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What is intent data?

Struggling to identify the business needs and purchase intent of your digital audience? Intent data is a dataset that shows what an individual is interested in and, therefore, what they are likely to do, say or buy next.

When you search for something online or visit a website, you are tacitly expressing an interest in particular topics. For example, people who read this blog post are expressing some level of interest in the topic of "intent data". If you were to read more posts which contained the topic "intent data", then it would be reasonable to infer that you are highly interested in that topic.

Intent data is built on this principle. In the case of B2B intent data, it can take into account factors such as the sites a buyer is visiting, products or services that they are researching and the level of purchase intent they are exhibiting. Since most B2B purchase journeys require lots of research, these content interactions can be very predictive of buyer intent.

How is buyer intent data created?

Intent datasets are created by tracking the content consumption of buyers. Whether these datasets are first party intent data (been created on owned digital channels), third party intent data bought from B2B publishers or both, intent data requires four core components:

  • A large and broad repository of content: Content is integral to the B2B buyer journey, with blog posts, videos and gated assets serving as pathways to particular solutions or product endpoints. This content is consumed by buyers that are looking to solve a problem or business need. Tracking content consumption in the early stages of the research journey is key to uncovering buyer intent.
  • Content tagged with topic metadata: Content needs to be machine-readable to track content consumption and uncover buyer intent. Descriptive metadata (topics in the form of people, places, products, concepts, companies, etc, and other tags such as funnel stage) appended to content gives it context which is then used to infer intent.
  • Technology that logs individuals: To build a intent dataset requires the ability to recognize a buyer. Most commonly this is done with a browser cookie: on third party publisher sites the individual’s IP address is logged to identify the company they are from, on owned sites this can be knitted to CRM or marketing automation software that sits behind web and email to fully identify the buyer (name, role, email address, etc).
  • Technology that tracks individuals: Once an individual is cookied, metadata around content can be used to build an ‘interest profile’ – a collection of topics that evolves as the content journey progresses; thereby displaying intent.

First party intent data and third party intent data - what's the difference?

Fundamentally, the key differentiator between first and third party intent data is that first party intent data is yours: an owned, unique competitive dataset on your buyers than no-one else has. If you choose to buy third-party intent data, your competitors have access to the same dataset.

Furthermore, all third party data comes with opt-in concerns – how did that third party data provider get the data? As one SiriusDecisions analyst said at the 2018 European Summit, “If you hear vendors saying that they have 3rd party consent, alarm bells should start ringing. There are significant GDPR concerns with personal data used without opt-in”.

How can first party intent data be used?

Now that we’re clear on what intent data is, let’s go over some specific scenarios in which you can use first party intent data to drive engagement and revenue.

  1. Build data on every part of your digital audience

We typically find that B2B organizations have a “data gap”. 5% of your audience are probably CRM-known, 35% can be identified to an account based on reverse IP lookup – what about the 60% who may be target buyers, but you just don’t know what they are interested in, or how to engage? First party intent data gives you insight on every visitor to your site, allowing you to build data on every part of your audience – at account- and individual buyer level.

  1. Understand prospect intent at a granular level

Third party intent data providers use generalized terms that cover broad topics, typically at account-level. First party intent datasets give you the ability to tailor topic taxonomies to suit your specific business needs. Episerver, for example, can identify over 25 million topics from your content and use this to build an ‘interest profile’ that visualizes prospect intent.

  1. View the intent of every individual buyer

Third party intent data providers stop at the account level due to privacy and regulatory limits, but first party intent data is based on your owned audience interactions at the individual level. Episerver exposes where different buyers within an account have different intent, and provides you instant competitive advantage with a dataset that competitors cannot access.

  1. Personalize your website experience for anonymous visitors

When buyers visit your website before they fill out a form, their activities are considered to be “anonymous.” This term is a bit misleading because the buyer is not, of course, completely anonymous. With some tools you can identify the company and/or industry a visitor represents based on IP address alone. However, that visitor is still considered “anonymous” on a personal level. You don’t know who they are or where they fit within their given company or industry. They could be the CEO or CMO – but they could just as easily be an intern or a student.

Episerver can identify “anonymous” visitors on your website and track the pages they view, and then use web personalization to serve customized content to incentivize them to take a specific action. In most scenarios, anonymous personalization is a means to encourage visitors to identify themselves via a form fill so marketing and sales can engage with them.

  1. Nurture known leads with personalized emails

Job titles and other firmographic details in the B2B space are not standardized, change frequently, and often give no real insight into the seniority, buying power, or even specific functions the lead serves within their company. This often results in improper categorization, sending unqualified leads to sales, and delivering “personalized”, but irrelevant content to leads.

First party intent data identifies not only the context of who the buyer is and their role within their organization but also the topics they are interested in, which means you can accurately categorize leads and place them in the right nurture campaigns.

  1. Reduce manual effort in marketing operations

The benefit of using first party data to power marketing operations is that it reduces the manual effort typically associated with orchestrating omni-channel demand generation.

With first party intent data, no longer do marketing teams need to manually build segmentation and decisioning rules to program the content that is sent in emails or served on websites. Instead, AI leverages this data to automatically decide which is the next-best-content for each buyer and makes personalized content recommendations. Ultimately, this means marketers can be freed to focus on more strategic tasks.

Episerver's position on intent data

Episerver is a demand orchestration platform that powers 1:1 personalization at scale across all digital channels. We work with B2B organizations that have a complex range of products, content and buyers, and need an automated solution to give customers a more relevant experience.

Typically, clients engage with us because they already use third party data to power account-based advertising initiatives to drive traffic to their digital channels, but they then need to power relevant onsite or email experiences.

We see that B2B organizations have a huge data gap. Typically, 5% of their audience are probably CRM-known, 35% can be identified to an account based on reverse-IP lookup. This leaves 60% who may be target buyers, but whose interests are unknown.

Episerver uses Content Intelligence to build first party intent data on all of the buyers consuming your content – whether they are identifiable or not – so you can scale the impact of your marketing. When integrated with BI or CRM tools, this gives you a view of your audience and their intent along with contact information and buying stage.


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