Is Intent Data the Latest Fad?

Jess Cody

Recently a friend in revenue marketing asked for advice on LinkedIn on how other marketers are using third-party intent data from Bombora in their ABM strategy. My gut reaction was, “I haven’t seen success with it.” However, with most of the internet touting intent data as the holy grail, I decided to text her rather than respond to the LinkedIn post. When I shared my thoughts, she quickly agreed, saying that she and her team had been using third-party intent data for months and couldn’t figure out why they hadn’t seen success. “Are we just doing it wrong?” she asked.

Bold claims are made about intent data (i.e., “it’s the future of B2B marketing!”), but are these claims substantiated? 

In conversations like the one above, I noticed that questioning the validity of intent data exists in quiet corners of the Internet, but no one seems willing to say it in the open. 

Third-Party Intent Data Isn’t Going to Solve Your Problems.

At least, not to start. 

Providers of third-party intent data identify in-market accounts based on topic and keyword searches. This offering is presented as a secret potion that will instantly work magic for your business. 

“In-market” has become a buzz term, but what does it really mean, and where is the data really coming from? Saying an account is in-market for “marketing analytics” doesn’t necessarily mean much. I am often looking up new ways to report on my content and product marketing initiatives, but that doesn’t mean I’m in-market for a marketing analytics solution. Also, who specifically is searching for these terms? Saying someone at IBM is in-market is like saying someone in the city of Oakland is in-market. And, where are they searching? Did they search for the exact term? It’s all a black box.

In my experience, the promise to deliver sales with outreach-ready accounts also falls flat. BDR teams spend significant time and energy searching for the right contact who may be in-market only to see low response rates. While low response rates are expected overall, there doesn’t seem to be a lift compared to traditional outbound outreach. 

If third-party intent data is not the solution, then what is? As a Marketing Ops professional, you still need to fuel your team’s outreach and help them deliver relevant and timely messages. There’s a concept that is often overlooked by marketers: proximity to revenue. 

Proximity to Revenue

Many teams want to know everything about each account in their total addressable market, but we’ve seen that successful Marketing Operations leaders start with accounts showing engagement. Not until they have truly mastered marketing and selling to an audience who is actively engaging with their brand do they put effort into an audience who doesn’t know anything about their brand. 

So what exactly do we mean by proximity to revenue? 

Proximity to revenue

Hand-raisers

These are people who are actively saying, “look at me, I’m interested!” Hand-raisers are usually requesting a demo or filling out a contact us form. They are the closest to revenue.

Inbound

Inbound leads are people who have come to your website, consumed content, attended a webinar, or identified themself in another way. They may not know a lot about your product, but they have shown some interest.

Anonymous website visitors

This is fairly self-explanatory, but anonymous visitors are lurking in the shadows on your website and have not yet identified themselves.

Third-party intent

Third-party intent provides information on the account level with regards to search terms or keywords.

Lookalikes

Lookalikes are accounts outside of your database that have similar traits to accounts within your database. They are the farthest from revenue.

How do you capitalize on proximity to revenue?

Our advice based on working with hundreds of Marketing Operations leaders at B2B SaaS companies is to focus on stronger signals before shifting your energy to weaker signals.

Before purchasing third-party intent data, focus on identifying anonymous website visitors already showing interest on your site. Using a tool like MadKudu (or whatever you already have), you can identify anonymous web visitors and reach out with targeted messaging based on pages they have viewed. Identifying engagement points directly with your brand will give your sales and marketing teams a stronger reason to reach out.

Using weaker signals, like third-party intent data, should be supplementary to the stronger signals. 

B2B marketing is complex. It takes a lot of time, effort, customer empathy, and iterations. The challenges teams face when building an ABM strategy can’t simply be solved by purchasing intent data. 

For more hot takes on marketing ops topics, join our Marketing Ops Confession Series! We talk to Marketing Operations professionals weekly about contested issues and get their perspectives.

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