This article is part of an occasional series from leading voices about key issues facing marketing today.

My friend Charlie loves to fish. Last week, he told me about an expedition that produced a huge haul of fish. When I pressed him for details, he eventually confessed that he used a fishfinder—a combo sonar-radar device that tells him exactly where to drop his line to catch the big ones.

I'm not much of a fisherman, but I am a marketer, and something about Charlie's story resonated with me. In the marketing profession, many of us spend our days fishing the murky waters of the marketplace for sales-qualified leads. I've done that for decades without the equivalent of a fishfinder. Sometimes I land a big one, and other times it's been tough to score a nibble.

But it turns out that there are fishfinders for marketing. I'll get to that in a sec.

The Old Way to Get Good Leads

Before I realized that marketing fishfinders exist, my lead-gen approach had always been to cast a wide net. Essentially, I dropped a bunch of baited fishhooks (marketing whitepapers, SEO pages, outbound email campaigns, etc.) in the water, crossed my fingers, and waited for a fish to bite.

Over the years, I've tried every marketing tactic other than TV ads and blimp ads to land great leads for my B2B clients. I've bought more lead databases for clients than I care to admit, and I've thrown a ton of marketing at those cold leads hoping to warm them up, lure them into my client's funnel, and catch something that ultimately converts to enough-to-justify-keeping-the-agency revenues.

Honestly, I was feeling pretty good about my lead-gen game until I discovered buyer intent data, at which point I realized there's a world out there most of us didn't know existed—that there really is the equivalent of a fishfinder for ready-to-buy-now marketing leads.

The New Way to Get Good Leads: Buyer Intent Data

An example scenario is the best way to explain how buyer intent data works in the real world. Let's start by envisioning a CMO named Sue who is responsible for B2B demand gen for a company that sells cybersecurity solutions.

Via the buyer intent data provided by their vendor, Sue and her colleagues can find out that Mary, the chief security officer (CSO) at Mega Bank Inc., has spent the last 24 hours scouring articles on the Web that discuss the cybersecurity solutions that Sue's company sells. Even better, four of Mary's colleagues at three Mega Bank offices around the country have all been searching for the same information—all in the past week.

Mega Bank is a red-hot lead for Sue, and the only reason Sue knows about the lead is because she knows the value of third-party buyer intent data.

In this example, Sue's marketing automation system gets a daily feed from the buyer intent vendor with hot, third-party leads like Mega Bank. As soon as they arrive, Sales and Marketing immediately start engaging with prospects that are clearly in a buying mode.

Sue's competitors lose out on this deal opportunity with Mega Bank; actually, they never even knew it existed. Indeed, if Sue had been focused solely on the people who came to her company's website, or if she were focused only on buying lead data devoid of purchase intent, she too would have missed this opportunity. Because she's an enlightened marketer who is ahead of the times, she embraced buyer intent data as soon as she knew it existed. Brava, Sue!

A Necessary Change in Perspective to Seize This Opportunity

The key to getting excited about buyer intent data is recognizing that most buying signals for your prospective customers are occurring outside of your view. Buyer intent data lets you see these distant, but critically important, buying signals—and knowing about that purchase interest can give you a big leg up on competitors who are still using myopic marketing methods of old.

Sign me up. I'm officially a convert. Purchasing this kind of buyer intent data is increasing sales at the B2B tech companies my agency serves. In effect, they now have a fishfinder for high-value B2B tech leads, and it's a game-changer for them.

The trick is finding the right source of buyer intent data for your product line.

My tech industry clients use TechTarget Priority Engine, but that won't help if you sell, say, medical devices or consumer products. But this is a growing field, and you should be able to find buyer intent data for your niche. Early movers in the buyer intent market include TechTarget, Bombora, The Big Willow, and Madison Logic.

If they don't have purchase intent data for your industry, odds are they'll know of a company that does.

As the hype for buyer intent data builds, the keys will be knowing the right questions to ask your vendors and understanding how to operationalize buyer intent data within your organization. Those are topics I'll cover in future articles here at MarketingProfs. Please reach out if you have questions or if I can help you in your search for your very own marketing fishfinder.

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Purchasing Buyer-Intent Data: A Marketer's Primer

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image of Ken Gaebler

Ken Gaebler is CEO and founder of B2B tech marketing agency Walker Sands. He has developed B2B demand-gen programs for some of the largest tech companies in the world. Contact him at

LinkedIn: Ken Gaebler

Twitter: @gaeblerdotcom