Sometimes the information we need to make the best decisions is obviously hidden. But without the ability to first collect and then decipher this information, it is useless to us.
That was so during World War II, when the top-secret German information that the Allies needed to prevent impending attacks were transmitted over the airwaves. With teams of people intercepting these messages and providing additional signals to tipsters, the Allied forces had no shortage of valuable data on hand.
The problem was that Germany had encrypted its signals with a seemingly unbreakable code called Enigma, which made them incomprehensible and unusable for anyone who did not have the key to decrypt them.
So while the Allies could amass mountains of signals and information, they did not know what all this data meant.
Code breakers worked day and night to understand the information they were gathering, but human strength just couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t until the British code breaking team at Bletchley Park created Colossus – the world’s first electronic computer – that the messages were finally deciphered and the meaning of all the information gathered became clear. The Allied forces were finally able to respond to the invaluable information that lay before them.
Missed intent data signals in B2B
I see something similar in business (albeit in much smaller proportions, of course): the information we need to be successful is often right in front of us, but we marketers are either unable to collect data, or when we are if we collect them, we find it difficult to gain meaningful insights that can be made actionable.
For B2B marketers, the signals we’re looking for are buyer behavior that signals an intention to buy. These signals come up all the time – when people search the internet, connect with us or our competitors, download content, attend webinars … the list goes on.
Seeing these signals and understanding what they mean is essential in reaching the right customers, at the right time, in the right way.
But just like the Bletchley Park code breakers figured out, collecting and decoding a signal isn’t always as easy as it seems.
In the first part of this two-part series of articles, we examine what these signals are, how they are collected, and which ones are worth paying attention to. In Part 2, we’ll dive into all of the ways these signals can be used to transform B2B marketing and sales.
The signals we talk about in a B2B environment are called intent data and come in three forms: first, second and third party. Each is important, and in each category, some signals are more relevant than others.
What is first party intent data?
Any data collected through activity on a property or asset owned by you is called a. designated First party intent data. When a prospect clicks a link on your website or opens an email you send, these are first-party signals of intent. This type of intent is sometimes referred to as engagement as people are interacting with your brand and content.
Of course, some of these signals are more telling than others. For example, a visitor who downloads a series of white papers might just research one blog post. And someone who visits your pricing page repeatedly might just be a competitor collecting competitive intelligence.
So it’s important to have the intent data of first party advertisers on hand, including visitors who don’t raise their hand by filling out a form or signing up for your communication.
The best data providers can shed light on anonymous activity on your website – and break through the noise for useful insights.
What is second party intent data?
Third-party intent data is a lesser known source of intelligence, but it is still important. These insights come from websites that you don’t own, but their content and conversations are specific to your business.
Think of review sites like TrustRadius, Capterra, and G2. Knowing that someone is researching your business, category, or even your competitors can send an interesting signal. It may or may not indicate a purchase intent, but it is a piece of data that can add to your overall understanding of a prospect’s buying journey.
It is wise to obtain and use this type of intent data.
What is third party intent data?
Third-party intent data includes research done elsewhere on the web – not on your site and not on a review site. It includes specific keyword and topic research that you know are important signals of the potential customers who are most likely to buy your product.
Third-party intent data is important at all stages of the customer journey. However, it is especially important early on as it alerts you to potential customers who may not even have visited your website. This is the phase where they learn about the problem and the solutions that are in place – and then you should start thinking about your brand.
Without third-party intent data, you can’t even know if an activity is happening, which means you’re missing out on a whole universe of unknown buyers. But while third-party intent data can reveal very important information, it is more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff than with first- or second-party intent data.
However, the best third-party intent data providers will weed out the irrelevant information and focus on signals that are demonstrably indicative of purchase intent.
Where is the colossus of B2B?
With first, second and third party data, we have the information we need to better understand our customers (now and in the future). But we need to be able to decipher all of these billions of pieces of data and turn it into information that we can use. In other words, we need our own version of Colossus.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about the technology that can turn signals of intent into meaningful information – and real-world actions that can transform the way B2B companies market, sell, and grow their revenue.
This article was written by Latané Conant, CMO of 6sense, a leading AI-powered account engagement platform.