How to Get the Most Out of Intent Data

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Intent data is critical for B2B company success, with more than 85 percent of all companies using intent data reporting significant benefits, according to data from Forrester Research. Among the benefits cited are increased response rates for outbound marketing efforts, leading to more successful sales prospecting. Additionally, firms have used intent data to better identify when customers are likely to churn.

“Intent signals become more specific as companies move later into the buying cycle,” said Brett Kahnke, a principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report. “Companies that are using intent signals early in the buying cycle are looking for the right words. They are trying to figure out which companies are actively buying and which ones aren’t. They do that by looking for companies that have a sharp increase in online activity around those topics over what would normally be expected. You are looking for sharp spikes that could indicate that they are in the buying process.”

The research also found that 7 in 10 organizations use multiple intent data providers that use different collection methods, with more than 40 percent using three or more sources. Kahnke said that once a company has success using intent signals from one source, it looks to increase that success by adding other sources with different intent collection methodologies.

With all that intent data can provide, it’s no surprise that nearly a third (30 percent) of companies are planning to increase spending on intent data, while only 10 percent expect to reduce their spending, according to Kahnke. “Targeting marketing and sales outreach based on active buying behavior makes sense, not only to drive demand generation but also to increase the efficiency of execution spend when budgets have become constrained.”

Forrester research also found that though many firms are incorporating intent data into sales and marketing, they have yet to take full advantage of the data they have. Less than one-quarter of companies now buying intent data have increased their usage.

Forrester identified the following as the most popular uses for intent data:

  • identifying target accounts (81 percent);
  • demand penetration or direct marketing to identified accounts (71 percent);
  • targeted brand/awareness advertising to identified accounts (60 percent);
  • revenue development/prospecting prioritization (52 percent);
  • pipeline acceleration marketing to engaged accounts (50 percent);
  • direct/field sales prospecting prioritization (40 percent); and
  • analytics, forecasting, or predictive modeling (31 percent).

“Leveraging intent data for current customer analysis is an underutilized capability,” Kahnke said. “Organizations should track product-specific signals for their current customers and align the data to contract renewal dates to understand if a current customer is at risk.”

Examples of those signals include keywords for the types of products the company sells, keywords that describe the company’s products, etc. The further a potential buyer is in its purchase decision, the more granular the intent research needs to be for the seller, according to Kahnke.

Organizations should develop more sophisticated retention modeling by understanding which intent signals are strongly correlated to actual churn. Knowing this will help them better address issues early to retain customers.

Intent signals also provide insight into which accounts should be prioritized for cross-selling, Kahnke said. However, this is a missed opportunity for those focused on selling single products rather than suites of products.

Forrester also found that despite all the benefits of intent data, too often the reality doesn’t meet the expectations. This is particularly true in sales, largely due to alignment challenges.

“Marketing teams tend to prioritize early pipeline signals,” Kahnke said, noting that sales teams tend to target accounts without intent data to prioritize outreach.

To counter this, Kahnke said that sales and marketing teams should work together to flush out which prospects are actively in the market and which ones are not.

“By doing this, teams can measure success metrics, including engagement rates and opportunity rates, to validate the role intent data plays in the revenue process,” Kahnke said.

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