How to Leverage Intent Data to Drive More Business

Intent data is a collection of behavioral data points that help identify prospects at the account- or buyer-level with a high propensity to convert based on their level of interest in a product or service.

Buyer-level intent data, specifically, is sourced from dozens of intent signals that are gathered from multiple touch points throughout the customer journey, from the content prospects consume to the conferences they attend.

This data enables sales teams to focus marketing spend on prospects who are actively ready to buy.

To properly leverage intent data and efficiently drive more business, here’s what you need to know.

How to leverage intent data in 8 steps

Gone are the days when banner ads on a popular review website could funnel hundreds of leads to your business. On the contrary, today’s buyers are so inundated with paid advertisements and email blasts that they’ve turned a blind eye. 

Today, it takes a real-time, insider view into what prospects are truly interested in to properly drive leads. Fortunately, intent data has become a mainstay among business analytics to do just that. 

Follow these eight steps to gather, analyze, and apply buyer intent data that accelerates your sales cycle.  

1. Identify data sources

As with most business analytics that power a marketing campaign or sales pipeline, intent data can stem from multiple sources, including first-party, second-party, and third-party intent data. 

  • First-party intent data refers to information directly gathered from potential buyers, such as the data users input into subscription sign-up forms and questionnaires. First-party data like behavior and interest data can also be derived from a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  • Second-party intent data refers to first-party data that’s been sold by the entity that collected it. Second-party data typically consists of various first-party actions taken through the original entity, such as inputted user email addresses and phone numbers gleaned through business partnerships.
  • Third-party intent data refers to data points that have been collected from various outside sources and stitched together by a separate entity, such as a data broker or marketplace. Third-party data is reflective of previous activity, search queries, and content consumption across multiple sources.

Potential data sources for buyer intent signals may include but are not limited to:

  • Filling out a sign-up form 
  • Webinars, workshops, and masterclasses 
  • Educational blog posts and buying guides
  • Vendor product, features, and pricing pages
  • Popular review websites, such as G2 or Capterra 
  • Engagement with paid advertisements
  • Attending industry- or product-specific conferences or events

2. Collect data

As you can see, intent data is gathered from numerous sources, some of which an organization may own and others of which an organization can pay to access. The majority of intent data is defined through cookies, IP addresses, and other means of identifying web users with unique credentials.

On their own, the various data sets that form buyer intent data can make little sense—after all, what does it matter if one employee in a company of hundreds performed a bit of casual research? 

However, when you collect these data points across an entire company, the purpose of buyer-level intent data quickly becomes more clear. When multiple employees in one company are all conducting similar queries, there’s a greater chance the organization is actively willing to make a purchase.

So, it’s vital to not only identify the various sources of intent data but also implement the necessary processes to collect and analyze it. Methods to gather user behavioral and interest data include: 

  • Website analytics tools like Hotjar, Crazy Egg, Google Analytics, and Matomo
  • Social listening tools like Mention, BuzzSumo, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite 
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems like HubSpot, Salesforce, ActiveCampaign, and
  • Buyer-level intent platforms, like NetLine’s INTENTIVE

3. Analyze and segment data

Of course, insights alone cannot power an effective sales pipeline or marketing campaign. Once you’ve gathered an assortment of buyer-level intent data, it’s time to analyze and segment those metrics into something more actionable. 

It’s wise to begin with your ideal customer profile (ICP). As the name might suggest, an ICP goes beyond basic demographics to thoroughly define the attributes of accounts that are anticipated to become valuable customers. For instance, most B2B ICPs include firmographic attributes, like the size, geographic area, and industry of an organization.

This data is used to segment prospects into meaningful categories. More importantly, it also enables sales and marketing teams to identify prospects who are most likely to convert in-market rather than through marketing campaigns and cold outreach, which simplifies the current sales pipeline.

Techniques to transform intent data into actionable insights range often include: 

  • Defining your ICP’s particular goals, challenges, and pain points 
  • Identifying roadblocks in the customer journey based on bounce rates during user sessions 
  • Learning the types of content that drive conversions

From here, you can further segment your prospects based on their stage in the sales funnel. Leads in the early stages of their customer journey will land at the top of the funnel, whereas those who are both problem and solution-aware can be fast-tracked to the bottom of the funnel. 

4. Personalize your marketing efforts based on data intent

Having numerous prospects in your sales funnel doesn’t mean that they’re all at the same stage of their customer journey. This is why both the sales funnel and the customer journey are broken into multiple stages—they require targeted messaging at each point. 

Fortunately, intent data allows for personalized marketing efforts that are adapted to each stage.

For instance, when leads reach the bottom of the funnel, intent data can highlight more specific needs that encourage them to convert. This data can be used for personalized sales outreach, such as product demos that have been tailored to a prospect’s specific pain point or challenge. 

5. Split-test your messaging

Now that you’ve personalized your marketing efforts, you can fine-tune your sales approach by split-testing your messaging. Split-testing, also referred to as A/B testing, is the process of comparing two versions of a marketing message to determine which performs better. 

