P1043297 (2)


11th March 2024

In our experience, intent data marketing is one of the best tools for B2B marketers. 

Intent signals work by giving you better understanding of your new prospects and their likelihood to make a purchase. Intent data is typically used to enhance your B2B lead generation campaigns. 

In this complete guide to B2B intent data, we'll explore:

  • What is intent data?
  • First party intent data vs. third party intent data
  • What are the benefits of intent data marketing?
  • Who are the best intent data providers? (and how can you find a trustworthy supplier!)  

What Is Intent Data?

Intent data targeting icon

B2B intent data is a collection of digital information that forms a picture of your target audiences' buying intentions.  

Intent data for lead generation follows a trail of digital breadcrumbs: like a series of clues as to who your leads are, and how you can persuade them to buy from you.  

Intent data is more important than ever because sales teams now have very little of a customer’s time to engage and sell to them. Just 5% of the B2B buying journey is given to your sales rep, according to Gartner. The rest is spent on customer-driven research.  

Importantly, intent signals guide you to make more strategic decisions on what information you should share with your leads, and when.

By learning more about your leads, intent data marketing strategies can support a more personalized approach that is relevant to their business and buying needs.

Ultimately, B2B intent data enables you to cut through the noise and provide more value as you nurture your new leads.

Intent data also ensures that when your sales team gets in contact with your new prospects, you've already identified that they are showing strong signals of being ready to buy.

First Party Intent Data vs Third Party Intent Data

When we talk about what buyer intent data is, we're mainly talking about two categories: first party intent data, and third party intent data. 

In simple terms, 1st party intent data refers to all the buying signals your business collects from your own audience. This means your website visitors, as well as data you have within your CRM; such as information you have on your existing customers, as well as new leads and prospects.

For example, first party intent data includes which pages of your website your audience have browsed, which social media posts they've liked, what emails they've interacted with, and so on.

However, collecting your own 1st party intent data can be challenging, so typically B2B marketers will work with specialist intent data providers.

By comparison, 3rd party intent data is any data you have not collected yourself via your business' own channels and sources. Data privacy laws can come into play here, so it's important to ensure your data is legal by working with a transparent and reputable supplier.

Once they've gathered all the information, a good intent data provider can put it all together in a way that gives the intent data meaning. They'll feedback to you about your customer's journey, and how far through the marketing funnel they are based on the intent signals they've collected.

Below is more about those two types of purchase intent data, and what they can tell you about your customers. 

Headley Media colleagues discussing demand generation and lead generation

First Party Intent Data

First party data logo

First party intent data is the simpler of the two types of intent data marketing. 

It's all the data you collect directly from your leads yourself. 

As we mentioned earlier, 1st party intent data encompasses the use of your websites, email, and social media.  

For example, you can track:  

  • Pages on your website users have looked at (such as product/price pages and case studies) .
  • Keywords they've searched for.
  • Emails they've opened.
  • LinkedIn posts they've liked. 

There are buyer intent data tools available that can help you collect and make sense of this information.  

1st party B2B intent data also includes audience intelligence strategies, such as asking your leads a direct question at either the data capture stage or lead nurturing stage. 

For example, you can ask people to fill in a form to access your content, such as an eBook hosted on your website, or a webinar on Zoom. 

As well as their name, company, job title, and business email address, you can ask a relevant profiling question, such as “when did you last upgrade your cybersecurity software?”. This example counts towards 1st party intent data. 

If you generate leads through a B2B lead generation specialist, the data they've collected from your new leads also counts as 1st party intent data, as they've collected it on your behalf.  

At Headley Media, we collect 1st party intent data from our readers.   

Every piece of content across our internal portfolio of 265 content library websites is tagged with associated keywords. Examples of these keywords include topics such as 'cloud computing', 'revenue recognition', 'API security', and 'multi-channel marketing' (the list goes on and depends on which technology decision-makers and departments you're looking to target!). When a user reads a piece of content, we tag their profile with the relevant keywords.  

Over time, as they read more of our content, we are able to profile them using these keywords to build up a picture of the things they're interested in.

We then score their content behaviors to help our clients understand their purchase intent, i.e. the reasons they're reading our content.  

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Third Party Intent Data 

Third party data graphic

However, there's only so much insight you can get from 1st party data alone.  

Savvy B2B tech marketers typically use 3rd party data combined with their own 1st party data to get a fuller picture: a tactic now used by over 70% of marketers.  

This type of B2B intent data gives you all kinds of useful insights, such as when your audience:

  • Views your adverts on other sites. 
  • Views your competitors' websites. 
  • Read reviews and case studies across the web and on apps. 

Third party intent data can also be used to enhance the accuracy of your 1st party data. This is how we use 3rd party intent data at Headley Media; cross-referencing external data against our 1st party intent data, to strengthen the quality of the intent signals and B2B technology leads we provide to our clients.

However, not all 3rd party data is created equal.

A lot of 3rd party intent data comes from marketing cookies, which track users across different websites for information on what they're browsing. 

However, cookies are a bit of a gray area privacy-wise. They're also on the way out: Google, Apple, and other major browser providers are on track to phase them out over the next couple of years.  

Some 3rd party data comes from the 'bidstream' – an advertising network that shares individually identifiable data with businesses, and which has privacy red flags all over it. It's in your interest to avoid bidstream data, as it violates GDPR and other data privacy laws. 

At Headley Media, we cross reference our first party intent data with Bombora. Bombora uses a data co-op of digital B2B publishers to ensure all data collected is compliant and transparent.

Bombora also anonymizes its data for user privacy, so the data it delivers is associated with businesses, not individuals.  

What Are the Benefits of B2B Intent Data? 

We see four major benefits of using intent data marketing. They feed into different parts of the marketing funnel.

