The Different Types of Intent Data You Must Know to Drive Sales

June 8, 2022
Contributor: Sarabeth McCarthy

Anticipate software buyers’ needs and drive conversions using different types of intent data for marketing and sales campaigns.

As a software provider trying to market products to the right prospects, you know that understanding customers’ intent is the key to driving sales. The deeper you dive to understand buyers’ behavior, the more relevant leads you’ll be able to generate.

But how do you figure out what your consumers want or need? How do you get in touch with them at the right time with the right message? Intent data — i.e., users' behavioral signals collected during online activity — is a powerful tool that can help determine who your potential customers are, what they're interested in and how likely they are to buy from you.

Intent data is of various types, so it can be overwhelming trying to focus on the most valuable signals. This article breaks down the different types of intent data and explains why they are important for understanding your customers and selling to them.

What is intent data?

In simple terms, intent data is information that indicates prospects’ level of interest in a particular product or service online. It includes prospects’ web searches, the pages they visit and the content they consume. Intent data is captured for all online activities, such as online purchases and social media interactions. It is then processed and analyzed to help understand the behavior and intent of potential customers so you can target them better.

The role of intent data in sales and marketing

Intent data signals have become increasingly important in today’s sales and marketing landscape for two main reasons:

  • The rising popularity of account-based marketing (ABM): In ABM, the focus is on targeting specific high-value accounts that have the most potential of converting into sales. This approach requires a deep understanding of target accounts, including their business needs, pain points and purchasing power. Intent data helps you gain these insights and tailor your outreach accordingly.
  • The growing demand for inbound marketing: In inbound marketing, the focus is on attracting first-time visitors and turning them into loyal customers. This is done by providing the answers they’re searching for online and solving their problems. Intent data helps you understand what type of content your target audience is interested in so you can create more of that content type.
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4 types of intent data (or intent signals)

There are four main types of intent data you should be aware of. Each type provides a different level of insight into buyer behavior, so it's important to understand their differences.

1. Search intent data

Search intent data is captured when someone enters a keyword or phrase into a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing). You can use this data to identify the type of queries your target audience is searching for and offer the most relevant answers to their questions.

For example, if you sell marketing software, you might notice that your target audience is searching for “how to improve my website’s SEO.” You can use this data to create content that addresses audience needs.

How to leverage search intent data as a software provider:

  • Research the keywords your target audience is searching for and use them in your website content, blog posts and social media posts, among other online content.
  • Use Google AdWords to run ads targeting these keywords.
  • Use Google Trends to understand how the search volume for specific keywords changes over time.
  • Monitor your SEO efforts to ensure your website appears on the search results for these keywords.

2. Engagement data

Engagement data is information on the level of engagement users have with a particular piece of content — whether they read it, share it or comment on it. This type of data is mainly captured through social media sites (such as Facebook and Twitter), email marketing platforms and blogs.

For example, if a user shares your blog post on social media, it could be an indication that they found the post helpful and are interested in your product or service. You can use this data to target and convert the user into a buyer.

How to leverage engagement data as a software provider:

  • Monitor the social media platforms where your target audience is active, and look for opportunities to engage with them.
  • Use engagement data from email marketing campaigns to segment your list of subscribers and target them with relevant content. 
  • Use social media platforms to run targeted ads for users who have engaged with your content in the past.

3. Firmographic data

Firmographic data is information about a prospective company, such as its size, industry, location and revenue. This type of data is typically captured through business directories, website forms and third-party intent data providers. Combining firmographics with ABM helps target your marketing and sales efforts at companies that are more likely to convert.

For example, if your ideal customer is a small business in the healthcare industry, you can use firmographic data to target your marketing and sales efforts at companies with similar demographics.

How to leverage firmographic data as a software provider:

  • Use business directories to research the companies in your target market.
  • Use this information to segment your marketing and sales efforts.
  • Create content that is tailored to the needs of specific industries or company sizes.

4. Technographic data

Technographic data is information about a prospective company’s technology infrastructure, such as the software it uses, the hardware it has and the networks it is connected to. This type of data is typically captured through surveys or questionnaires, helping you understand your target companies’ technical capabilities and needs.

For example, if you sell customer relationship management (CRM) software, it would be helpful to know if your potential customers are using an outdated system or if they’re already using a competing CRM tool. This information can help you determine the best way to differentiate your offering and close more deals.

How to leverage technographic data as a software provider:

  • Use surveys, website scraping and questionnaires to identify companies that use the type of software you offer.
  • Use this information to better target your marketing and sales efforts.
  • Create content that is tailored to the needs of specific industries or company sizes.
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Common sources of intent data

There are many different sources of intent data that you can use to boost conversions. Let’s discuss some of the most common ones:

  • Ads/Bidstreams. Ad platforms collect data on the keywords users search for before clicking on an ad. You can use this data to target ads at users interested in your software and even create marketing and sales content tailored to them.
  • Search engines. Search engines allow you to target buyers through keywords. You can leverage this data source to optimize your website for the keywords buyers use when searching for software solutions like yours.
  • Marketing content. You can segment buyers into different lists, and based on the content each list consumes, provide targeted information about your software offering. This way, you increase the chances of user engagement with your product, which helps boost conversions.
  • Web traffic: Web traffic can go all the way through the funnel, but you must ensure the content and information offered by your website are relevant to software buyers’ needs. This will allow you to better target and segment your prospects.
  • Internet scraping. Internet scraping is using bots to find users with the highest intent to purchase. You can use various tools to gather information on prospects that might be interested in purchasing your software. This type of intent signal can be used to create targeted lists for marketing and sales outreach.
  • Third-party sources. These include software directories such as Capterra, Software Advice and GetApp. They enable buyers to shortlist and select the best software solution by providing comprehensive product profiles with reviews, product comparisons and other educational material. Since their data sources are owned and operated properties, they provide meaningful intent signals — covering top to bottom funnel.

Key considerations when choosing intent data 

Not all types of intent data follow the one-size-fits-all agenda; some vary depending on the products or services being offered. When choosing intent data for your software company, these are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Quality. Accuracy plays a huge role in the quality of intent data. Be sure to choose a provider that offers accurate, up-to-date information and provides high-quality data.
  • Quantity. Quantity of intent data is also important for segmenting your prospects and creating targeted lists. Ensure you have enough data to segment your audience properly.
  • Relevance. To be useful, intent data must be relevant to your business. Be sure to choose data specific to your software industry; this will help you reach your target audience better.
  • Ease of use. Intent data should be easy to use and understand. Be sure to choose a provider that offers an easy-to-use platform and the support you need to make the most of the data.
  • Cost. The cost of intent data is also an important consideration. Be sure to choose a provider that offers competitive pricing, fits your budget and can help you get a good return on investment (ROI).
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Sarabeth McCarthy

Sarabeth McCarthy is a Senior Data Insights Client Relations Partner at Gartner Digital Markets. She helps companies gain market insights, expand prospect pools, and accelerate sales cycles through Data Insights offerings. When not at work, Sarabeth spends her time hiking around her adopted home of Washington DC and Northern Virginia. Connect with Sarabeth on LinkedIn.

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