If you have ever used intent data or are currently evaluating a provider—you might first want to know how reliable the data they provide is. That means you need to understand how they acquire intent data—what the sources are, how regularly the data is refreshed, and more.
And that's what this article is all about! We hope you'll have a deeper understanding of how intent data is collected and how it works by the time you finish reading this post.
First, a quick overview—intent data is the information trail created by a prospect or lead. It consists of key behavioral signals that can be aggregated and analyzed to determine how likely a prospect is likely to buy your product and when that transaction might take place.
If you would like a better understanding of what intent data is and the types of intent data, here's an excellent primer for you to check out 👇
Now, on to intent data collection.
How is Intent Data collected?
Not all intent data is created equal, especially in the world of B2B. There are three popular ways in which intent data is collected:
- Individual publishers and review sites
- Publisher co-op or partnership
Individual publishers and review sites
These are typically websites that collect user information (where users opt-in to share information) and deliver insights to 3rd parties.
Now, these websites may not have data mountains like the tech giants, but what they lack in size, they make up for in targeted insights. They track what people are researching, and that gives you an insight into what someone may be interested in buying. So, instead of bombarding everyone with ads, you can use this insight to reach the right people at the right time.
A great example would be G2. Being an independent user review portal, G2 tracks what products are being searched for, by people from which companies, and more. So, when you subscribe to such intent data, you often get some of the most vital signals of purchase intent.
Publisher co-op or partnership
Publisher Co-op refers to a group of publishers and websites, such as Forbes, BusinessEdge, and more, pooling their data so that the users can benefit from a more extensive intent data set. Each of these publishers or websites collects data from their visitors only upon consent.
Think of it like a potluck. Each website brings its special dish (anonymized data about visitors). As a subscriber to this data, you get access to it all. But unlike regular potlucks, this one uses AI robots to read all the data and group it together based on similar interests. This makes it super easy to find businesses that might be interested in what you have to offer instead of doing a spammy email blast.
Intent data providers often collaborate with a curated collection of content-rich publishers and partners. In exchange for access to this massive pool of firmographics (information about companies such as industry type, organization size, location, employee count, revenue, etc.) and buyer intent data, co-op participants contribute privacy-compliant, brand-anonymous visitor consumption data.
This is where Plena adds value to the data co-op. With its intelligent AI robots and 67+ data filters, it scans millions of articles and groups them together based on topics, context, and relevance to specific audiences. Think of it like sorting your books by genre, but way more advanced! This not only helps you find the right target audience for your product but also gives you a holistic and reliable context about them.
Lastly, most data coming from publisher co-op is GDPR and CCPA compliant as every participating content publisher requires an opt-in for their site visitors before they can track behavior.
Bidstream contains the log-level data generated by the various tech vendors, more specifically, the ad servers involved in the transaction.
Typical bidstream data points include the location (IP, latitude/longitude, zip), device (OS, connection type, carrier), site (full URL, app name, ad slot position, above/below the fold), as well as demographics, anonymized when available (age/DOB, gender).
While these are valuable data points that can help in improving the efficiency of your customer acquisition, they might not always be accurate. Unlike co-op data, Bidstream stream intent data is scraped from websites via ads and shared on ad exchanges. Bidstream data is collected from ad exchanges.
Imagine websites with ad spaces, like billboards in a digital town square. Advertisers can "bid" on these spaces to show their ads, and this creates a bunch of data called "bidstream." It tells you who saw an ad, what website they were on, and what keywords they interacted with.
As an advertiser, you can use bidstream-based reporting to track your customer's path-to-purchase on your owned and operated websites and e-commerce platforms. For example, you can sync the anonymous user-level data with purchase history to prove ROI on your ad spend.
But here's the catch with Bidstream data:
- No context: It doesn't tell us why someone clicked on a keyword, but just that they saw it.
- No history: We don't know if the prospect is a regular website visitor or a one off visitor who just saw the ad once.
- Privacy concerns: The data collection method may not be GDPR compliant and potentially violate certain publisher agreements.
So, while it sounds like a quick way to find potential customers, bidstream data might not be the best choice. It's like using a blurry picture to identify someone; it's not very accurate and potentially risky.
Bidstream intent data providers often argue that their intent data collection networks are much larger, and that might be true. The key question, however, is—is it reliable?
And that is why, at Plena, we believe that you need a certain baseline to understand what a user activity means. For example, someone searching for "intent data" as a keyword may not necessarily be searching for an intent data provider. They may be trying to understand the concept of intent data or doing research to improve their own product.
