Intent Data: What It Is, Where to Find It, and How It Creates Better Leads

2 minute read

How much do you know about your leads? Simply because you clicked on an article about intent data, I can assume you wish you knew more. I can also assume that you’re either in sales or at least interested in sales processes. But if I want to know more about you, like whether you’re really thinking about buying my product, I’d either need to ask you directly (and hope you tell me) or use intent data.

What is intent data?

Intent data is the information trail created by a prospect or lead. It consists of key signals that can be aggregated and analyzed to determine how likely it is that the prospect will buy my product and when that transaction might take place.

Signals are pulled from multiple sources, including actions on the seller’s owned channels, partner-owned channels, and non-owned and offline channels.  And, if done well, it can be quite accurate.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because a lot of it is.  You already use some of the same data points, like downloads or clicks on a blog post, referral source, and time or actions on your site — to try to determine more information about someone who has been identified as a lead. But intent data goes further to paint a much more accurate picture of what a lead is going to do.

So I could use intent data to determine if you’re actually interested in the sales tool we’ve created at as a prospective buyer. Or I might find out you’re on our site because you want Plena to hire you or that you’re one of our competitors or a journalist looking for an expert for your next story.

And like I mentioned already, I could just ask you what you’re doing here. But then I’d have to hope you answer my pop-up survey accurately.

Intent data, on the other hand, doesn’t lie.

What makes intent data unique?

Intent data isn’t a new data source or data point. It is a means of extracting more meaningful details about a prospect by consulting numerous pools of data. Here’s what makes that different from tools you may already be using.

Intent data enlists a multitude of data points.

Intent data requires data points or signals from numerous places. At, we believe more is better, so we grab at a minimum 26 different data points for our AI lead-sourcing tool. Depending on the client and nuances of the buyer profile, the number of data points goes up from there.

Intent data requires extensive analysis for meaning.

Things like open rates or site visits can be used without much analysis. “Email #2 has a high open rate among known leads. People are interested in that topic.” “Three of Jim’s coworkers have been viewing and downloading items on our site. They’re probably close to making a decision.” Determining a lead’s intent in a meaningful way requires lots of data, which is how it goes further.

Intent data can be used to make the sales cycle ultra-personal.

If you’re just looking for a straightforward MailChimp nurture flow with |NAME| personalization, intent data is more than you need. Since true intent data goes beyond your owned properties and even extends to offline sources, the connection that you can build with a lead is sincere and borderline omniscient — the kind of communications that get attention.

Intent data provides a massive boost to efficiency.

It’s true that almost all data can be used to improve the efficiency of your sales processes, but intent data should compress the sales funnel. Instead of casting a wide net and seeing who bites, you can focus on truly hot leads with custom and nuanced touch points. At the same time, not-so-hot leads can be shifted to marketing to transform into hotter leads before letting sales take over.

Intent data is even better when paired with AI.

Want to use intent data to its fullest? Add AI. The most influential and targeted sales pitch in the world still needs to land in the right hands at the right time. If you’re doing everything manually, the likelihood that you’ll be timely with your message or that you’ll be able to juggle more than one or two prospects gets smaller. When intent data is paired with AI, essential research, analysis, and outreach shifts into overdrive. That leaves more time for personal attention and creativity too.

intent data

Where buyer intent data is found and mined

Something you need to know: all intent data isn’t the same. Every lead is different. Every product or service is unique. If intent data were just a matter of taking a dozen rigid data points and making decisions about a lead based on them collectively, you’d already be set. Intent data has to be custom to be meaningful.

There are, however, large buckets of data sources. You’ve probably seen a similar list all over the internet, but I’ll cover the buckets here quickly for review [or skip ahead if you don’t want to read about them again]. 

1st party intent data 

Information collected from the seller’s digital properties. This includes site visits, form fills, social media interactions, webinar registrations, gated content downloads, email opens, etc. If I knew you had read four different blog posts on our website today, my own data might help me to determine that you’re close to buying. 

