How do Marketers Evaluate Intent Data? Go to the Source

Garrett Mann
Garrett Mann

Director, Content Marketing

There are many choices marketers have when it comes to data, but the truth is; data is only as good as its source. Understanding just how the data you possess is derived is key to understanding just how effective that data can be for you.

“Bottled at the Source”

intent data sources bottled
Source: FreeImages

Many bottled water companies will use the phrase “bottled at the source” on their labels. This bit of marketing is meant to help consumers find value in the fact that the water they are drinking is the ultimate of freshness. You’d be surprised to know that “Bottled at the Source” can mean any number of sources and not just that idyllic paradise you see on the label. Some are more boastful about this and others bury it on the back label, but very few companies can even make the claim that their water is, in fact, bottled at the source.

So what does bottled water have to do with intent data? It is very simple. In a landscape that is full of vendors claiming to provide intent data, there are very few that can actually deliver true intent. In order to distinguish between these providers, you must first understand the various data sources available and why they are important.

A guide to understanding data sources

There are 3 specific types of data that marketing insights can be derived from: 1st party data, 2nd party data, and 3rd party data. From a solution provider’s point of view, 1st party data is typically your internal data, while 2nd and 3rd party data is data made available to you from outside sources. Furthermore, intent data can specifically be broken down into two simple categories: 1. Intent to buy and 2. Intent to buy your solution(s).

1st party data

1st party intent data sources1st party data is always the most valuable data that a marketer can possess and is derived from direct engagements with your prospects and customers. These engagements can include registration-based data, content downloads, campaigns they have responded to, visits to your website, direct communication with your sales teams, etc.

If you are not tracking this data currently, you are missing out on valuable opportunities to convert with potentially interested parties. More importantly, this type of data can provide deep insight into whether a specific buyer or account intends to buy from you or not.

While the value of 1st party data is unquestioned, it’s restricted in the sense that you never only want to market and sell to customers interested in you. You want to sell to prospects who are buying and may or may not know about you, or have expressed interest. It’s the classic mistake of bottom-funnel clarity causing top-funnel blindness. As a result, marketers need to turn to outside data sources to complete the picture.

2nd party data  

2nd party intent data sources

2nd party data is a relatively new classification for data and is very simply defined as 1st party data shared directly with you from an outside source.

2nd party data serves two distinct purposes:

  1. Validate your 1st party data – making sure that those prospects and customers that you already know are in fact, interested and active in researching your solutions category.
  2. More importantly, expands your view of your addressable universe – allowing you to identify prospects that are active and in-market but may not already know about your brand or solutions.

The best things about 1st party data are what make 2nd party data great. 2nd party data providers own their data and can validate that their data was generated by their own audience within their own environment.

More importantly, when you have specific insight into the makeup, content consumption, behavior of very specific audiences, you are able to reveal true insights regarding the intent of those audiences to marketers. Therefore, 2nd party providers can make direct correlations between accounts that are in-market and the specific buyers from those accounts that are leading purchases and making decisions.

Data needs to be direct, observed and attributable to be valuable and more and more vendors are finding value in 2nd party data because it is a good source of intent. It is this direct insight into the behavior of customers and prospects that is driving adoption for marketers – a recent study from Econsultancy, not surprisingly, 82% of marketers are increasing their usage of 1st party data but 60% of marketers also said they are planning to increase their usage of 2nd party data as well.

3rd party data

3rd party data sourcesYou can generally think of third party data providers as middle men and/or brokers. There are numerous vendors and/or data platforms that aggregate data from media publisher partners, ad networks, ad servers and publically available sources such as social networks and corporate websites. This data is then rolled up and packaged in a way to provide insights into which accounts are showing interest in particular areas of the market. Then, many marry this account-based data with known contacts in those companies.

3rd party data is mainly used to “fill in the blanks”:

  • I know X individual from Y company is interested in my by virtue of 1st party data – who else from Y company can I target?
  • I know that company A is in the market because of 2nd party provider B. Who else from company A can I find to target?
  • I have a set of emails in my CRM system corresponding to companies X, Y and Z, but no browser cookies. Can I find browser cookies for these people to open up another channel of targeting beyond email?

It is important to point out that there is often no direct correlation between contacts being provided and the individuals from the account that are actually generating activity, making it hard to determine level of intent.

“Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car”

dirty car data sources
Source: FreeImages

Ownership is everything when it comes to data. Because 3rd party data providers don’t actually own the data they are providing, the quality of their data is compromised by lack of context and the strength/weakness of their partners. When you don’t own the data, you cannot make editorial judgments about content/intent associations. Understanding who is generating each activity and where and within what content environment that activity is happening is essential in evaluating whether or not there is true intent.

Beyond the lack of context, there are also questions surrounding the strength of audience that data is being generated by. Most 3rd party vendors will not specifically reveal where their activity is being generated from, only that it is from a network of sites and publisher partners like X, Y and Z. Why? Because sites and publisher partners are constantly moving in and out of these networks, 3rd party data providers don’t want to commit to long term availability for any of them.

Making the right decisions on intent data

When it comes to intent data, marketers continue to be provided with a number of internal and external partners, platforms and solutions that can make it crippling to make the right decision. As you are getting a handle on how to use data to make better marketing decisions, it is always important to return to the source to determine just how much value you are getting from that data.

I would love to get your insights on the value of 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data in your own marketing efforts. Feel free to leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

activity intelligence, data sources, data-driven marketing, data-driven strategies, evaluating data providers, intent data, marketing intelligence, purchase intent data

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