Data Quality Is King in Intent Monitoring, but Analysis Is the Difference Maker 

Ray Estevez, Chief Data Officer, True Influence

Purchase intent monitoring is moving from the cutting edge of B2B marketing technology to an essential component of Account-based Marketing (ABM) and other advanced revenue strategies.

We all knew this was coming. SiriusDecisions (a Forrester company) incorporated intent data into its Demand Unit Waterfall, and since then, adoption and integration of intent monitoring has continued to grow. Research by Demand Gen Report suggested that as of last year, about 35 percent of B2B sales organizations would be using buyer intent to find in-market accounts and personalize messaging.

Even within the last year, I’ve seen the number of topics being monitored by intent vendors explode from 3,000 to more than 7,000. An ever-growing number of site and digital channel owners realize there’s value in the data they collect about user behavior, and a crowd of vendors are aggregating that data and bringing intent monitoring services to market.

How to choose an intent provider

As always, the most important issues to consider when you select an intent data provider are the quality and relevance of the intent signal intelligence they provide. As the space matures, and more and more data is thrown into the mix, the questions you need to ask relating to these issues change slightly. But the fundamentals remain the same, as when True Influence helped define the intent marketing category a decade ago.

In this post, I discuss the main points to review when considering an intent monitoring provider, and how those services are evolving as the market continues to mature.

But first, let’s take a quick look at the way sellers are using intent to drive revenue.

How to increase the impact of intent data

In the simplest terms, intent signal monitoring collects information about the types of content contacts interact with online, and then analyzes that data to find patterns that indicate an individual or account is actively in-market and researching a purchase.

This piece at CMSWire does a nice job of running through the basics of intent data use cases for marketers, ranging from modeling the customer journey to hyper-personalizing communications.

For ABM and other revenue generation strategies for B2B, intent monitoring has both strategic and tactical applications. Our CRO Peter Larkin recently posted on how he views bursts of intent activity by different buying group members to prioritize accounts for sales outreach and targeting. And our CMO Kay Kienast recently discussed how building a tiered intent keyword monitoring strategy helps identify the purchase journey stage of individual contacts within an account.

As you can see, intent monitoring touches every part of a modern B2B revenue strategy. We’ve built intent into our own integrated True Influence Marketing Cloud™ and a full range of B2B demand generation services. If you’re not using intent in your own marketing and sales strategies, you should be – and you likely will be soon.

How to select an intent monitoring partner 

Now that we’ve made the obvious case for why you need to incorporate intent data into your revenue operations, here are the key factors that you should consider in selecting an intent monitoring provider.

Intent data quality and sourcing

Intent data quality and sourcing were fundamental five years ago; they are every bit as important today. Ask a potential provider:

  • How do you collect your data? 
  • What are your sources? 
  • How do you clean it for false positives?

As I said at the start of this post, there are now so many digital touch points and data sources that maneuvering all of them can be a real challenge. But it’s absolutely crucial.

In general, intent data sources can be described as falling into these categories:

  • Publisher data: This is often described as the highest quality source of intent signal data, and that’s largely true, although it does have its limitations (a little more on that later). A publisher – the entity that owns a site or other digital channel – is most likely to know who a visitor is through site registration or newsletter subscription. By promoting an email survey or whitepaper, it’s possible to generate a very direct, easy-to-qualify signal.
  • Location and movement data from mobile devices. Through IP and other mechanisms, this tells you where individuals are. This source is used mostly for firmographic and account-level validation. Any given bit of this kind of data can be misleading and needs to be validated.
  • Advertising Real Time Bidding (RTB) Data: This data also helps establish domain- or company-level intent at an aggregated level. It provides a layer of value, but as a stand-alone source of intent monitoring, it has limited value, since you want to ultimately identify the individual who is expressing purchase intent.

Here at True Influence, we employ RTB data in our matrix as an added layer of intelligence. So much of this data category is devoted to consumer and pop-culture content consumption, and we candidly don’t care. From our perspective, that’s really just noise. We may store the activity as part of a history pattern for future analysis, but it’s not counted as an intent signal.

Revenue marketing and sales need to connect with prospects when and where they are doing business, not killing time. As soon as we identify a stream of data as not being business-related, it ends up on the cutting room floor. And I can tell you, that’s a lot of data.

Breadth of intent data sources

As the intent monitoring marketplace matures, the breadth of data sources employed in the intent feed becomes increasingly important.

If I have an explicit signal provided by a publisher (these are sometimes referred to as first-party intent data), I can bounce it against my own database or known company records to ensure that company or individual actually exists.

But even though these signals are high quality, relying solely on them limits the scope of your intent monitoring intelligence to the number of publishers you have relationships with, or your own publishing activity. And B2B buyers now employ more than five sources in their purchase research, according to review site, TrustRadius.

A single publishing network is just not large enough to really understand the market.

Here at True Influence, our intent feed includes a full mix of data sources, including our own content syndication programs alongside RTB data, mobile and location data. This wide breadth of intent signal data drives what is really the evolving force of intent monitoring – Big Data analytics. 

Analysis and weighting of data

Rapid growth in the ability to analyze and weigh intent signals to find meaningful patterns has been the biggest change in the intent marketplace and should be a determining factor as you select an intent partner. I can tell you that advances in our own True Influence Relevance Engine™, Identity Graph and data triangulation technologies over the last year have placed us at the forefront of being able to identify contact-level intent based on a broad mix of data sources.

An example: If I see activity coming from an IP location three times, I begin to visualize a pattern – I can tell which business the signal is coming from. Let’s say it’s an IBM campus in upstate New York.

Now if I see the same IP address has registered for a webinar or whitepaper with an email or a phone number, now I’ve made a connection between that IP and a person. I now have a good idea that Bob Smith, with an IBM email, is based in upstate New York and has a range of motion across maybe three campuses. But I still cannot be sure all that previous intent can be attributed to Bob.

But that is often not enough to credibly flag an account as being in-market. At True Influence, we keep voluminous historical records to build a pattern, and our confidence grows in terms of ranking an account and individual as showing purchase intent as we gather more data.

What topics are they researching, and are these topics related to each other to demonstrate a strong interest in a category or market segment? And it’s not just the basics of recency and frequency. Our Relevance Engine compares raw intent with firmographic and other data. Has the company been funded, raised money, or gone public?

With this information, we create a baseline to evaluate how we view the intent signals exhibited by this individual and this company.

It’s advanced science, based both on what you know and don’t know. With this technology, you can distill deep insights from what otherwise might seem like noise.

Intent data privacy

Anytime you discuss using data about individuals for marketing and sales, privacy is going to be a major concern. And the answer to “what are you doing about privacy regulations” should always be the same – we are committed to privacy, and we are always working on it.

Last year we published detailed looks at a number of new privacy regulations, including the new CCPA rules that were grabbing headlines at the time. While the nuances are different, the general wisdom of such rulings in the United States always boils down:

  • Full transparency to customers as to what you plan to do with their data
  • Offering them a clear path to opt-out of communications and to control of their data

There is simply no single law on the books that universally prevents you from marketing to an individual consumer, either through digital or email, until they opt out.

At True Influence, we are members of Privacy Shield and are certified compliant with GDPR and CCPA. We follow all guidelines and ensure that data is collected via fair practices, however they are defined at the moment. 

Intent monitoring finds meaning in a quality data

As we’ve discussed, successful intent monitoring relies on a massive pool of intent signal data, gathered from a wide range of sources, all of which are closely ensured for quality and compliance. As this pool of intent data continues to grow, quality is the real differentiator in finding purchase intent and patterns that tell you an account is in-market.

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