Pros and cons of embedded intent data surge data

Sep 19, 2019 | Author Ed Marsh

tl/dr: Many software providers are now offering integrated intent surge data. That’s easy to implement but has some serious potential drawbacks. It likely keeps marketing, sales and success teams from using the data for various other important use cases. An alternative is to select more robust contact level™ intent data and quickly integrate that with marketing   systems.

Integrated Surge Data Comes of Age

It seems that nearly every day a new press release announces partnerships between software companies and popular intent data providers. These often involve directly integrated surge data. Examples include contact database providers including DiscoverOrg, and various ABM (account-based marketing) platforms including Terminus and Triblio that were among the early adopters. Even now offers an option.

This trend reflects the buzz around intent data, and is a natural progression as simple uses cases, like ABM, become more popular. This approach offers providers and customers some advantages, but also involves some compromises.

Fast and Easy Implementation of Surge Data

Clear among the advantages is simplified setup. Customers can simply “check the box” to agree to an upcharge (sometimes >50% increase over the software cost), select a few “topics” and sit back.

There’s no easier way to put the power of intent data to work.

In short order, the integrations will theoretically help to identify which companies, among long lists of one:many ABM targets, appear to be surging. That can be used to prioritize the paid ad programs managed by ABM platforms, as well as to coordinate marketing and sales operations efforts and to focus outbound sales campaigns.

There is essentially no data management requirement and very little setup for companies that opt to go this route.

For the providers, it’s an easy revenue boost and a way, potentially, to make the subscriptions stickier.

Fast and easy is good for sure. Everyone’s overworked, stressed and eager to innovate but without lots of bandwidth to manage the experiments. 

But there are some cons to integrated surge data as well.

A la Carte Data Options vs. Integrated Surge Data

There are several significant limitations of integrated intent data.

Single Option

Customers are obviously limited to whichever data source is offered as an integration option. Vendors are understandably eager to implement the “easiest” solution, and one with name recognition in the surge data space. They don’t want to have to support someone else’s product - rather just offer the option and simply expand their sale.

Therefore integrated data is simply the easiest option for the vendor, not necessarily the best option for the customer.

Data Limitations - Single Use Case

Second, inherent limitations in account level intent data have conditioned many to assume that use cases are limited to ABM and demand generation. Contact level™ intent data substantially broadens potential uses cases (as discussed in this recent OpenView Ventures blog.) 

Integrated data may fail to support those use cases in two ways: it’s likely not readily available across the enterprise, and it probably lacks the nuance and detail necessary to satisfy more sophisticated use cases - or even context to support personalization at scale.

Supports Marketing but not Sales

Third, it often fails the sales enablement test. What saved work for marketing operations likely means more work for sales operations.

We talk about marketing to companies, but we sell to people. When a sales manager tells an AE “I heard that XYZ company is in the market, see what you can find out” the first step is always to research and try to identify WHO is leading the effort and participating in conversations. Account level data obviously fails here.

Marketing demand generation techniques have accustomed salespeople to receiving leads with contact information. Most digital leads that come through some conversion channel include at least an email, and often more detail. That enables prompt and effective sales follow up.

Identifying accounts with surge data doesn’t do so. Sales, therefore, has to guess. They typically default to common personas and proceed to barrage the poor soul who’s job title matches.

That's inefficient and antithetical to ethos that marketing should help buyers.

Limited Insight

The integrations themselves may limit how much insight marketers have into the surge data. Depending on how deeply they want to be involved in understanding and analyzing, a vanilla integration may prove frustrating.

More importantly, the standard integration data option may be inadequate for sophisticated ABM playbooks. Much of the account-based marketing methodology involves putting the right messages in front of the right buyers at the right time. Doing so requires far more than bare awareness that there’s some activity originating at a company.

Which people are part of the active effort? What job functions and seniorities do they represent? What competitors is each engaged with? Where is each in the buying journey? What (mis)alignment is evident between functions in their evaluation?

Without this information, all messaging must be built around a vanilla version proposed by the marketing team. This completely misses the opportunity

The Right Option May Not Be the Easiest

Using integrated surge data may be better than ignoring intent data. That means that this simple implementation may help marketers check the box.

However, marketing departments that envision using intent data to drive rich account-based marketing activities (real personalization of messaging at scale,) as well as event marketing, retargeting and other applications will likely find that integrated surge data will be inadequate.

Here’s a simple suggestion for companies that aren’t sure what the best option might be. Try them side by side or even serially - but for 3-6 months. Don’t agree to one, two or even three-year agreements.

Further, recognize that it’s a simple process to integrate contact level intent data with your CRM and marketing automation system. You’ve likely done this repeatedly anyway with other applications.


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