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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Sep 17, 2019 17 min read

Intent Data: What It Is, How To Use It And How To Drive Revenue With It

Intent Data

Why Using Intent Data Might Be The Smartest Move You Make Next Year

Intent DataDuring my session at HubSpot’s INBOUND 2019, I spent a few minutes talking about intent data as a smarter way to go to market. I was surprised at the level of interest and equally surprised at how few exhibitors and agencies are talking about and using intent data with their clients.

Intent data takes your marketing from ordinary to extraordinary as you drive a higher quality lead, a more qualified lead for sales and leads that close much quicker than traditional inbound-marketing-qualified leads. 

Let’s dig into intent data and help you get a better handle on whether this new marketing and sales innovation is right for your business.

What Is Intent Data?

This is going to sound very familiar, because we’ve been preaching this for years now. Your buyers, your prospects and your future best customers are out there right now looking for products and services like the ones you provide.

They’re doing searches, visiting websites, downloading content, watching videos, signing up for webinars, listening to podcasts and forming opinions. SiriusDecisions reports that almost 70% of the people looking for products and services are doing so digitally.

But the challenge is even greater than that, because Square 2’s research shows that roughly 90% of the people who actually end up on your website are not going to want to talk to your salespeople. This includes using chat or other web tools to encourage engagement.

This is where intent data comes into play.

DiscoverOrg defines intent data as “online behavior-based activity across the internet (not just your website) that links buyers and accounts to a specific topic.

This behavioral buyer activity includes:

  • Downloads of whitepapers, e-books and case studies
  • Website visits
  • Product reviews
  • Time on website pages related to industry topics
  • Searches for keywords, phrases or company names”
  • Company reviews or visits to directory websites
  • Registration for webinars
  • Online subscription requests and requests for product or service info
  • Visits to your competitors’ websites and interactions with their content
  • Spikes in content consumption around specific topics

Demand Gen Report’s annual ABM Benchmark Survey Report shows that only 25% of B2B companies said they currently use intent data and monitoring tools, while 35% said they plan to use intent insight within the next 12 months.”

But 70% of the time, the first salesperson through the door wins the business. Buying intent indicators represent a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies.

Where Does Buyer Intent Data Come From?

You already know how to get visitor data from your website, but intent data comes from outside your website before your prospective buyers ever show up for visit number one.

Nearly all pre-purchase research is done online. Web searches and content consumption are strong signals of buyer intent. In fact, Google reports that 89% of buyers do online research to support their decisions before making a purchase. And Demand Gen Report research shows 47% of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before ever talking to or engaging with a sales rep.

The most predictive search activity takes place on websites that are not yours, so getting access to this data should be part of everyone’s demand generation strategy.

Where Do You Get Intent Data?

The best places to get intent data is from third-party data providers. One of these venders is Bombora. They collect and aggregate online activity from a data sharing co-op that includes thousands of B2B websites and media publishers.

By collecting billions of activity-based data points each week, they create baselines for each company’s average content consumption over time, and then they look for surges over normal levels of topical searches or visits.

Most marketers can’t use the raw data, so Bombora and others offer products that use algorithms around the amount of content consumed, the number of content consumers, the type of content consumed, time on page, scrolling speed and other indicators to create a score for each company on each topic.

“Buyers are engaging later and later in their sales cycles,” says Charles Crnoevich, head of partnerships at Bombora, in a DiscoverOrg article. “It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in content. Company surge data allows providers to send relevant information in an unobtrusive way at the right time in their research journey.”

This should sound very familiar. Now you can send different communications based on a prospect’s unique and highly personal buyer journey as indicated by their intent activity. People in the Awareness Stage are communicated to much differently than people in the Consideration Stage.

Intent data now signals to us at what stage in the buyer journey they are in, and our marketing and/or sales response is deployed accordingly.

Other companies that provide intent data in addition to Bombora include DiscoverOrg,, Demandbase, EverString, Idio and Echo.  

How Do You Use Intent Data?

Intent data opens up a number of highly effective marketing and sales strategies for almost any company.

Early Buyer Journey Signals – Today, we have to wait for someone to visit our website, convert on a form and share their contact information with us before marketing can start. This is pure inbound marketing, and while it’s highly effective and very efficient, it’s reactive. We’re sitting around waiting. This approach extends the time it takes all that inbound marketing work to actually produce leads. It’s good, but not great.

Intent data serves up contact information for people who are active in their buyer journey because they’re searching, visiting and downloading content across the web. Then we’re proactively reaching out to them, directing them to you and your solutions.

This supplements your inbound marketing execution and fast-tracks the results from marketing without sacrificing any lead quality or targeting criteria. These people are just as qualified as those who visited and/or interacted with your website and your content.

Remember, these people haven’t visited your website yet, which means they are likely in the early buyer journey stages of Awareness, Consideration and Education. Make sure your outreach includes the right content, message and offers that align with people in early buyer journey stages.

Lead Scoring Model Upgrades – When it comes to lead scoring, most of us use site activity as the main components in our model. Return visits, page views, time on site, number of page views, key page views like the pricing page and conversion signals are the most common lead scoring variables.

