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What Is Intent Data? And How Is it Collected?

Your prospects are out there right now, hunting for a solution to a problem you can solve.

Eighty-seven percent of shoppers research products online before they make a purchase, according to research from Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient. They’re performing online searches, reading relevant content, and comparing different options that can address their pain points.

But they’re not asking your sales team for help. The average B2B buyer is mostly finished with the buyer journey before they ever engage with a salesperson. 

What if you could get ahead of this process? 

That’s the goal of buyer intent data, a cutting-edge sales intelligence tool that cues you into prospects’ subtle buying signals, positioning you to be first in the door to make your pitch. To use a sports analogy: If firmographic data shows where all the players are on the field, intent data shows what they’re each about to do next.

What is Intent Data?

Intent data is type of sales intelligence that shows which leads or accounts are actively researching on third-party sites. When research on a particular topic is higher than usual, the account spikes on those topics. 

When buyers face a problem, they do online research to find a solution. They often narrow down their options before you’ve even had a chance to connect with them. Now imagine if you knew your prospects were researching a solution like yours shortly after they started the process.

Sales and marketing teams armed with these behavioral signals can then prioritize accounts that are spiking on relevant topics over equally qualified accounts that don’t show intent. When used correctly, B2B intent data boosts conversions and sales.

With ZoomInfo Intent, sales and marketing teams find accounts that research topics relevant to their business through the online consumption of: 

  • Product reviews
  • Infographics and blogs
  • Product comparisons
  • Message boards like
  • Case studies
  • General news

Organizations that can collect and use online intent data can reach buyers much earlier in the process, guiding their decision-making before a competitor even knows about the prospect’s interest.

And most of the time, the first salesperson through the door wins the business.

Buying intent indicators represent a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies.

“In theory, the digital footprint that B2B buyers create may actually be bigger, or at least have more depth and breadth.

So, why is it easier for a small floral delivery service to target a B2C buyer online than, say, a 1,000-person data security company that provides its services exclusively to financial services companies based in the United States?”

Henry Shuck, ZoomInfo CEO, in Forbes

How is Buyer Intent Data Collected?

Content consumption is a strong signal of buyer intent. The easiest way to access this data is to buy it from a third-party vendor.

These platforms collect and aggregate online research activity from a data-sharing co-op that includes thousands of B2B websites, media publishers, and other sources. 

By aggregating activities each week, they create baselines for each company’s average content consumption over time — and look for spikes above normal levels of topic searches. They also analyze billions of online browsing events as prospects research products and solutions.

Of course, it’s hard to act on raw data. To generate a “spike,” data vendors’ algorithms typically factor in several indicators including:

  • Amount of content consumed
  • Number of consumers
  • Types of content consumed
  • Time on page
  • Scroll speed

Company spike data allows providers to send relevant information unobtrusively at the right time in their research journey.

It also helps down-funnel salespeople focus their time when those opportunities are coming to fruition and want to hear from them.

How Does Intent Data Differ from Other Web Tracking Data?

When prospective buyers visit your website, you can track the activity and bump up lead scores. Or at the very least, when someone fills out and submits a form on your website, you can nurture them with ads and email and potentially convert them.

Great. But what about all of those prospects who are researching challenges that your solution can address?

What if they’re doing research — just not on your website? When your prospects visit other websites, you have no visibility into their activity or implied intent.

How Do You Use B2B Intent Data?

Sales and marketing teams can rely on intent data to ensure effective go-to-market strategies, accurate segmentation, and personalized outreach to the right people.

Companies that don’t use predictive intelligence data are limiting their response to data from their own website, while their potential buyer has likely been trying to solve a pain point for weeks.

There are five main use cases for sales and marketing teams using intent data in 2021:

  1. Identify early buyer interest. Purchase intent signals help identify which companies are actively researching your solution — before they fill out a form on your site or engage with your sales or marketing teams.
  2. Build targeted account lists. Sales and marketing teams can dynamically filter outreach lists for accounts that show active interest.
  3. Personalization. Marketing and sales teams can better personalize initial outreach with resources that match whatever accounts are already looking for.
  4. Lead scoring and prioritizing accounts. Use predictive purchase data to weigh your lead scoring model. Give priority to companies that demonstrate interest and purchase intent — before they initiate the buying process with a competitor.

