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What Is Intent Data and How Does it Help Businesses?

Intent data can help make your next marketing campaign more effective. Learn more about what intent data is and its benefits with this guide.

No matter your business, if you don’t convert sales, you don’t succeed. It’s the most universal concept of all, and it applies to every single industry.

So, how do you convert sales? There are countless approaches, advice, general observations, and technology resources devoted to this concept. Among all of it lies a methodology that can measure the purchase process and help sales and marketing teams.

This methodology is often referred to as intent data. This bit of marketing lingo allows you to put solid numbers on the buying process; with those numbers, you can see exactly which of your strategies are and aren't converting sales.

Understanding intent data

What is intent data? Beyond a formal intent data definition, it’s a general concept that refers to any data you can measure along the customer journey, allowing you to gauge purchasing intent. In most cases, intent data refers to business-to-business (B2B) interactions, but you could also apply the concepts to consumers.

Here’s an example to better explain B2B intent data and how it works.

Let’s say that you sell gym equipment. Any time a gym opens in your area, you want them to buy weights and machines from your supply. You have a website where businesses can order supplies directly, and data is created whenever a customer (in this case, a gym) purchases a machine from your website. This data tells you how much the customer spent, how they came to your site, what they browsed, how long they spent doing it, and much more.

Intent data tries to lock down the exact behaviors correlated with a purchase. Using such data, you can average these behaviors and see what parts of the customer journey will most likely lead to a purchase (and how much that purchase is worth).

First-party intent data vs. third-party intent data

It’s important to understand the differences between first-party and third-party intent data.

Let’s talk about third-party data. It’s easy to imagine that Google can collect a large amount of user data, and some of that information directly applies to your customer base. Theoretically, you could partner with Google to gain access to that data and learn more about what your users are googling when they land on your page and make a purchase.

Third-party data provides clear value, but it comes with caveats. For starters, you’re likely going to have to pay for access to the information. Beyond that, it’s hard to certify the integrity of the data. How did the third party generate their information? How do they organize it? Is the data truly reliable? These questions are inevitable.

First-party data is information that you own and manage yourself. This data is generated when users interact with your proprietary systems. For example, whenever someone purchases something directly from your website, you can log that data. You can see how customers came to your site, how long they spent on it, what they viewed, what they purchased, how they paid for it, and much more.

Since you own this information, you don’t have to pay anyone for it. Best of all, this is unique data that no one else in the world can see—unless you share it.

Types of intent data

Whether the data is first-party or third-party, it can be classified into several groups. The 4 groups that are great for organizing your data are search, engagement, technographic, and firmographic.

Before we can get into how to manage audience data, it’s important to flesh out the following intent signals.


Let’s start with search data; this is data related to web searches. For example, if someone lands on your website via a Google search, you can see what keywords led them to you.

Additionally, if your site has search features, you can see what your users are looking for most frequently. You can filter data to see how you’re reaching people in the first place, and you can adjust your data-driven marketing and SEO strategies accordingly.


Engagement data is quite different. This is a set of statistics that relate to how people interact with your content. For example, if you use YouTube to create how-to videos for some of your products, you can see how much time people spend watching your videos. You can also see if they click on links in the videos, whether or not they comment, and more.

When people visit your website, you can see which pages they visit, how long they stay there, whether or not they interact, and how any of those behaviors correlate with purchases. Engagement data provides insight into the effectiveness of your content, allowing you to see if it's engaging and converting sales.


Technographic data consists of measurements that explain how people engage with technology tools. Say you have multiple retail locations and a store finder on your website. Technographic data tells you how often people use the store finder and how it impacts their behavior on your site.

Technographic data can explore app interactions, social media interactions, account resources and tools, and anything else you would describe as a customer utilizing technology tools. It’s a broad category, but it distinguishes itself from demographic data (data that describes the customers) or firmographic data (data that describes a B2B customer).


Firmographic data refers to the “demographics” of customer businesses. What is the vertical industry of the company? How long has it been around? How much does it cost? How many people are employed by it? You get the idea.

This data provides information and insights when businesses interact with your resources. They help paint a better picture of who is buying your goods or services, but in terms of entire businesses rather than authorized purchasers. This information can identify the skeleton of your B2B marketing.

The importance of intent data in marketing

You can already see a dozen different ways that intent data can influence the types of marketing used to promote your business. For all of the specific ways it can inform your business and help you enhance your practices, intent data boils down to one major concept.

It allows you to measure the buying process. You can analyze interactions before buying decisions and measure every part of the customer journey, even beyond the purchase. That’s the power of intent data.

You can imagine how many different ways this data will improve how you operate. You aren’t comparing the customer journey; you’re directly measuring every step. You can see exactly how your interactions with customers translate into sales, customer satisfaction, and long-term positive outlooks.

As for the specific ways to glean insights, those are limitless. You can look at conversion rates for outreach programs, see who is interested in your engagement tools, track how you get in touch with customers, and learn what behaviors correlate with missed opportunities. The more data you have, and the more you analyze it, the more you can learn.

How to collect and use intent data

Considering everything you stand to gain, it’s time to discuss the obvious question. How do you actually get your hands on buyer intent data?

First, let’s talk about third-party data. You can work with a third party and purchase access to their data, and that’s really the whole story. There are several intent data providers that can help you source quality information for your business. Or, you can contact data resources directly and try to negotiate access to anything you think will be helpful.

But, we already discussed the value of first-party data, and you would be missing opportunities if you didn’t collect and utilize this information to the extent that you can.

Collecting your own intent data is a matter of utilizing tech tools that are already available. You can start with your business website, Google Analytics, and other professional resources that provide data tracking and categorize all activity on your website.

You can also collect data with other resources, like social media. You can track data related to paid advertising campaigns or anything else you use to reach customers. The point is that you can install or utilize software that tracks all of this for you.

So how do you use the intent data you collect?

There are various ways to use intent data. For example, intent data helps you determine the interest of consumers, allowing you to build personalized campaigns and identify opportunities for engagement. You can also use it for lead scoring and to create different audience segments.

Intent data allows you to see what gets the most customer involvement, encouraging you to steer into it. You can improve your targeting to go after Google searches that tend to lead to purchasing (in other words, you’re identifying buying keywords). You shift advertisements to promote your most popular goods or services.

In general, you’re using the data to measure what works, and then you’re aligning your business strategy to move away from ineffective practices and double down on effective ones.

Leverage intent data

Intent-based data is valuable for businesses of all sizes and industries. Whether you use first-party or third-party intent data, gathering information about your clients can give your marketing and sales teams a lot of essential information for future campaigns.

If you want to fully leverage intent data, it's best to use tools that simplify and empower your approach. For those tools, you can turn to Mailchimp. With Mailchimp, you can collect, analyze, and use intent data to create effective strategies.

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