So, at Plena, we look at multiple attributes (sometimes 22 or more) to determine if someone is searching with a purchase intent or if it is a casual consumption. The higher the baseline, the more reliable your intent data will be.
And now, before you pull the trigger to invest on intent—let’s also look at how to evaluate the vendors you might shortlist.
Examples of Intent Data
Below are some examples of intent data spanning individual publishers, co-ops, and bidstream sources.
Imagine someone Googling "best hiking trails in Utah." It's like they're saying, "Hey, I love hiking and want to explore Utah! Any trails you recommend?" The words they use while searching tells us a lot about their interests and what they're looking for.
Website browsing behavior
Similarly, the websites that your target audience visits and the topics they engage with also give you insights into their needs and interests. For example, if someone spends a lot of time on an information security forum, it could mean that they are interested in infosec, or it's their fundamental responsibility at work.
Social media activity
The posts, comments, and likes on social media are another one—they help you understand your audience's interests, topics of engagement, worldview, and more.
Do you ever notice how online ads magically know you want that new cookbook after browsing recipes? It's not magic, it's data! Stuff you buy online, like that fancy new guitar, tells companies you might be interested in music lessons or concert tickets. These trails of information help organizations offer products and services in a non-intrusive and non-spammy manner.
Some examples in the B2B world:
Comparing vendors on third-party review sites
This could be comparing your product with a competitor. It could even be comparing two of your competitors (as it still reflects interest in the product or service you offer)
Opening and/or engaging with sales emails
Obviously this is not something that can be provided by vendors—you would get this from your internal tech stack.
Clicking on ads with high-intent keywords
People clicking on ads with keywords such as "services," "software," "outsourcing," "consulting," "providers," "companies," and "reviews" more often indicate a transactional intent.
Downloads of resources
It refers to a spike in content consumption on resources controlled by you as well as those where you have a co-op. Downloading resources such as case studies and eBooks, especially those that aren't informational but are very problem-solution specific, often indicates buying intent.
One of our real-estate customers describes the intent data case study the best:
We used to build a list using Zoominfo and LinkedIn Sales Navigator and then manually shortlist it further for intent based on manual research. It was tough until we signed up for Plena. With 67+ intent filters in Plena, we went from 10 new high-intent leads/ week/rep to 60 without any hassle.
If you are in marketing, the below set of uses cases shared by Gartner might inspire you:
When to collect intent data
Collecting and using intent data is one of the most helpful ways of making sure you reach out to the right audience from the universal set of your total addressable market (TAM).
Here are a few reasons when and why you should collect intent data or subscribe to intent data from a service provider:
- To capture buyers who are currently actively searching/buying the products or services you have to offer
- To get a head start in landing opportunities before your prospect even considers your competition, thus shortening sales cycles and cutting customer acquisition costs.
- To build relevant conversations with your prospects to help them achieve their specific goals
- To personalize their buying journey
- To run targeted campaigns
- To improve your email response rate and engagement, and a lot more.
When not to collect intent data
While it is perfectly legal to collect intent data in general, certain situations have legal sensitivity when it’s best not to collect data. And if you have to collect data in such cases, you need to limit the access to the concerned parties.
Tracking user behavior and using information (intentionally or unintentionally) without consent goes against the GDPR and CCPA regulations and can end up in you paying heavy fines.
How to evaluate an Intent Data vendor?
For ease of evaluation, you can group the evaluation factors into three categories:
1. Data source reliability
Questions to consider:
- How is your intent data collected?
- Can you share some of your sources?
- How credible and reputed is the provider?
- How do you identify which businesses or contacts are consuming content?
2. Data freshness and depth
Questions to consider:
- How old is your intent data at any given point?
- How frequently is the data refreshed?
- What are the intent signals you track?
- Can you test the intent data before you buy?
3. Integration, segmentation, and compliance
Questions to consider:
- Is your data GDPR and CCPA compliant?
- Do you integrate with my existing tech stack?
- Does your platform allow me to customize the intent signals and segmentation criteria based on my audience and goals?
Given the current market climate we are in, intent data is a precious asset, especially if you're trying to do more with less. However, the key is to invest in the right intent data provider who specializes in your domain.
We hope this blog post gives you an insight into how intent data is acquired and the factors you need to consider to evaluate the right provider for you. Ultimately, the right intent data can empower your organization to engage with prospects and customers more effectively, driving better results and ROI in your marketing and sales campaigns.