But you can now supplement this data with intent data. Have they visited competitor websites? If yes, their lead score should be higher. Are they searching for key terms or phrases? Depending on the search behavior, their score could increase. How many competitor sites? How many searches? The more, the better.

By building a lead scoring model that includes intent data, you can prioritize the leads headed to sales based on intent data signals. A ton of data shows that the fastest company to respond to prospect inquires generally gets the business.

A lead scoring model with intent data allows your sales team to quickly and proactively get in touch with prospects deep in their buyer journey and position your team as the guide they need to take them through the rest of their journey.

Now reps are spending quality time with highly qualified prospects, engaging early in the prospect’s buyer journey and personalizing that experience based on actual behavioral intent.

Customer Retention, Cross-Sell And Upsell Who hasn’t gotten that cancelation email from a customer or realized too late that you’ve lost a long-time customer? But what if you had an early warning system to alert you to customers who are looking for other options?

What about customers who are looking for services you provide but they’re not aware you offer them? This happens every single day.

Intent data helps you protect current customers and helps you optimize the value of all your customers, if used properly. Honestly, so many of our clients come to us asking for our help to generate new prospects when a ton of opportunity is hiding in their current customers.

Targeted marketing campaigns to current customers who are exhibiting certain behaviors is one of the best ideas for fast revenue generation, and intent data is one of the tools we use for delivery.

What Quantitative Improvements Should You Expect From Intent Data?

Marketing is a science and sales is now a science. This means metrics are associated with positive performance and not-so-positive performance.

We can track numbers to show where usage of intent data clearly provides positive lift and significant improvement.

Number Of Sales-Qualified Leads – Marketing is usually focused on marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or anyone who completes a form. Once you apply intent-data-generated leads, sales sees a much more qualified lead. The nature of intent data means these people are active in their searches and in the Education or Consideration stages for sure.

Close Rate On Sales-Qualified Leads – Because these people are signaling their intent through behavior, they are going to be a better, more qualified lead, and should close at a higher rate. Tracking this metric would validate the assumption. Once this is realized, you have a much more efficient sales team, sales process and overall sales effort.

Sales Cycle In Days – Again, better quality sales-ready leads should mean they close faster, which also means you should see reduction in overall sales cycle days. If you take your leads correctly, you can watch sales cycle in days for leads generated from intent data and leads generated from more traditional inbound marketing tactics like content.

Average Revenue Per New Customer – Growing revenue from new prospects is great, but getting more revenue from your existing prospects is better. Once you start driving leads that are mid-buyer journey, and assuming you have a solid guided sales process in place, you should see a more prescriptive and holistic set of recommendations from your sales team.

As an example, if I see through intent data that a prospect is interested in a specific service, I might suggest additional services that should be purchased at the same time. This gives them a better experience, a more comprehensive set of recommendations and some additional guidance to help them make a safe and the best purchase decision — all derived from their intent data.

Pipeline Velocity  In case you don’t know this metric, it shows you how much revenue is flowing through the following:

Number of SQLs in your pipeline X your current close rate X your average revenue per new customer / total sales cycle days

What’s interesting about this is that by increasing the SQLs, close rate and average revenue numbers by just a little bit, and by shortening the sales cycle by a day or two, you can almost double your pipeline velocity. This is one of the secrets of driving revenue growth.

Here is a little model we built to illustrate the point:

Pipeline Velocity Chart

Who Should Consider Intent Data In Their Plans?

This is a great question, because intent data isn’t cheap and isn’t for everyone. First, I think you need a sales team of at least three to five people to make this work correctly. There are significant advantages to giving reps intent data leads vs. simple names purchased from a list broker.

The more reps you have, the better intent data works and the more you’ll get from it. Since new people are starting buyer journeys every day, intent data leads never really run out. You could be sending a couple of hundred leads to every rep every week and have their efforts be highly efficient.

Next, you need to have a clear vision and a marketing strategy associated with how you plan to connect, engage and nurture these leads. This also means you need to have clear personas, solid disruptive messaging and a great sales experience on paper. Yes, on paper.

You’re going to be paying for these leads, and the experience for these people needs to be remarkable. This is another example of how everything in sales and marketing must be orchestrated and strategically designed to deliver an amazing experience for your prospects.

If these back-end elements are not there, don’t invest in intent data leads, because you’ll just be wasting the money and the contacts.

Finally, you can’t really test intent data. Most of the data companies want a couple of months to adjust the algorithms that produce the leads, so you need to be committed to testing this for three to six months at a minimum. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing, because over the course of those months you’ll also be testing content, nurture, engagement, connect and sales process upgrades too.

And if you go back to the metrics we talked about earlier in the article, we can set up dashboards to transparently see which metrics are improving and which ones are not. This allows us to prioritize and focus our efforts on those areas that need attention.

In a relatively short time (three to six months), you’ll have a revenue generation machine that is unmatched in your industry, far outperforms anything you’ve been doing and delivers month-over-month revenue growth like you’ve never seen before.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.