Analyze and retain customers. Get real-time visibility into which customers are researching topics and solutions. These insights about existing customers make it possible to up-sell proactively and identify pain points — before you’re blindsided by customers who failed to renew or bought an offering they didn’t know you had from a competitor.

Why is Predictive Data Important for B2B Sales?

According to TOPO’s latest Intent Data Market Guide, B2B intent data has emerged as the fastest-growing data category over the last three years, changing how teams prioritize their time and gather insights about accounts. (Translation: If your competitors haven’t already started to use it, they’re thinking about it.)

Get in Front of Buyers Earlier in the Buying Process

Most B2B customers prefer to research independently online. Predictive purchase data allows sales and marketing teams to initiate contact with buyers earlier in the buying cycle.

We don’t expect this trend of self-guided buyer research to change anytime soon, and companies that wait for prospective buyers to stumble across a landing page are going to be late to the game.

Other benefits of using predictive data include:

  • Identifying and leveraging a vast amount of contacts for account targeting, finding the ideal buyer
  • Having opportunity with potential customers that haven’t directly engaged with sales and marketing teams yet
  • Calculating more effective sales and marketing plans using content consumption
  • Maintaining and personalizing relationships with prospects
  • Knowing which accounts are primed to spend

Using Intent with Other Types of B2B Data

Intent data is rarely used alone.

Knowing that a lead is interested in a particular topic isn’t very useful unless that lead is also qualified to buy. That’s why intent data is often paired with firmographic, technographic, and other data which narrow the list of accounts to just those that are high-fit.

You can think about buyer data in three categories: Fit, Intent, and Opportunity.


Fit Data

Fit data includes all the different ways of segmenting and scoring prospects (technographic data) and accounts (firmographic data). This includes demographics like job level, job function, age, and location. It also includes company firmographics such as tech stack, size, revenue, industry, and budget.

Fit data is pretty static. It can tell you whether an organization or an individual contact is generally a good fit — but says nothing about context or timing.

Opportunity Data

We refer to opportunity data as “Scoops,” which indicate favorable conditions for a sale within an organization. Scoops are company events like new rounds of funding, moves and shake-ups in the C-suite, mergers and acquisitions, new store openings. And all of these buyer signals show favorable conditions for a sale.

Intent Data

This tells you that the time is right to engage with people who are actively showing intent to purchase a solution. When you combine intent data with other signals and a strong fit, the likelihood of success is much higher.

It’s helpful to know when there’s activity at a company, but if you don’t know who to engage with and don’t have a phone number or email address for them, it may be insightful, but it isn’t actionable.

The data trifecta of Fit, Opportunity and Intent puts all of the pieces together.

Evaluating Intent Platforms

When evaluating intent data providers, here are a few crucial questions to ask:

  • Does the data map to leads, accounts, or both?
  • How broad is the coverage and how granular is the detail?
  • Can the provider deliver context? That is, do they provide a breakdown for how the scores are calculated?
  • Does this data integrate into your existing marketing system, CRM, and scoring model?
  • How frequently do you get your intent updates? 
  • Are you able to customize the topics you track? 

With ZoomInfo Streaming Intent, you are alerted in real time, the moment a new intent signal is detected. And because our intent data is integrated with the ZoomInfo platform, we save you time by suggesting contacts to reach out to based on your ideal customer profile. Intent data in real-time, not in batches.



Intent data, like any data, is not infallible. If you use intent data to focus only on buyers who show intent, you’ll invariably exclude some buyers who are interested but who are not captured by the intent data provider’s model.

Too much focus on intent data can also lead marketers to prioritize quick wins at the expense of building a sustainable pipeline. B2B intent data works best when paired with other data to create a scoring model that also reflects fit and engagement.

Ultimately, when used correctly, intent can be a powerful predictor of which accounts are likely to buy.

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