A comprehensive guide to account-based intent data

Intent data has been an ABM buzzword for quite some time and is a major player in modern account-based campaigns’ ability to boost results and move the needle on pipeline. Understanding how to get the most out of intent will pay dividends in your overall ABM strategy. According to Foundry research, 95% of marketers use more than one intent data source, and 41% use four or more.

In this ABM Campaign Crash Course, we’re going to introduce intent data and provide a step-by-step guide for B2B marketers with the tools to identify and utilize intent signals that optimize ABM campaigns.

What is intent data?

Intent data is any signal or indication showing a buyer is in the market to purchase your products. In the context of account-based marketing, intent data is based on account activity and whether or not an account is showing purchase intent. This information is extremely valuable because these signals discover the best accounts to target, allowing you to reach them before the competition. Intent data comes from two different sources – 1st party and 3rd party intent. Using both 1st and 3rd party intent data sources is critical to campaign success, otherwise, you’ll be working off of an incomplete picture of account activity.

Why do we need intent data?

57% of the buyer’s journey is anonymous, according to a B2B Buying Journey Report from Gartner research. Meaning prospects are going more than halfway through the buyer’s journey without making contact, prompting the question,

How do we as marketers get ahead of the process and engage buyers earlier?

This is where intent data comes in, providing valuable insights on anonymous buyers allowing you to position yourself ahead of the competition. Instead of passively waiting for a customer to raise their hand, you can proactively target high-fit accounts with orchestrated campaigns. Why is this important? Because 70% of buyers fully define their needs on their own before engaging with a sales representative, and 44% identify specific solutions before reaching out to a seller. (CSO Insights) – showing just how critical it is to be the first one engaging with buyers.

Demystifying B2B Purchase Intent Data: Understanding the Basics, a study by Aberdeen Strategy and Research, shows that it’s possible with intent data to determine which companies are in-market to buy a solution or service with up to 91% accuracy, and in good time to engage with them before they progress too far in the buyers journey.

What are the different types of intent data?

There are two types of intent data, 1st party, and 3rd party.

1st party intent data

1st party intent data is internal and derived from interactions that happen across all your own sales and marketing tools. Unmasked website activity, leads matched to accounts, and sales engagement in CRM are all examples of 1st party intent. 1st party intent data is highly reliable, and can clearly define who the customers are and if they are showing purchase intent.

3rd party intent data

While 1st party intent provides reliable insights, using only 1st party data limits you to a small portion of the buyer’s journey. 3rd party intent consists of research and buying activity occurring on channels and properties owned by others, allowing for a broader view of your market. Examples of such places are product review websites, Google searches, analyst white papers, event attendance, video views, and more. In comparison to 1st party signals, 3rd party data signals typically occur earlier in the buyer’s journey, making these signals best for reaching leads early in the decision process. Creating this extensive view of potential buyers allows your team to reach the right accounts at the right time, and earlier than ever before.

Six steps to power your pipeline with intent data

Step 1: Select your intent topics

Selecting your intent topics is a critical first step when operationalizing intent data. Intent topics are the areas your target accounts are researching and can be leveraged by sales and BDR teams to personalize their outreach. When running intent-based campaigns you want to select topics relevant to your target audience by sourcing accounts that fit your ICP and are actively showing intent signals. There are three ways we recommend building out your topic list:

  • Select topics by searching the available taxonomy
  • Select topics based on your website content
  • Select topics based on historical customer behavior

For example, if your business is interested in accounts actively researching and consuming content about the topic “ABM platforms,” your intent module could draw from all content related to that specific topic – without needing to explicitly mention the phrase. This opens up the ability to identify and uncover high-intent accounts based on additional pieces of content.

Selecting relevant intent topics and building a strong topic list leverages data that builds marketing campaigns and provides greater insights to drive desired results.

Across all communications, we’ve found that you get much better response rates if you start with intent data,” says Jessica Garrett, a seasoned ABM practitioner (Learn more about Veristor’s intent-driven strategy.).

Step 2: Use intent to identify actionable insights (separate data noise)

The intent data pool is large and while we have all the data at our disposal, we need to cut through unwanted noise to get to the actionable insights that matter. One of the biggest challenges for modern B2B marketers is sorting through the data pool and identifying applicable buying signals. So how can marketers sort through and best utilize intent data – especially 3rd party?

Luckily there’s an app for that, just kidding — there’s actually just a really cool feature in the Foundry platform to help score accounts based on purchase signals.

Smart Score uses 1st and 3rd party intent paired with website and CRM activity, to identify which accounts should be prioritized for sales outreach. With proprietary AI-based algorithms to provide a single score to prioritize accounts. Smart Score is live and shows baseline activity for accounts and spikes of activity that take into account size and historical data.

Step 3: Automatically segment your target accounts

Intent data allows marketers to monitor selected intent topics across the internet to see when accounts are looking at related content. Accounts are segmented based on what intent topics are being consumed. ABM platforms then automatically manage intent-based audiences by dynamically adding and removing accounts that meet each intent-based criteria.  

Step 4: Identify surging accounts and prioritize outreach

It’s not easy to know what accounts to prioritize and can be a constant guessing game. Intent data allows you to identify which of your target accounts are showing an increased interest (i.e. a Surge) in topics you have identified as relevant to your products or services. Once surge data is collected, there are many ways to incorporate it into your marketing campaigns and sales processes such as;

  • Utilize Foundry Intent to target accounts at a contact level.
  • Push intent data into Salesforce to help sales prioritize their outreach based on which accounts are surging.
  • Examine the weekly list of surging accounts to discover in-market accounts that may not be on your radar.

A case study with Bombora revealed that by combining intent data with company Surge insights, and sales activation plays, resulted in: 2X more engaged leads per account on the 1:1 landing page compared to the general website, 18% increase in SDR revenue influence, and 28% increase in account executive close rate.

Step 5: Paint the full intent picture – orchestrate multi-step, multi-channel ABM campaigns

Intent is the catalyst for an ABM campaign orchestration engine. Without it, orchestration could not operate seamlessly and automatically place accounts into the proper campaigns.

“Think of orchestration as a data-fueled car engine driven by your buyers. The first- and third-party intent data, sourced from prospective and customer account activity, fuels the engine. The engine takes in this data and subsequently keeps all your campaigns’ moving parts running in sync with each other. The wheels are turning, the gears are shifting and the engine is delivering a pleasantly consistent experience from point A to B”.

There are a handful of ways to operationalize intent, but to get the most out of your data, an orchestration module such as Foundry’s Canvas goes a long way. Once an ABM campaign is created, the orchestration platform can directly activate SDR follow-up. Based on a certain level of detected intent, marketers can trigger email reports or CRM tasks to alert the sales team. With ABM orchestration, you can create outbound campaigns that match your intent-based marketing campaigns so that you’re orchestrating a compelling buying experience for each of your target accounts.

Insperity was able to identify accounts showing not only 3rd-party intent but also 1st-party website engagement, marketing automation engagement, and CRM activities. The combination of various signals of interest gave marketing a fuller picture of each target account’s purchase intent, allowing the marketing team to orchestrate multi-channel campaigns that revealed the highest value accounts.

Step 6: Identify upsell & renewal opportunities

Intent data not only targets new accounts but also drives upsells and renewals. Intent data provides powerful insights about existing customers that can often be overlooked. Prevent losing customers by using intent signals to uncover customers that might be researching competitors or other products. By having this information you can step in and re-engage the customer, helping to win renewals and decrease churn rates. You can also use intent topics to determine customer interest in other products you offer – giving you more cross and upsell opportunities.

Want to learn more? See how intent data can optimize sales and marketing performance.