Tl;dr - Visitor identification software is used to understand anonymous visitors to your site, and use IP addresses to identify the accounts for which those visitors work. The rationale is that those visits may indicate activity, projects, and interest in your products and services. The reality is a bit more complex - like everything about intent data. Here's how anonymous visitor identification can fit into a complete marketing data stack.
The Other 97% of Your First-Party Intent Data
Good B2B websites convert visitors to leads at approximately 3%. That means that 97% aren't converted.
Of course that's high. Not all should convert. Some that visit may have previously but not opted into cookies or be using another device. But let's be conservative. What if 50% of your website visitors were there with genuine intent, and were new contacts (maybe even new logos)....would that be important to know?
Of course. And just as you used to know what organic search terms someone fed Google that brought them to your site, many marketing automation platforms used to provide that anonymous visitor info in readily accessible and useable form. Of course by definition it only provided account level insights which were interesting but not actionable - particularly if you sell to enterprise or larger companies. Nevertheless, in the context of a full marketing data stack, it was helpful to know.
That's changed along with identifiable info regulations and IP address evolution because typically those observations are made using IP address resolution. (Caveat - work from home and COVID have seriously impacted marketing data solutions which rely on IP address resolution.)
It's still an important component of the full range of first party intent data (customer data, known marketing data, unknown marketing data) and there are tools to capture it
Visitor Identification Solutions
G2.com (a well known source of second party intent data) identifies various visitor identification software providers. Better known names include:
Keys to understand when comparing and selecting vendors include details like:
- how data is delivered/ingested for your data stack unification (e.g. a portal that sales reps have to access like a database will limit your options for integrating the data)
- how expansive/reliable their IP address resolution process is
- how broad/accurate their firmographic enrichment data is
- the granularity of observations regarding activity on your site (pages, order, time, links clicked, etc.)
Pick one, try them all. But simply having that component of first party intent data - the unknown visitors - is just the start.
You have to be clear about how it can be activated and incorporated as part of the your data orchestration through marketing and sales movements. That starts with understanding it in context.
Context and Anonymous Visitor Identification Data
Simply knowing that somebody from some account (even an account-based marketing or target account) has visited the site is only marginally interesting. It may be completely irrelevant. Alternatively it could be the bit of intent data that you need to uncover the deal that defines your career.
So which is it? There's no way to know for sure, but proper unification of your marketing data stack will be important to understand the context and make some judgement calls on where to focus.
By unification we mean ingesting all the components of your data stack into a tool (often a CDP or customer data platform) which allows you to aggregate data to identify significant activity. If you had no conversions or known visitor first party intent from your site and a single random unknown visitor, you might not pay much attention. However, if that same combination was combined with four contacts from the same company taking key actions observed through third-party intent data over the last two weeks, you'd probably weigh it differently.
So the anonymous visitor's actions, in the context of all the insights in your full data stack, will impact how you react.
Let's dig a bit deeper.
Using Visitor Identification Data for B2B Marketing and ABM
Anonymous first party intent data is primarily used for account prioritization, for possible display ads, sales enablement and other campaigns.
If a visitor from an ABM or target account visits the site it's helpful in some cases to use the identification to deliver personalized information with web content and chatbot experiences.
Knowing that they're active - particularly if it's more than just a random visit to one page, and the page content they've focused on is middle to bottom of the funnel - you might prioritize the account for some paid ads focused on the domain and certain functions/titles/seniorities.
Of course seeing multiple signals across intent data sources increases the priority substantially and calls for ads and other tactics.
Sales enablement can be particularly important because often sales teams might not be privy to all the intent data, or might not be comfortable/effective interpreting it. So marketing can support sales by providing insights along with recommended task actions (e.g. suggested questions, content, cadence templates, etc. - and quick explanations of what you've seen in the data that leads you to believe that's best.)
Anonymous Visitor Info and Complex Sales
It's generally unproductive to provide visitor identification info directly to sales for several reasons.
First, the IP address resolution could be wrong. They'll become quickly suspicious of the "leads."
Second, since there's no contact provided, they will simply call their typical buyer role in a potentially enormous company.....and hope that the stars align.
Third, It can result in lots of sales activity without measurable return, and foment friction between marketing and sales colleagues when alignment is so important.
That's why passing it along, particularly when it's a supplemental signal, with context and recommendations makes sense. It provides your sales team with another data point and confidence in the outreach, and with the enhanced likelihood of success based on the recommendations you make from analysis and inference.
Is Visitor Identification Effective as a Standalone Technology?
The vendors will often suggest that it is. Sales teams will often disagree.
Nothing in intent data is black and white. (Think even about your site form fills - seems like a great lead - what percentage does your sales team ever connect with??!!)
At a high level, however, it can be a worthwhile input to a comprehensive marketing data stack. The natural limitations (only visitors to your site, relies on IP address resolution) are important to keep in mind and mean that it fits a very specific and narrow role.