Tl:dr - More and more intent data is sold through software integrations - often ABM software. In these cases, account-level data is streamed into the ABM platform to help automatically inform paid ad placements by prioritizing companies among ABM targets. It's simple to turn on - but it's limiting. The data source, collection method, and detail are all vendor selected. Further, data typically can't be used across multiple use cases. What's best for your company? Let's look at it from various angles.
Is the Simple Answer the Best Answer?
It's increasingly common to see buyer intent data delivered through integrations with other software packages. Integrations, often with Company Surge® data feeds, include ABM software platforms Terminus, Triblio and Engagio (although after the acquisition by Demandbase it's likely now focused on using the related bidstream data feed), as well as a recent announcement by outreach.io.
Marketers and sales teams have a choice then. Do they buy the data integration that's tightly embedded in other elements of their martech stack, or do they purchase a separate intent data subscription.
The answer is "That depends."
Let's look at pros, cons and considerations.
Intent Data Partner Integration Benefits
There are benefits across the channel to integrated data. Data vendors, martech software companies and users may all realize value.
Benefits for Martech and Data Vendors
Stickniness - an embedded data integration tends to make both the software and intent data subscriptions stickier. All the buzz around intent data means a company might feel like they were missing an opportunity by not using it. Consistently receiving some data through their software platform (ABM software for instance) means that's one more hassle involved in changing the ABM platform. Similarly, since the cost of data (wondering how much intent data costs? More on that here) is embedded in the recurring subscription fees for the other software, it often ends up just backed into the Martech budget.....and absent consistent subscription audits, stays there whether it's creating value or not.
Revenue - adding intent data onto another software subscription is a classic up/cross sell or land and expand revenue growth play. That's not wrong or bad. It's business. A single vendor simplifies the customer's management, and the additional revenue tends to carry decent reseller margins with almost no support burden because the use cases and activation of the intent data are baked into the integration.
Loss Leader - In some cases the software vendor sells data at cost, or a loss, to try to generate leads and subscribers for their software platform. Are you really interested in signing up for a different CRM, marketing automation platform, or other software just to access data?
Channel Sales Leverage - for the intent data companies, channel sales (through ABM software partners with integrations) is gravy. It's revenue with little sales or support requirement.
Bottom line for the account-based marketing software partners, integrated intent data let's them ride the wave of interest, grow revenue, create stickier relationships, provide some potential value to buyers, and assume very little support burden. Data companies grab market share and grow revenue without much direct involvement.
Benefits for Buyers
Intent Data Activation Convenience - companies often underestimate the work that's involved in activating intent data. (It's not a silver bullet.) Some, for instance, opt to simply have intent data fed to their syndicated content partners to transparently create MQLs or opted in leads for further marketing. Integration into other software generally relieves them of the burden to have to undertake any creative activation. The software interprets the data and acts on it or makes recommendations. There's no "project" involved in setting up and using the data.
Transactional Simplicity - no separate agreement to run through legal, no separate invoice to process, no separate purchase approval or PO generation - it's probably the easiest way for companies to add intent data to their martech stack.
Integrated Intent Data Drawbacks
But....easy for the buyer and appealing to the data vendor don't translate to rainbows and unicorns for most companies using data. There are significant constraints that result from most integrated intent data applications.
Best Intent Data? or Simplest Integration?
When you buy intent data through an integration, you're buying the vendor's choice. How did they select? for commercial reasons? Technical reasons?
Intent data is collected using various methods. Each model has implications to consider.
- What's the methodology? Bidstream (the basis for a recent lawsuit filed by Bombora against ZoomInfo), publishers' coop, or observing public action?
- Does it rely on 3rd party cookies? IP address resolution?
- What are the privacy implications?
- How many sources does it observe?
- Is contact level™ intent data important? Or is it enough to just have account signals?
- Do you want granular, detailed insight into the problem someone's trying to solve, the outcome they want to achieve, the competitors they're talking with? Or are you content to just have a bunch of signals with unknown relationship to an opaque topic taxonomy?
- What are important signals for your product/service/industry? Do you need technographic information? ABM signals such as recent funding? Engagement with key industry events? Or just some vague topic engagement?
The point is that if you buy integrated intent data you rarely have the opportunity to select the right data a la carte - rather you take the data option that's offered with the integration. That may work for you if you simply want to prioritize accounts. In many cases, that's not enough though.
Buy It Once and Use It...a little or a lot
Let's suppose that the data available through the integration was exactly what you wanted. Next, let's understand how you'll use it.
- Marketing - paid ad custom audience retargeting, demand generation, account-based marketing, event marketing, product marketing research, competitor research, public relations
- Sales - sales intelligence, target account sales, complex buying team insights, pending deal insights
- Success - churn reduction, up/cross sell
Which of these ARE NOT important to you?
You'll have to choose, because most integrations will only focus on the use case for which the data is integrated - often ABM. So not only might you not have access to contact level data (to support complex sales buying team insights and custom audience match efficiency for paid ads) but you might not even be able to access the data to use for other use cases even within the marketing function.
Building a Full Data Stack
Breakout success with purchase intent data often comes when companies tightly integrate all their first-party, second-party and third-party data. This often requires a customer data platform in addition to the mindset and strategic prioritization of in integrated data stack.
Once built, it's a powerful driver of insights including propensity to buy.
Data Driven or Task Driven
Every company has to weigh these factors.
In the end the biggest driver is a company's attitude toward data.
If they are indeed data driven, then they'll want access to analyze, integrate it with their first party intent data, segment and orchestrate. They'll fit the profile of our Marketing Data Master Distillers.
On the other hand if they're buys and simply intrigued by intent data, and want to check the box that they have it and use it - but not actually allocate marketing operations, sales operations, and other activation resources to it, then an integration is probably the best answer.
The right answer, the best answer, will depend on the company, the team and the goals.
The one thing that we know from watching many companies navigate intent data activation is that it takes work, learning, and iterations to really unlock the value. But if you're locked into an integrated delivery, that might not be feasible.