tl;dr - Often people researching buyer intent data are surprised to learn that they might not get details on who has taken action, or regarding the action taken. Their first thought is that it would be important to know to simplify outbound sales. The value of contact level data, though, extends well beyond the contact details. It's critical to unlock the efficiency potential of intent data, for segmentation and effective messaging.
"That's cool, but I need to know WHO's active and what they did."
That's the most common comment I hear from people learning about buyer intent data. It's also the most common comment from people who are trying to take their intent data game to the next level.
This reaction is understandable.
Knowing which buyers are taking buying trigger actions feels so powerful....until you realize that most intent data doesn't really answer that question.
Account level data, whether it's surge data, ad exchange/bidstream info, reverse IP lookup or AddThis widget info (the most common data collection methods) takes teams right up to the edge of excitement and then stops short.
That's a particular challenge with outbound sales teams as demand generation marketer Linda Duchin highlighted in her article here.
What's often missed, though, is that contact level™ intent data delivers substantially more value than the contact details themselves.
We'll get to that. But first, let's understand why it's often not fully appreciated.
Intent data is fundamentally about improving efficiency. A huge portion of marketing and sales effort is wasted on activities which miss the audience of active buyers. Buyer intent data teases a solution, but is it?
When an account is showing "surges" in activity, what happens next? Marketing and sales leap into action - with information and outreach about products and services. Marketing may target paid ad programs by URL and possibly seniority and function. Sales will target outreach based on the persona with whom they typically engage. Both are guesses.
More than just guessing about "who" and relying on assumptions about typical roles and functions, they also guess about what and why. As the guesses pile up the efficiency is eroded.
What problem is the person trying to solve? What outcome are they seeking? What is their actual job function and seniority? At what stage in the buying journey are they currently? Aside from potential hints that may be inferred from the confluence of opaque topics, there's no way to know. Therefore there's no realistic way to tailor messaging appropriately. So off go marketing and sales, blasting generic service and product messages at people whom they hope are active.
As a consequence it's much less likely to resonate.
Therefore the efficiency dividend is never realized. Too often account level buyer intent data is just a gadget, like many in the martech world. It holds so much apparent promise, but it never quite delivers.
Measuring the Absence of Efficiency is Nearly Impossible
Why do people tolerate this? First, simply using intent data seems to put them ahead of the curve. It feels pretty innovative.
It's also hard to quantify the cost.
It's easy to measure results. Like proving a negative, however, it's much harder to measure lack of results.
Therefore marketing teams can never know what they're missing.
- They can compare custom audience match rates, but they can't know what percentage of the thousands of dollars spent monthly on retargeting are squandered because of messaging that doesn't resonate.
- They can measure broad account engagement for ABM programs, but can't know how many active participants in buying teams they might be missing.
- They can A/B test relative performance of email templates by open and click, but can't quantify the relative impact of personalized messaging that speaks directly to individuals based on actual dynamic factors.
Similarly sales operations teams can measure connect rates, but struggle to understand the substantial cost of "research" time required to translate account level intent into actionable sales insights. This is obviously exacerbated when companies sell into mid and enterprise firms where functional departments will have many tens or even hundreds of employees.
And they can't know who's working against them, and their deal champion, in complex sales based on high-level, abstract topics.
And so, in the end, most account level intent data succeeds, to the extent that it does, because of a placebo effect.
Sales reps are told there must be a project - and so they work hard until they find it.
And there's no way to measure what would happen in many other accounts if they were just as diligent in working them.
The bottom line, therefore, is that the significant opportunity costs of working with incomplete data are often overlooked. So the natural, immediate reaction "Wait, you're not telling me who!?" turns into acceptance "This must be better than nothing."
Unlocking the Value of Contact Level Intent Data
When you know who's taking action, and the context of the action they're taking, you unlock amazing opportunities.
Far beyond simply shortening the path for outbound sales, you have the information you need to segment effectively so that messaging resonates. Paid social nurturing and conversion ads, outbound sales templates, dynamic website content - it all starts to fall into place based on where the prospect is in their journey.
Inherent in contact level intent data is information on job function and seniority.
The insights around the type of action someone has taken (article engagement, competitor engagement, etc.) and the detail (key terms and specific competitor) can be parsed to understand stage in the buying journey, problem being solved, outcome being sought and more.
Combined, these inform a messaging matrix which account for all of these factors. (More here in the context of programmatic ABM.)
A senior exec from marketing function who's late in buying journey trying to solve a clear problem and engaging with three competitors would appropriately get very different messaging from a junior level finance, sales or IT colleague who is early in their buying journey and manifesting other types of engagement.
The Value of Efficiency
If intent data is about increasing efficiency: about focusing marketing and sales resources effectively, then knowing more is critical to optimizing performance.
Simply using intent data to select accounts for the same random marketing and sales outreach as every other account - just prioritized - is hardly efficient.
The bottom line is that the savings (through efficiency) and additional opportunities realized (through effective, personalized, resonant messaging) teased by buyer intent data are primarily available only with contextual contact level data.
That's because the value of contact level info and associated contextual insights are far greater than the inclusion of convenient contact details. The value stems from the rich, nuanced understanding of who's taking what action and why. You can't unlock the value with a DiscoverOrg contact download!