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What You Need to Know about Intent Data

Olin Hyde

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Intent data. What is it? What isn't it? We'll give you three problems and *gasp* a fallacy. All on this week's edition of the Green and Greene show.LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information.https://leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Thursday, February 7, 2019

In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, two seasoned marketing experts talk about what you need to know about intent data.

Hosts: J. David Green and Jonathan Greene

Topic: B2B Targeting

Subtopic: Intent Data

Duration: 13 minutes



What is Intent Data?

What No One Wants to Tell You about Intent Data


Podcast Transcript



[0:00:04.7] ANNOUNCER:Live from deep in the heart of Galveston, Texas all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene Show. Here are your hosts, Dave Greenand Jonathan Greene, ready to unlock the mysteries of scaling demand gen. The Green & Greene show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which has reimagined how to find B2B customers at scale


[0:00:25.7]JG:There are B2B mysteries, Dave, and we’re unlocking them here on the Green & Greene Show. Welcome. Thank you for being with me as always. This week, we are going to talk about intent data. Are you excited

[0:00:40.2]DG:I am really excited about intent data.

What is Intent Data?

[0:00:43.1]JG:Intent data makes me so excited. All right, let’s start with a basic definition, shall we? I have a handy-dandy slide. We’ll just put that up here in a second. Let’s do a scenario thing. Let’s say I am in the market for a baseball bat. If I start Googling “baseball bat”, is that intent data?

[0:01:11.8]DG:It is.

[0:01:14.6]JG:I think I understand. Let me put this handy-dandy slide up here. Walk me through what this means. What is intent data? What are we talking about?

[0:01:23.4]DG:The phrase came up because of companies like The Big Willowand Bombora, who have arrangements with a lot of third-party publisher sites. Somehow, they get data from their site which they aggregate at the account level. If you step back from it, that is just like you said, somebody’s gone on a site. They read about e-mail marketing, and now they’re put into a segment of having an interest, where the account is, around e-mail marketing.

The theory is if enough activity is happening around a topic like that, it means that that company may be in market and in play for an e-mail marketing platform or whatever it is that they’ve gone and looked at as an organization. However, you have the same intent data, first-party intent data. That’s all the stuff that’s happening on your website. The people coming and visiting, the clicks, the opens of your e-mails, any of that behavioral information has some level of intent.

If they go to your pricing page and they want to talk to your sales people, they have a lot of intent. If they just read a blog, I think their intent is quite a bit wider. A Google search, to your point, is another form of very powerful intent. I type in a search term, and boom, stuff pops up, both ads and organic search that often address whatever it was I was looking for. It is sometimes connected to searching for something you’re going to buy.

What No One Wants to Tell You about Intent Data

[0:03:02.6]JG:All right. There are a lot of companies that charge a lot of money for intent data, saying things like, “If people are on our site and they’re looking up your profile, they’re ready to buy.” That really is only part of the profile of intent, isn’t it? There is more to that

[0:03:20.6]DG:Yeah. The word “intent” is clever wordsmithing, but I think it goes too far. Some people clearly have an intent to buy, but a lot of people don’t have that intent. I was searching last week and found what at an island would cost in the Mediterranean with my own helicopter pad. Sadly, I’m not in the market to buy one of those. I read about a big yacht. I read about the Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys and the Super Bowl champions. I’m not going to be drafted in the NFL anytime soon.

Just because you read about something, doesn’t mean that you’re going to act on it from a buying standpoint. That, I think, is a little bit of a misunderstanding about this. It’s an area of interest, but whether there’s intent or not is a whole other topic.

[0:04:19.6]JG:There are so many more signals than just what the various top-of-the-line engagement platforms would have you believe.

[0:04:28.0]DG:Yeah. A lot of things might signal an intent: Companies, when they post jobs, a leadership change, to bring in a new CEO, they get a round of funding if they’re a startup. Sometimes external things like new legislation will force them to get into compliance or go to jail. Good or bad press can be something that triggers people into some sort of action and forces them to do things. There are lots of other signals, besides what you read, which can be useful in trying to figure out who’s in market.

[0:05:05.3]JG:Cool. Once I have intent data, I’m good to go, right? Marketing takes care of itself from that point forward. Or does it not? Are there any problems with this construct as you see it?

[0:05:16.5]DG:Yeah. I would say there are a few. The most important is it doesn’t really take into account whether the company is a good fit for your solution. If I’m searching for a CRM and I’m a two-person shop, it may not be the best choice for me to go buy a big enterprise solution like Salesforce. I’m sure Salesforce will sell me the one- or two-seed version, but those CRMs are really built for a very small thing. HubSpothas one that’s free. That may be good enough for my needs. It’s not telling you, if I’m looking for CRM, which one of those is likely to be a good fit.

Another thing is that the decay rate is pretty rapid. You have a fairly short shelf life where that intent data is meaningful. Last week, I was looking at one thing and next week, I’ll be looking at something else. If you don’t get me quickly, then it’s a little bit tough. Then, for the Bombora types, the people who are behind that intent, you don’t know. You just know that it’s this account. Who in there is really interested in this? It’s a little bit of a fishing expedition. The final one is what I call the in-market fallacy. There are three reasons for in-market fallacy, if you want to look at the next slide.