Split-testing is an integral component of any sales and marketing campaign, but it’s especially beneficial for teams leveraging intent data to enhance conversions. It stacks the original message (known as the control) against a variant with one difference to gauge the change in performance. 

One way to employ split-testing with your intent data is to test different headlines on landing pages, like “Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses” versus “Accounting Software to Scale Small Businesses,” based on the consumption behaviors from prospects who’ve registered for Webinars comparing software solutions.

6. Retargeting

Buyer intent data and behavioral retargeting go hand-in-hand. Behavioral retargeting utilizes the previous online activity of a prospect who has interacted with your marketing efforts, but has not yet converted, to inform hyper-specific marketing messages that ultimately encourage a conversion.

You can retarget based on first-party data that you already have (like their email address and name) as well as third-party data (like retargeting pixels). 

With robust intent data, specifically buyer-level intent data, sales and marketing teams can construct personalized marketing messages for users who have expressed interest in a particular product or service. Data points like user budget, previously considered contenders, and investment timeline can enable smarter product positioning.   

7. Measure your results from data intent campaigns

Intent data reveals the topics your prospects are searching for, the touchpoints they access to learn more about your brand, and how inclined they are to purchase from you. With so much data to analyze and assess, it’s vital to measure the results of your data intent campaigns. 

To understand how intent data moves the needle for your sales and marketing efforts, establish benchmarks for your current performance. By establishing benchmarks now, you can easily identify how— and when— your data intent campaigns improve performance and drive more business. 

First, implement benchmarks for the leads captured and nurtured without intent data. Then, begin documenting the results of your data intent campaign. You should be able to compare the performance of your sales cycle throughout the campaign duration through metrics like: 

  • Prospects to marketing qualified leads (MQLs)— How many prospects turn into MQLs? 
  • MQLs to sales qualified leads (SQLs)— How quickly do nurtured leads convert into SQLs?

8. Iterate

In the simplest sense, iteration means repeating the data intent campaign process to generate a sequence of outcomes. 

So, while your initial benchmarks are crucial to gauge general performance, they’re not the end-all, be-all of campaign metrics. On the contrary, you’ll want to compare the first iteration of prospects to MQLs or MQLs to SALs with the second iteration to properly determine your progress over time.

The 8 Steps to Leveraging Intent Data

1. Identify Data Sources: Recognize various sources of intent data like first-party, second-party, and third-party.
2. Collect Data: Implement processes for gathering and analyzing user behavior and interest data.
3. Analyze and Segment Data: Break down the gathered data to create actionable insights and segment prospects.
4. Personalize Your Marketing Efforts: Use intent data for tailored marketing messages at different customer journey stages.
5. Split-Test Your Messaging: Implement A/B testing to refine marketing messages.
6. Retargeting: Use behavioral retargeting for personalized marketing messages based on previous online activities.
7. Measure Results from Data Intent Campaigns: Establish benchmarks and assess the performance of intent data campaigns.
8. Iterate: Repeat the process, compare results over time, and refine strategies.

Why you need to prioritize leveraging intent data

Intent data is an actionable indicator of interest. Intent not only describes how willing a prospect may be to convert but also the specific touchpoints they have along their customer journey that can help to guarantee a conversion. 

Leveraging intent data enables you to reach the right customer at the right time with the right message. Here are five specific benefits:

Identify problem-specific solutions

Numerous aspects of buyer intent data, such as common search queries and other behavioral patterns, indicate a specific problem that requires a solution. 

This data helps sales and marketing teams craft need-specific messages that cater to prospects’ and customers’ needs. Plus, this intent data can be applied to retention efforts to better cater to specific consumer pain points. 

Accelerate qualified prospects in your sales pipeline 

In the simplest sense, intent data helps sales and marketing teams to identify the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of qualified leads. 

Leads who demonstrate clear interest in a brand, product, or service, based on online activity can be segmented for bottom-of-funnel targeting, like through dedicated product demos. Intent data helps to build a pipeline of qualified leads faster with the assurance they’re a good fit.

Streamline the sales process 

A major benefit of accelerating your pipeline of qualified leads is streamlining your overall sales process. 

While top-of-funnel campaigns are integral to brand awareness and introducing your products and services to a new audience, leaner and more targeted middle and bottom-of-funnel campaigns dedicate your team’s attention to good-fit prospects that save both time and resources.

Create more relevant content

Buyer intent data like the frequency of site visits and types of content consumed reveal what’s most important to your audience. By prioritizing this information, you can create more relevant content that positions your brand ahead of competitors. 

Take comparison pages, for example. Intent data can identify the competitors that prospects also consider, so you can utilize competitive take-out messaging to highlight your brand’s key differentiators—such as more robust features, accessible price points, and user experience. 

Improve the timing of marketing messages

Beyond content relevance, intent data can also help marketing and sales teams improve the timing of marketing messages. 

