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Intent data


Ideally, all marketers would like to optimize their marketing by being able to easily identify prospects who are researching and preparing to buy, but have not yet purchased.

This is where data diverges between B2C and B2B. In the B2C world, we can observe triggers or use modeling of social followers to identify interest.

However, what we consider to be true intent data, is principally focused on B2B marketing. The goal is to identify qualified prospects with intent to purchase.

There are two kinds of intent data – first party and third-party.

  • First party data signals are derived from a company’s website, marketing initiatives and programs. These are “owned signals,” meaning it is the marketer’s own data.
  • Third-party data signals are derived from other publishers and partnerships. These signals need to be purchased.

At a high level, signals are commonly based on the prospect’s web content consumption (topics), the method of consuming the content (from site visits to downloads), interaction related to the content (forms and more), frequency and repeat visits.

These signals can tell the story of the prospect’s journey toward a purchase. Two key factors in optimizing the use of intent data are to identify the relevant prospects’ “buying signals” (amongst the noise of signals) and to identify “buy groups” for prospect accounts.

What can you do with these signals to optimize intent data?

With first party (owned) data signals, you can often develop a simple scoring system based on how relevant topics, actions or frequency are indicating intent to purchase. Each time a prospect’s scored buying signals reaches a different threshold, a different marketing action can be deployed to nurture and educate the prospect. Not to mention, to communicate appropriate opportunities to the sales team. Opportunities are further qualified using firmographics or other attributes about the prospect.

Example: Two decision-makers at a key target account visit a page on your company’s website about investments in emerging markets and they both download a white paper. The business also meets established firmographic criteria of annual sales and length of time in business.  Let’s assume that these actions meet a threshold of intent that starts by sending them a programmatically generated direct mail piece with detailed information.

With third party data signals, there is a larger universe of signals to study, including activity on competitor websites and more.  This universe of information about prospects can be modeled if the data is sufficient or perhaps has already been organized into a taxonomy or clusters of intent to purchase that would be appropriate for your company.  This information together with firmographics to qualify prospects for your purpose can be a powerful way to extend your reach outside your own first party data.

What is meant by buy groups?

For many business purchases, there are “buy groups.” This can consist of various decision-makers (a group) for a purchase as well as business owners who will use the service or product. In B2B, you can identify signals coming from various contacts at a business to identify buy groups and then market fully to the group.

So, when is intent data most useful?

Intent data is most useful to lead prospects down a sales funnel when there is a relatively long buy cycle. If your company’s product requires a thoughtful comparison of available products or services and there are multiple-decision makers and business owners, then using buying signals to market to buy groups at prospect accounts is an appropriate strategy.

Marketing can play an instrumental role in nurturing and educating the buy groups at different thresholds of  buying signals and to qualify the opportunity by marrying signal data (first party or third party) with other mission critical firmographics and more.

The Role of Direct Mail in Intent-based B2B Marketing

Digital channels are often the first line of communications to a top-of-funnel lead as a low cost, low impact way to gauge the true seriousness of intent. The best account-based marketing efforts utilize a multi-channel approach recognizing that as prospects move down the funnel, their need for information and engagement grows.

There is credibility in a well branded, informative direct mail piece with content customized for a purchase journey. Components can feature guides, references, special offers and more. Another benefit of a physical piece is that it’s something your prospect can hold onto for further reference or until the moment when a decision-maker is ready to make the purchase.

Through the use of interesting formats, quality paper stocks and good design, direct mail can help your company stand out among competitors.

DM can serve as a mid-step between a prospect and the sales team, or even complete a sale in some cases, reducing the reliance on overloaded sales departments.

Above all, get organized.

Success with intent data usually starts with organizing data sources within your company. Then, shopping for the best sources of third party intent data, scoring or modeling, setting up programmatic and traditional components of the marketing effort and involving sales teams to ensure that the results will be adopted and be fit for purpose

Read the entire series on data types:

DIRECT MAIL AND TARGETING PART 3: Transactional Databases


Gunderson Direct is one of the largest independent full-service direct marketing agencies, providing strategy, data, creative and production expertise to B2C and B2B clients across the U.S.

Gunderson Direct does not own or compile data. We have a deep knowledge of data sources and the tools used to analyze their effectiveness. The goal is always the same: Deliver the optimal mix of prospect files to cost-efficiently test, learn and rollout programs to meet our clients’ business needs.

All our data sources are members of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). As such, they are required to respect data privacy laws, have proper data privacy certifications and maintain a solid reputation in the direct marketing industry.

Alexa has over 30 years in Direct Marketing experience – B2B, B2C and government. From direct mail catalogs to marketing CRM databases, she has always believed in the power of targeting the right audience in the right way. She partners with clients in data strategy, measurement and stewardship. She is passionate about connecting marketing investments to a positive impact on sales.

When she is not digging into a new challenge, she likes listening to live music, practicing her short game, exploring the new marketing technology advancements coming out of the bay area, and visiting her family.