One of the important recent B2B MarTech innovations is the development of intent data from vendors like Bombora. As prospects are now using the Internet to self-educate, they are reaching out to a smaller set of pre-screened vendors later in the sales cycle. But if firms are being stealthy to avoid detection during this initial phase, B2B firms have been looking to uncloak this veil of secrecy and reach out to firms during the initial phase.
One response to anonymity was content marketing which looks to deliver information (and perhaps uncover prospects) during this early phase. But it is difficult to customize messaging to anonymous individuals. Thus sprung up visitor id services such as Demandbase that map IP addresses to company firmographics in real-time. For example, a visitor from a P&C insurance IP address would be shown a website and content that speaks to their industry specific needs.
Firms also engaged in SEO and SEM to drive traffic to vertical content. While these activities were an improvement, they provided no indication concerning whether the prospect was in the market for a firm’s solutions.
Firms like Bombora and The Big Willow work with B2B media sites to map site traffic and actions (e.g. downloading white papers, webinar attendance, site searches), to specific companies. Thus, each IP address has a baseline activity trail which indicates topics of interest. Intent firms then match B2B media site visitor actions to an intent taxonomy covering thousands of topics. Of course, larger firms will leave more distinct trails and firms will display heavy footprints around their own industry and target segments. These patterns are company-specific background noise. To find the intent signals, intent vendor analytics determine which topics are surging at each company. For example, If GE has X searches per week on cloud computing, then this activity rate is general background noise. But if activity spikes to 2X, then there is likely to be some initiative underway at the firm concerning cloud computing. It is these surges that identify firms to be targeted. Intent data provides a mechanism for placing calculated bets on which accounts and prospects deserve additional resources.
Keep in mind, this activity remains anonymous. A cloud computing vendor does not know who at GE is involved in cloud computing initiatives, but they know it is the appropriate time to target GE with stepped up marketing (SEM, email, sales calls, etc.).
Thus, intent data is integrated into predictive marketing platforms such as Lattice Engines, LeadSpace, Mintigo, Everstring, and Radius.
Just this month, Everstring added Bombora’s intent data to their Audience platform. Surge data is also available for programmatic targeting on platforms such as BlueKai (Oracle), Krux, and Lotame. Thus, it is possible to target advertising for firms that have shown a surge of interest in a topic.
Like any technology, intent data has its limits. While it helps identify when to call into an account and topics of interest, it doesn’t identify whom to call and whether there is an actual initiative related to the topic. Furthermore, intent data does not indicate whether a firm is a good fit (e.g. size, industry, technographics) or how far along they are in the discovery process.
In a blog earlier this month titled “Intent Data is Great. Except When it Isn’t,” Gartner Research Vice President Todd Berkowitz listed the following limitations concerning intent data:
There are a large number of scenarios where intent data and models don’t add nearly as much value (if any). It’s not because the intent data is inaccurate. It’s because there is simply not enough data available to use directly or to put in models. They include:
New and emerging technology categories
Certain geographies, industries or other niches
Solutions (especially services) that can’t be easily categorized
Thus, intent data works best for well-established technology segments (versus emerging ones). Just make sure to also look at fitness indicators when building surge-based campaigns.
Within 15 minutes of posting this blog, I saw that Bombora was named a 2017 Cool Vendor by Gartner.
“We believe it’s a true milestone to be recognized by Gartner as a Cool Vendor in SaaS for 2017,” said Erik Matlick, founder and CEO of Bombora. “Our customers choose Bombora so that they may access the largest source of B2B intent data for use in their account-based marketing strategies. For us, being a ‘Cool Vendor’ serves as a validation of our ‘everybody wins’ approach to the ecosystem and the impact that our dynamic, quality intent data is having across B2B sales and marketing.”