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A recent article by Ken Gaebler introduced readers to "intent data" as a concept and explained how to go about purchasing it from third-party providers. In a word, intent data is an actionable dataset for B2B marketers that enables them both to understand what new leads and current prospects want and to serve the most optimal content, message, or product across owned Web and email channels.

The thrust of Gaebler's article is that marketers can procure intent data through a variety of third-party providers, such as Bombora, TechTarget, and Madison Logic. Those vendors amass intent data from a variety of sources. The most common source is partner networks of publisher sites—content-rich hubs of activity in which your current customers and future buyers are regularly consuming business content.

The content that is consumed on those sites is used as proxy for intent. In its simplest form, it works like this: If a person is reading a series of articles across Forbes, CIO Insight, and Aberdeen Group about the topics "Web virtualization" and "pure storage," it's reasonable to assume that person's intent is to learn more about those topics, with the ultimate intention to buy a Web virtualization product from Pure Storage.

Third-Party Upsides and Downsides

It's easy to see why getting intent data from third-party vendors is so attractive to B2B organizations. To generate first-party intent data requires an organization to have a large corpus of business content that covers a breadth of topics, as well as a high amount of buyer interactions with that content from which the organization can determine intent.

Third-party intent data providers bypass those requirements and thus dramatically reduce both the operational and the institutional changes required from some B2B organizations to know what their buyers want and need.

That said, using intent data from third-party providers has downsides. Fundamentally, third-party intent data is never as accurate as first-party intent data. First-party data comes directly from your visitors and tells you exactly how they interact with your content and products, not someone else's content and products.

By contrast, you have to trust that the third-party intent data provided by vendors is accurate in identifying individuals (i.e., this is the correct person/account), and that the topics collected are accurate (i.e., these truly are their interests). That alone should throw up a red flag for B2B organizations that are looking to act on third-party intent data—either through marketing automation (e.g., content personalization) or human interactions (e.g., a sales call).

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image of Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies is a co-founder and the CMO of Idio, a demand orchestration platform that learns from each buyer interaction to improve engagement and accelerate demand at large B2B enterprises.

LinkedIn: Andrew Davies

Twitter: @andjdavies