their baseline, the company’s marketing team can pass additional MQLs to their sales team and increase their contribution to pipeline.
Data Provider on Investment Activity
One of our customers sells M&A, PE and VC transaction data to investors who want to keep pulse on their markets and make intelligent investment decisions.
This customer has found that leads who engaged with any of their tracked keywords are 29% more likely to convert compared to their baseline. Leads who talk about certain topics (e.g. blockchain, crowdfunding) and follow certain competitors (@CBInsights) are 50% to 200% more likely to convert compared to their baseline.
In this case, a conversion is someone getting a demo of their platform.
Data from Socedo’s Marketing Team
Socedo’s marketing team is a customer of Socedo’s data.
In the past 90 days, 24% of all Marketing Qualified Leads delivered to our SDRs came from real-time social media actions.
They also convert into Opportunity at the equal rate as leads consuming our content from our emails and our blog in the past 90-days.
In the month of May, leads from social actions converted into Opportunities at a higher rate than leads who clicked on our emails.
Because we have contextual data on our leads, we are able to contact leads at the right time, while they’re interested. We can provide them content tailored to their interests.
To date, we’ve sent over 50,000 real-time, intent-based emails to over 20,000 leads. We’ve learned that the best time to reach out to someone is within the same day that they showed an interest in our space.
To make sure that our emails are engaging, we’ve segmented our leads into 20 topical tracks based on their interests.
For example, those who use the hashtag #contentmarketing and follow @CMIContent are put into the “content marketing” track and receive an email pointing to a blog on content marketing best practices as soon as they engage with one of the keywords in that group.
We found that on average, these social action emails average about 40% open rate and a 3-5% click through rate.
Those rates are more than double that of our typical nurture emails. These rates have stayed consistent in the last nine months that we’ve been running these real-time email nurtures.
Intent data can absolutely be predictive of higher conversion rates. However, it’s important to collect the data you need for a given stage of the funnel.
If you’re interested to see how you can use B2B intent data from social media to discover new leads and build an active audience, try it yourself in a 7-day free trial of Socedo.