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Why Third Party Buyer Intent Sucks

In a follow up to my 7 things to do before you launch your ABM program, I wanted to talk about the challenges we as marketers have when executing our program. Having done this myself, and having it validated in the recent 2022 ABM Survey by Demand Gen Report, the biggest pain points identified were:

  • Identifying the accounts that are in market, ready to buy (showing intent)
  • Developing the content for specific personas or accounts
  • Providing sales with the right messaging for these personas and accounts
  • Data enrichment
  • Lack of budget

First vs. Third Party Data

Of course you should use first-party buyer intent if you have it available, but third party buyer intent is less than optimal. First let’s define first-party buyer intent as data your company owns where the buyer shows deep interest in your product or service, such as downloading a Buyer’s Guide.

Third party buyer intent is something you buy to add on to your first-party data. Companies like Bombora, which has long been considered the gold standard in intent data, has been OEMing it for years. Tools like ZoomInfo, Clearbit, and others, package it into their offering, making their tool more robust. 

There are some tools who saw the value of buyer intent and tried to build their own proprietary database of buyer intent data. However, much like when Apple Maps came out and tried to compete with Google Maps, it takes a long time to adjust that algorithm to get it right for every type of buyer and business type.

Examining Review Sites

These sites claim to have their own buyer intent data showing you people who have researched your product and/or competitor’s products. But be careful and do your due diligence. For example, a well known review site claimed to have buyer intent data for our product. We set it up and all of a sudden we were getting a ton of non-relevant accounts claiming to be interested in website personalization or website optimization and coming back multiple times. When we inquired we were told it was a flaw within their tool around remembering search criteria. 

The biggest problem with third party data

The biggest problem with third party data is recency. You don’t know when the last time it was updated. Let’s look at ZoomInfo for example. With all of the people who went through the “Great Resignation” or the “Quiet Quitting” phase, most of their contact data is out of date by at least one or two jobs. The world is changing so fast, it’s difficult for these companies to keep up with all of the changes. 

5 Types of Intent Data

There are five types of buyer intent data: search, engagement, firmographic, technographic, and the dark funnel. Let’s look at them first before we look at the tools and what they offer.

  1. Search intent - (third-party) is derived when someone performs a search for a specific term or phrase in a search engine, such as Google or Bing. This is great to use to inform your SEO, email, or content strategy of what buyers currently care about. 
  2. Engagement intent - (first-party) is a signal derived when someone interacts with your content on social media, your blog, through email, or your website showing interest in a particular topic or your product/service offering. CAUTION: make sure you value the piece of content for what it’s truly worth. A buyer’s guide probably shows buyer intent. But the download of an eBook just shows interest in that topic, not necessarily a strong indicator they are looking to buy. 
  3. Firmographic intent - (third-party) looks at facts about a company such as revenue, number of employees/company size, location, industry, vertical, etc. All of this data is fairly easy to get to with the exception of revenue, unless publicly traded; and I’d argue that looking at industry/vertical are convoluted because every company defines them differently. You just have to pick one and stick with it and know that it will only be right for 80% of the companies in your database.
  4. Technographic intent - (first or third-party) examines the tools in a company’s tech stack and the hardware and network infrastructure. You can gather this through surveys (first-party) or via a tool that captures it (third-party). It also changes your messaging. For example, if someone has a competitor’s tool installed, you don’t have to explain a lot about what your tools does, just that you could replace their existing tool. Whereas, if they don’t already have a competitor tool in place, then you have to spend time educating them on why they need your product or service in the first place.
  5. Dark funnel intent - is when people do research in closed groups, amongst colleagues and personal connections to vet software. These are interactions the vendor will never see and sometimes show up as a “direct” on your website where someone just asks to speak with sales or fills out a form for a demo request.

There’s a tool for that:

5 Types of Intent Data

~ Tracy Sestili, CMO

Tracy Sestili

Tracy Sestili is a tenured marketing executive leading teams at Intellimize, Fountain, SparkPost (acquired by MessageBird), Cisco, and TiVo. She has previously served on the board of Women for WineSense, and co-founded a nonprofit for lung cancer, for which she received a Bay Area Jefferson Award.

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