Intent data: what it is and 3 ways to use it effectively

intent data overview

How do you know when a prospect is ready to buy? When is a customer likely to churn? And how can you tell when a customer wants to buy more?

You can’t answer these questions by reading your customers’ and prospects’ minds. But you can do something else that’s nearly as effective: Look at their intent data. 

Intent data (also known as buyer intent data or purchase intent data) reveals certain online behaviors from your target audience that signal what they’re likely to do next—whether that’s buy a product in your category or leave your company for a competitor.

Despite its business value, it’s rarely leveraged effectively. For example, when we studied 114 B2B companies’ lead response times, the average time clocked in at 12 hours, while 18% of organizations never responded. 

This begs the question: How can you use this type of data quickly and thoughtfully? We’ll provide a framework for doing so, along with 3 specific examples. But first, let’s make sure we’re aligned on what we mean by intent data, as well as why it’s critical for growing your business.

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What is Intent Data?

Intent data tells you about the online research that a lead is conducting. This research can come from a first-party and/or a third-party source.

First-party data simply uses cookies and IP addresses to follow leads on your site. You’ll learn about the pages they view, the whitepapers they download, the webinars they attend, etc.; while third-party data monitors your leads’ behaviors across other sites. For example, it lets you track the pages they look at in a software review site, or the news they follow in an online media publication. 

By understanding what your leads are reading, when they’re reading it, and for how long, you can begin to sell and market your product in more effective ways (the next section explores this further). 

Related: How the definition of sales automation has shifted

Why is Intent Data Important?

Here are 3 reasons why it allows your marketing and sales teams to be more successful.

3 reasons why intent data is important

1. It lets you identify buyers faster.

With this type of data, you can better understand when a lead is sales-ready. This allows you to reach out to them sooner—which makes a world of a difference on your close rate. 

However, as we proved earlier, having it on-hand doesn’t guarantee a timely reaction. Later in this page, we’ll show you how you can use it to ensure that your team responds quickly.

Related: 4 ways to ramp up your speed to lead

2. It empowers you to personalize your outreach.

Intent data also allows you to understand what, exactly, the lead is looking for. 

Were they viewing a specific product page in your site? That’s a clear sign that they’re interested in that product. Were they reviewing your competitor’s page in a software review site? They may be seriously considering them over you.

The more you understand your intent data for each lead or client, the better you can respond. And a better response not only gives you a higher chance of getting your message viewed, but it also increases the chances that you deliver on your desired outcome—such as retaining the client or selling them another product.

3. It makes it easy to prioritize who you respond to.

Using buyer intent data, you can make an informed decision on who you respond to first.

For example, if a lead is browsing through several of your competitors’ pages in a software review site, while another lead reads a few news articles in your industry, you should respond to the former first—as they’re more likely to make a purchasing decision sooner.

Related: 3 reasons why RevOps is critical for your organization

How Intent Data Fits Alongside Other Types of Information

Purchase intent data doesn’t deliver the 3 benefits highlighted above in a vacuum. It needs to complement existing information that you already have on hand (e.g. customer data in your CRM). 

Here are just some types of information that should be paired with it:

  • Demographics: The lead’s industry, employer, role, location, etc.
  • Sales activity: Stage in sales cycle, call notes, length of time in funnel, etc.
  • Marketing activity: Previous campaigns they’ve been put in, current ones they’re in, how they’ve responded to each campaign, etc.

Once you include these insights, you’ll know which leads qualify for your products and you’ll get a better sense of where each stands in the buying funnel.

Related: 6 ways to leverage marketing automation more effectively

How to Use Buyer Intent Data Effectively

Leveraging buyer intent data successfully is difficult for several reasons.

Four reasons why it's difficult to use intent data.

To overcome these challenges, you’ll need to connect your applications, and build automated workflows between them with the help of a bot. These workflows allow intent data (along with other relevant data) to move to the appropriate teams quickly and to where it’s most visible, like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Here are just a couple scenarios that leverage this solution well. 

Related: How to implement lead routing effectively

Track previous buyers and reach out when they land a new job.

When someone transitions into a new role, they’re eager to establish themselves and make a strong impression on their team. This can motivate them to use tools that fueled their success in the past. 

You can get ahead of this by reaching your champions soon after they start working in their new role! Let’s break down how this process can look:

1. You can use a data source like ZoomInfo to update the contact in your CRM once they change jobs.

2. Workbot alerts the relevant account manager or sales rep about this via the organization’s internal communications platform (Workbot can also alert a specific channel or group in the platform).

3. The account manager can then put the contact into the appropriate email sequence with the click of a button using a platform like Outreach, and even send them a gift with a tool like Sendoso.

Here’s more on this:

Respond to new leads on time

We recently tackled this approach ourselves.

We wanted to accelerate our response time as 77% of leads either heard back when it was too late or didn’t hear back at all. 

To respond to qualified leads faster, we use Lead Bot to route every lead that filled out a form to a sales rep in Slack. Within every message, we also add information on the lead by using ClearBit, ZoomInfo, Linkedin Sales Navigator, and Salesforce

Here’s additional insight on this process and the benefits it’s delivered to our sales organization:

Tell customer success managers when a client is viewing competitors

Let’s say that one of your customers is browsing through a peer-review site for business software, like G2. They spend time looking at your page, your competitors’ pages, and they even look at the list of the best vendors within your software category.

Clearly, this customer is reevaluating their relationship with your business. But how do you help your team become aware of this before it’s too late? By sharing the customer’s activity with your team through Intent Bot. Here’s how it works:

  1. You define the criteria for a customer at risk of churn and then use that as your trigger in Workato (an enterprise automation platform). For example, it can be a customer who views a certain competitor’s page in G2.
  2. Once a customer meets your trigger condition, Intent Bot collects their information from 1st-party apps, like their account in your instance of Salesforce.
  3. Intent Bot then messages the appropriate customer success manager (CSM) in your organization’s internal communications platform. The message includes the customer’s activity in G2 and their information in your 1st-party apps.

Now your CSMs can identify which of their accounts are at risk of churn. And by using the information provided by Intent Bot, they can provide a personalized response quickly—which should significantly reduce the chances that your customer leaves!

Learn more about these approaches and discover other ways you can use intent data by watching our webinar: Drive Sustainable Growth with RevOps Automations.

Intent data not only presents you with an opportunity to influence business results, but it also lets you provide better experiences for your prospects, customers, and employees. To use this type of data effectively, you’ll need to integrate your applications, build out workflow automations, and leverage bots. Once your organization does this, it’ll have a competitive advantage for years to come.

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips, examples, and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer ( matches, and explore local restaurants.