Or I might determine that you’re early in the funnel and are gathering information about intent data for your team. The data you collect from your own properties can be very revealing. You can get more details on the untapped value of 1st-party intent data

2nd party intent data 

Data obtained from a shared property that the seller has some control of. Examples include review sites like TrustRadius; information placed in non-owned publications including Capterra, G2; and content syndication, among others. So if I knew you had been clicking on reviews about on TrustRadius, I’d probably think you were trying to cull the herd of vendors you’re looking at. TrustRadius goes into more detail about second-party intent data here.

3rd party intent data 

Considered the Wild West of data, 3rd-party data originates in any number of external, disparate, non-seller-controlled sources, both online and offline, including everything from purchase data, search history, ad bidding stats, personal social posts, social activity, visits to industry publications, interactions with other websites, public records, personal social profiles, account social activity, and more. 

Third party intent data provides insight and information that may not otherwise be available. So if I know you spent a month reading TrustRadius reviews about and clicking on our site content but then simply dropped off, I might assume that you chose another vendor instead of us. 

But if I look at 3rd-party data and determine that your own team has experienced leadership changes or that your employer was recently acquired or even that you’ve been on a month-long sabbatical in Spain, all of which could be determined or inferred by data from sites Plena doesn’t own, I’d probably assume your decision-making process was just on hold temporarily. 

Each of these data buckets is essential to determining buyer intent. But 3rd-party intent data is where personalization and “smart” can really shine. Third-party intent data provides nuanced, custom insight into a prospect and gives you the knowledge you need to conduct highly personalized outreach so each pitch and interaction is more relevant. 

Third party intent data is a tougher nut to crack since you don’t own the data. 

How intent data improves existing tools – like LinkedIn

Most B2B sales teams are already trying to mine intent with Sales Navigator. If you’ve used it, you know that it is still a shot in the dark. Sales Navigator does an okay job of letting you know when someone you’ve identified as a lead posts or comments, when they interact with your content or page, when they change jobs or positions. It even does a decent job of showing you other people who match the kind of leads you’ve already saved and their coworkers, too.

But all of the information that LinkedIn is using comes from actions on LinkedIn. We all know there’s a lot more to life than just LinkedIn. So at Plena, we built an AI-driven intent data tool that uses LinkedIn and harvests information from it … but not just information about the individual lead and their current situation. 

Our AI robots at Plena dig into personal profiles, “about” sections, and employment details, company profiles and company activities, including hiring and open roles. The AI robots also grab individual pain points on the account and contact level, value propositions, and other custom details.

Then this information is combined with 1st party intent data and 2nd party intent data that your company already has access to. But we also grab additional 3rd party data points ranging from public profiles, state registrations, sites like Google Maps, social media activity, DMV records, you name it! And all of this information is analyzed together. Instantly. In real time. 

And because “knowing” is only part of the process, our robots recommend specific outreach, can engage with a prospect directly, create a personalized message, and do all of this at the most optimal time, which our AI also determines.

So…is intent data only for sales?

Honestly, intent data could be applied to almost any B2B situation. If you’re in HR, intent data could help you quickly find leaders who would make great candidates and deprioritize applicants merely seeking a counteroffer. If you’re into content marketing, intent data could help you determine why a content program is increasing traffic but not having the same effect on conversions. If you’re the CTO or Head of UX, intent data could give you the insight you need to build relevant and truly personalized experiences.

But currently, sales is the top-line consumer of intent data. It makes sense since intent data helps you focus on the hottest leads and probably even shortens your sales cycle. It can also help close more sales with less effort, build stronger relationships through customized outreach, and reduce time-wasting guesswork from the process.


What is intent data in B2B sales?

B2B intent data is information about a sales prospect that’s collected from a multitude of sources, actions, and signals, and analyzed to determine how serious a prospect or lead is about buying a product or service.

Where can I find intent data?

Intent data lives in three distinct buckets: 1st-party data, which is the data about a prospect that’s created within the seller’s owned channels, like their website or email; 2nd-party data, which comes from  an external partner’s site or channels that the seller helps control; and 3rd-party data, the largest bucket, which is data that’s created on external sites that the seller neither owns nor controls.

How accurate is buyer intent data?

Assessing the accuracy of buyer intent data can be a challenge due to the wide variation in tools available across the industry. Usually, however, the number of data points analyzed and the speed at which the data is collected and analyzed is directly related to the intent data’s accuracy. This is one of the main reasons why AI is essential for obtaining the most value from intent data.

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