As mentioned, just because prospects are in your sales funnel, doesn’t mean that they’re all at the same stage of their customer journey. Intent data provides insights into where prospects are in the customer journey to offer a free trial, demo, or other incentive at the right time. 

Remember: As a general rule of thumb, NetLine research has shown that unless a user has explicitly requested to hear from you, it’s best to give your prospects 48 hours before reaching out so they can actually consume the content they’ve requested. Nothing worse than spoiling a strong intent signal because you were overeager. 

10 tips to leverage intent data the right way

As you sift through the numerous behavioral data points, consider these tips to leverage intent data correctly. 

1. Set clear objectives

Because the types of data you can collect through intent data campaigns are so robust, it’s crucial to set clear objectives for your marketing and sales initiatives. It’s often helpful to return to the classic SMART goals here—goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. 

For instance, you might want to improve the number of SQLs generated from MQLs by 10% in 4 months.

2. Identify relevant intent signals

Intent signals are the indicators that identify the prospects who are actively researching your brand—they do not pertain to the people who simply land on your website. 

Remember that intent signals should refer to users who demonstrate interest in your product or service. Traffic to generic blog posts, such as, “Top Accounting Tips,” should not be considered a relevant sign of purchase intent. 

3. Segment your audience and create tailored messages

You’ll find numerous types of prospects in the sales funnel. Some have just begun researching a newfound problem and stumbled on a helpful piece of content you published. Others have been knee-deep in the consideration phase for weeks, researching potential solutions. Segment your audience based on their current stage in the sales funnel to create hyper-tailored messages. 

4. Create content personalization strategies

Aside from a prospect’s stage in the sales funnel, intent data can reveal several other data points that can be used to create content personalization strategies.

  • Have a few prospects who are actively comparing your brand to another? Create competitor comparison pages. 
  • Have another group that’s unsure of the size of the solution they need? Create an informative webinar as a lead magnet.

5. Leverage automation

Being that intent data is spread across first, second, and third-party sources, it’s smart to leverage automation to streamline the process. 

Take retargeting, for instance. The ability to sync your retargeting campaigns with your CRM tool via automation helps automatically populate buyer profiles with the latest online behavior in real time. 

6. Comply with GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation, most commonly referred to as the GDPR, is a European Union (EU) law that governs how organizations can use, process, and store personal data, including personally identifiable information (PII) like email addresses. To comply with GDPR, you must:

  • Have a readily accessible privacy policy on your website
  • Verify the ages of all users who opt-in to data processing
  • Be transparent about how data is collected and processed
  • Evaluate the sensitivity of data through a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA
  • Create a comprehensive record of how you will maintain compliance

A handy set of compliance checklists can be found in 4 Checklists Your Brand Needs to Understand Data Compliance.

7. Comply with HIPAA

HIPAA, short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is another regulatory compliance standard that involves consumer PII as well as patient health information (PHI). 

In the US, HIPAA implemented a set of standards to protect sensitive PII and PHI, including: 

  • Create privacy and security policies for your organization
  • Designate a Privacy Compliance Officer to oversee policy creation 
  • Implement an information access management system
  • Obtain “satisfactory assurances” from business associates who handle consumer data
  • Conduct risk assessments and adopt audit logs 

8. Respect people’s privacy

While it might sound like an advantage to track prospects across the internet, most people aren’t too fond of the idea of a business monitoring their online behavior—especially for marketing purposes. As you experiment with intent data, remember to remain mindful of consumer privacy. 

NetLine’s INTENTIVE, for example, never discloses PII and never will. INTENTIVE’s delivers buyer-level intent insights from B2B buyers without sharing any of their personal details.

9. Track your results

Remember the benchmarks you established above? Those metrics will be useless without another batch of data to compare them to—and you’ll never be able to gauge headway on your objectives without results. So, it’s critical to track the results of your intent data campaigns over time. 

10. Iterate based on what you discover

Like any marketing or sales initiative, your intent data campaigns will require improvements over time. The more you gather important metrics and other key performance indicators (KPIs), the more you can identify methods to refine and enhance your intent data campaigns to drive business.

10 Tips to Leverage Intent Data

1. Set Clear Objectives: Define what you want to achieve with intent data.
2. Identify Relevant Intent Signals: Pinpoint the indicators that matter most to your goals.
3. Segment Audience: Classify your audience for targeted messaging.
4. Personalize Content: Develop strategies for content that resonates.
5. Use Automation: Employ tools to handle data efficiently.
6. GDPR Compliance: Ensure adherence to data protection regulations.
7. HIPAA Compliance: Follow health information privacy protocols..
8. Respect Privacy: Maintain ethical standards for privacy.
9. Track Results: Monitor the outcomes of your efforts
10. Iterate and Improve: Refine your approach based on performance data.

How NetLine can help you to understand and leverage intent data

NetLine INTENTIVE is the first and only B2B buyer-level intent platform designed to provide real-time first-party data insights that you can use to accelerate sales conversations. 

Get real-time data, insights, and notifications about your buyers that you can use to fuel your sales and marketing campaigns. Schedule a demo today.