Read the blog, “The Truth about Intent Data”

[0:06:50.3]JG:Yeah. Just the fact that these people are ostensibly looking at data doesn’t mean that they have the budget authority or real intent to buy anything under the circumstances. It could be somebody’s secretary who doesn’t make any decisions.

[0:07:09.9]DG:That’s right. Sometimes, when a lot of people read about e-mail marketing, sales guys will read about e-mail marketing to see if they can write a more compelling subject line, but they’re not going to go out and buy a new e-mail marketing platform. A lot of times, there’s no intent whatsoever. A lot of times, the person doesn’t have any influence or authority over that decision.

You go to IBM and they have 400,000 people working there. Maybe about 5,000 can have any influence at all on big purchases. There are a lot of false positives. Periodically, you can actually be late to the party. If somebody does a query on Google and it’s deep in the funnel and it’s brand-specific, they may be doing nothing more than wanting to get two more vendors into a cattle call on a decision they’ve already made. You’re just going to waste time, because they’ve got an RFP and they’re really far down the path. It may seem like it’s something really great, but experienced salespeople know that if you don’t get in soon enough, you’ll have a hard time shaping the buying vision and influencing the outcome. All those things can be problematic.

Plus, a lot of folks are really, really small companies. A lot of the people you get into your funnel are often at the low end of your market, or even fall below what you’re looking for in your market. That goes back to that fit issue.

[0:08:36.1]JG:Right. Set me right on perspective. I understand now the intent data is certainly not the Holy Grail it’s been made out to be, but it can be part of an effective targeting strategy. What should I take away from this talk?

[0:08:53.4]DG:Well, I think it’s definitely a worthwhile piece of data that you would want in your mix. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as it’s one of many signals that you’re using to try to figure out who might buy. There are many signals like that.

I have a funny feeling, in talking to other people in the industry, that the natural language processing types of technologies that would make this more effective are not quite as good as they need to be, to really do more granular kinds of segmentation with the content and matching it back to the people in the accounts. Certainly, intent is great, but if you don’t know who the intent is with, that’s very problematic, trying to figure out who to talk to.

The potential for relevance is really high. I think the technology needs to evolve a little bit. Even so, I think it’s generally a worthwhile thing to have as part of your data stack that you’re going to use to make predictions about who’s in market and to allocate resources. It just needs to be a very small part of the mix

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[0:10:06.0]JG:Right on. Parting thoughts, I suppose. Nothing is a magic bullet, folks. Everything can be used as part of a greater strategy, is perhaps informative, should be considered when you’re formulating marketing strategy. I’ve heard over and over again how the next thing is going to be the magical thing that just makes marketing and communications easy going forward.

I heard that about social media, and then I’ve heard it about programmatic, I’ve heard it about intent data, I’ve heard it about artificial intelligence. The truth is that none of it is really a magic bullet. You have to be able to pull these things together and synthesize them into strategy. Does that seem fair to you, Dave?

[0:10:50.5]DG:Yeah, yeah. Some of the things that are out here like this, I think if you’re really going to leverage intent, it’s not so much that it’s a signal. It really should be a way to do personalization at scale, but I’m not aware of tools that are really helping to do that. In other words, if I know that this group of people have this particular area of interest, and I like to call it an area of interest over intent, then my ads can be more relevant to that group of people. If further I can see which one of those is in my target market based upon whatever data I might have, which ones I already know that are in my install base, that starts to really have some power. I hope that the industry starts to find ways to make the data interconnect with each other, so that grander possibilities are at least feasible.

[0:11:47.9]JG:Okay. That’s it, folks. That’s our show on intent data, at least part one. I feel we could probably unpack this for quite a long time and expand it to other things, which are also interesting but probably overstated in terms of targeting parameters and considerations for marketing strategy. This is definitely an interesting conversation. I thank you for your perspective on that.

[0:12:11.5]DG:Yeah, thanks, Jonathan. Do you have any parting thoughts about it?

[0:12:15.2]JG:I think you covered it, man. I think for me, it’s just there’s a certain proclivity that people who own intent data have to overstate the power and the efficacy of it. I think, for my part, I just wanted our people who are watching and participating in this show to understand that, take that with a grain of salt. It can be useful, but many other things can be useful as well. It’s certainly not over the deep end as far as the efficacy of marketing to intent-based audiences. It doesn’t seem to crazy outperform anything else from my experience.

[0:12:54.0]DG:Yeah. The folks that I know who have used this, and I’m talking about people who are data scientists, say that it’s directionally helpful, but it’s not the Holy Grail that they were hoping for. That’s just a word to the wise.

[0:13:12.7]JG:There you go. All right, man. It’s been another Green & Greene Show. Always fun. Always good times. I’m going to play this funky music and we will talk to you next time


[0:13:22.3]ANNOUNCER:Thank you for tuning into the Green & Greene Show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and want to start a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an e-mail to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides, www.leadcrunch.com.