Intent Data Relevance – A Question of Quality Assurance & Actionable Insights
B2B marketing has evolved into a purely data-driven process. Really, it’s always been that way, but now marketers have access to almost limitless volumes of behavioral data and advanced technologies to analyze and act on it. Every list segmentation, ad campaign and email message needs to be backed up by meaningful data. Of course, this raises the question – just how much do you know about the data that’s driving your marketing efforts?
Most companies have at least some level of comfort, if not absolute confidence, in the first-party data they collect about users from their own web channels. (Although, as we know, this data is often quite suspect – as much as 70 percent of data in CRMs goes bad within a year.)
But what about the third-party data that drives advanced marketing intelligence, such as Intent Monitoring from True Influence’s InsightBASE® account acceleration platform? Our system consumes more than 60 million items of intent data daily, and all of it fuels the analysis and insight that’s critical to identifying in-market accounts at the peak of buying intent.
Intent Data Relevance
As Intent Monitoring gains momentum, several commentators have posted checklists of questions you should ask providers about their data sources. One example comes from our partners at marketing automation software provider Marketo, under the heading of “How to Access the Relevancy of 3rd Party Intent Data.”
As a data scientist, I find the choice of the phrase “relevancy” in the title interesting. The post attempts to the outline the basics of how different types and sources of data are applicable to various marketing use cases. In data science, the standard term for this is “efficacy” – is the data effective in advancing the purpose for which you want to use it? (For reference, ExchangeWire recently ran a useful primer on data quality terminology).
Of course, the efficacy of data is largely subjective, and dependent entirely on how it’s used – marketers have to design workflows and campaigns based on a wide range of data, including demographic and firmographic factors. Intent is an essential component in optimizing these efforts for maximum return on investment (ROI).But a poorly designed and executed email campaign is going to fail, even if you send it to an account that has a high level of interest in your solution.
Another key point to remember about Intent Monitoring is that its mission is to find actionable trends in literally billions of data points on user purchase intent. So the quality of a provider’s data source will largely be determined by its accuracy and its breadth of coverage.
Some commentaries I’ve read about the sourcing of 3rd-party intent data tend to focus overly on the precise details of individual actions. When processing this much data, you can make some useful inferences from the nature of an action, such as an email click versus a white paper download (more on that later). But accuracy and breadth of coverage should be your primary concerns when evaluating an intent provider’s data sources.
With that said, here is my own list of questions you should ask about the data that will drive this critical part of your B2B marketing strategy.
1. Where does your data come from?
You have to ask this question, and the answer should be “from the right places.” I believe a solid mix of sources from within your company’s targeted markets is more important than simply a high number of sources. If a provider includes marginal or even irrelevant sources in its data mix just to artificially inflate a number, there’s no value there – 1,000 sources generating only a few thousand intent signal weekly about the topics that matter to you provides no basis for meaningful analysis.
2. How is your data verified?
Some intent providers and commentators place significance on “human” data curation and verification of their base intent data. I don’t see enormous value in this. At the scale of intent analysis, there’s just too much data – even a meaningful sample of human-verified data would be cost-prohibitive to create. Focus on how the provider’s algorithms check for not only basic hygiene but also fraud and increasingly clever bots.
Let me add: At True Influence we absolutely value human verification of data at advanced stages of prospecting. Our TripleCHECK™ leads undergo rigorous phone and internet-based validation before we deliver them via InsightBASE and other demand generation programs. But we reserve that level of verification for first-party touch with prospects – not for sorting through billions of data points.
3. What types of activity generate your raw intent data?
You want a good mix of email clicks, content downloads and site visits in the data stream. This range of activity type helps in inference of purchase intent and prioritization in analysis. But again, I believe extremely detailed information about customer journey stages and timelines are best reserved for first-party data gathering or specific partner research efforts.
4. What technologies are used to gather your data?
This question really applies to owners of the channels where data is collected, and likely varies in the overall data set. Cookies and device tags are a better than simple scanning. Tracking pixels and display advertising clicks, conversely, are notorious for creating a lot of noise. Ultimately, your provider’s data quality assurance regimen will be the real line of defense against data collected via dubious tactics. So your diligence should focus mainly on the data onboarding process at your intent monitoring provider, particularly if it compiles data from numerous sources, as we do here at True Influence.
5. How does your data match against data already in my marketing system or CRM?
A high rate of matching means you will get a lot of intent intelligence on accounts you have already named. Depending on the nature of your business, that may be the primary benefit you desire. However, intent monitoring is also a powerful tool for identifying in-market accounts that may not be on your radar. This is a particularly powerful application of intent if you are moving into a new market.
6. How often does your data feed refresh?
Remember that Intent Monitoring looks for trends at the account level. A handful of signals likely don’t constitute a trend that merits action, even if they were all created today. In this context, I think a weekly data refresh is optimal. This time window also allows an intent provider to consolidate data and filter out noise.
7. What formats are your data available in?
I recommend going with a provider that offers a CSV file export. Advanced integrations with various systems are often merited, and our own InsightBASE platform offers turnkey integration with leading marketing solutions. But as a baseline, data should be available in the most generic structured format for quick and easy use in commodity reporting tools.
8. How can your data be used to trigger automated events?
I include this question near the end of this list, only because it tends to pop up quite a bit in articles on data quality. The short answer is — if intent data is available, you can use it to trigger events, such as moving an active account into a designated marketing program. This really comes back to the question of the relevance, or efficacy, of intent data, and the answer is in how you choose to use it. I often see commentary about the need for real-time triggers, but I have yet to see many compelling use cases for them. Again, remember that with intent monitoring, you are buying analysis of trends at accounts – not a watchdog service that tells you a single person read a certain blog post before lunch. That’s where you move into the domain of first-party engagement programs.
9. What visibility will I have into your data sources?
I think this question is better stated as: “What assurances can you give me about the credibility and compliance of your data sources?” These concerns have come to the fore with new privacy regulations, such as the GDRP, that can result in serious fines. But I don’t think marketing or tech teams realistically want to go down the path of auditing thousands of their intent provider’s data sources on a regular basis. Instead, ask about the provider’s own ongoing audit processes, and the material assurances it will give you on compliance and other issues.
Intent Data’s Value Is Proven In Campaign Success
Data quality is essential to any at-driven business process, and its certainly the case with Intent Monitoring services. My best advice is to focus your questions about data for potential intent providers on their onboarding and source auditing policies, with a secondary focus on source mix. With confidence in the accuracy of the data you onboard, you can act decisively on the analysis your Intent Monitoring platform provides about what accounts are in-market for your solutions.
From there, the relevance of this powerful market intelligence relies on how you use it to optimize your marketing and sales efforts.