The four benefits of intent data we're going to explore are:

  • Genuine interest: precisely targeting leads according to their interest in your product.
  • Nurturing your leads, warming them up to make a purchase.
  • Leveraging data for more effective account-based marketing.
  • Demand generation: ensuring the content you publish fits the needs of your leads.

Intent Data Benefit #1 - Genuine Interest In Your Product 

The main purpose of intent data marketing is to get a picture of what your potential customer needs, so you can ascertain whether your solution is a good fit for them – i.e. if they're a valuable lead.  

In lead generation, you can use B2B intent data to score your leads based on how close they are to buying your product. By reading the buying signals they're giving off, you can identify the strongest leads, and time your sales team's contact with them to maximize the likelihood that they'll buy from you.  

You can also use intent data to improve your advertising. The insight into your leads' behaviors can help you decide what messaging to use in your ads, including customized CTAs, and when and where to serve them. This can be especially effective in retargeting.  

For example, Headley Media clients can place display adverts programmatically alongside their content syndication lead generation campaign, meaning leads who are interested in their relevant content will be double-hit with brand messaging as they browse the internet. 

Two women in a meeting

Intent Data Benefit #2 - Nurturing Your Leads

You can also use intent data to nurture your leads once they're in the marketing funnel.  

It's all about information: if you know what sort of thing a lead is looking for, you can feed them content that matches their needs and gets them to consider your product.  

For example, you can send them relevant content in an email campaign – whether that’s mentioning their industry in the subject line, or including a testimonial from a business similar to theirs.  

Intent Data Benefit #3 - Account-Based Marketing 

Account-based marketing is hugely popular at the moment. In lead generation, it means creating a list of leads that are potentially most lucrative for your business, and focusing all your marketing specifically towards those individual accounts.  

B2B intent data marketing is all about providing a personalized buying experience, so obviously has huge benefits here. Reading those buying signals from your target accounts, and using them to provide the most relevant content and solutions, can increase your chances significantly.  

For example, you can use it to tailor content headlines or calls to action to the target audience – or even tailor the content itself.  

Intent Data Benefit #4 - Demand Generation  

Although demand generation is a softer approach compared to lead generation, focusing on inbound marketing instead of outbound, intent data marketing is useful here, too.  

You can use your big-picture intent data to suss out what kind of content your audience wants to see. Say lots of your leads have been looking for information on a certain piece of industry legislation. You can write your next blog about that legislation, helping to attract more people to follow your LinkedIn page.  

Knowing what your audience is researching, and putting out solutions to their questions, help you position yourself as a trusted source of information: an authority, a thought leader. 

Basically, intent data is the magic dust that marketers can use to get to know their potential customers in the age of product research.  

Intent Data Examples  

Let's look at a best intent data marketing practice example. 

Daniel, the Managing Director of a warehousing software business has been vaguely thinking for some time about upgrading his IT system with better cloud data security.  

For a year or so he has been gently researching various solutions while he waits for the new year's budget to kick in.  

Now he has the budget and is researching solutions more intently. He has read more than 20 articles about cloud data security and has a fairly clear picture of what he wants. He has followed three cloud data security suppliers on LinkedIn and attended a couple of webinars. 

Let’s call one of these suppliers Company A (original, we know). 

Daniel first became aware of Company A when he read their whitepaper on Headley Media's Cybersecurity content library.  

Over the year he read several pieces of content on Cybersecurity Corporate, which gave Headley Media 1st party intent data showing that he was interested in cloud security legislation.  

Daniel consented to Headley Media sharing his data with Company A.  

Headley cross-referenced their 1st party data with trusted 3rd party intent data companies, which showed Daniel's business had done several Google searches and visited the websites of cloud security suppliers.  

Company A began a targeted email campaign, feeding Daniel relevant content about once a month.  

They knew Daniel's business has 150 employees, so they fed him content specifically geared toward small-medium-sized businesses.  

They used a case study from another client similar in size to Daniel’s and mentioned warehousing software in the content.  

Once Daniel had followed Company A on LinkedIn, and attended a webinar on cloud data security, the sales team got in touch – and easily won his business.  

Man writing on laptop

The Best Intent Data Providers: What to Look For

The challenge for marketers is finding the best intent data providers to work with, and the best intent data tools.  

As we previously mentioned, 3rd party data can be a danger zone in terms of user privacy.  

The best intent data providers are fully compliant with the law and fully transparent in their process.  

These are the questions you should ask to be sure your intent data provider is up to scratch: 

  • Can they show you their complete intent data marketing process from the user's perspective?  
  • Are they using 3rd party intent data – and if so, where is that coming from? For example, at Headley Media we collect 1st party intent data via our six brands, spanning 265 content library websites. Our intent data can help you accurately target your most coveted leads, and predict when they're ready to buy.  
  • Have they got agreements in place with their 3rd party intent data suppliers to comply with local and international privacy laws, like GDPR? 
  • Can individual users be identified through this data, or is it anonymized? 

There are different types of intent data providers. Some will simply sell you the data to use in your marketing; others provide the data as part of a wider lead generation service. 

Working With B2B Intent Data Providers

When choosing an intent data provider, you'll want to choose a supplier you can trust.

You should only work with intent data providers that collect their own intent data. For example, at Headley Media, we collect 1st party intent data via our portfolio of owned content syndication platforms. 

When our readers engage with content across our websites, we tag their profiles with keywords related to the content they've consumed. Over time, this data can be used to build a picture of the reader's 'intent' to make a purchase based on the topics they are researching and consuming content on.

Take a look at our services to find out more about our intent lead generation campaigns. Alternatively, why not explore even more B2B intent data ideas to support your technology marketing strategy!