What is B2B Intent Data? 6 Types & Sources

October 9, 2023

ViB Editorial Team


Topics we'll cover

Marketing is no longer just about reaching out; it’s about results. Over 55% of businesses have seen positive outcomes from using B2B intent data, from increased lead conversions to better customer understanding.

That’s B2B intent data for you. This data signals the direct and indirect cues users provide about their potential buying behaviors and preferences. Apart from generative AI and ChatGPT, B2B intent data is probably the next hottest thing in B2B marketing.

But what exactly is intent data, and how much of it is hype versus value? 

In this guide, we’ll answer that question head on, and also explain why it’s important, the key types and data sources, and how to find a provider to get you started.

Discover everything you need to know about ViB Deal Intent, including how it works, the challenges it solves, and its success stories so far, through our comprehensive video walkthrough.

What is B2B intent data? Understanding its role in the B2B marketing database

Intent data can be best described as the digital footprint users leave behind, indicating their interests, needs, and potential future actions. Intent data captures a user’s intention to purchase, learn, or engage.

B2B intent data refers to information that signals an individual’s interest or intent to purchase specific products or services. 

Intent data can be gathered from various data sources — including public third-party platforms, your website, or directly from your prospects themselves. This data is used for targeted marketing and sales efforts, as it helps you pinpoint potential customers who are actively researching, considering, or showing interest in particular solutions.

In intent data marketing, understanding these interest-based cues can significantly boost campaign effectiveness. It’s the breadcrumb trail of online interactions that, when pieced together, provides a holistic view of a user’s journey.

Why is intent data so important in B2B today?

There’s the keyword — today. Leveraging intent data used to be a unique way to level up, but now it’s almost like an everyday tactic. Why? 

One huge reason is the sheer volume of digital interactions. That has made traditional methods of gauging consumer interest less effective. It’s been pushing down conversion rates and lead quality — which happens to be the biggest challenges marketers have reported in our latest B2B marketing trends study.

graph of top marketing challenges in 2023 from ViB B2B Marketing Trends research

You’ve noticed that the digital space is noisy, crowded, and constantly evolving. And so amidst this chaos, intent data acts as a guide, directing you toward genuine user interests and away from digital distractions. This is where B2B intent data providers come into play, offering insights to navigate this complex landscape.

Another reason that personalization is no longer a luxury; it’s an expectation.

Modern consumers expect brands to understand their needs and cater to them seamlessly. By tapping into intent data, brands can deliver tailored experiences, fostering more trust and increasing engagement. This is especially crucial when considering B2B buyer intent data, which can offer deeper insights into B2B customer behaviors.

Types of B2B buyer intent data: Explicit vs. implicit intent data

Now we’ve got the basics, let’s break intent data down into its prominent types. I’ll also use specific examples to illustrate each. This is essential, especially for those looking to understand B2B intent data providers and how they can benefit from such services.

Explicit intent data

Explicit intent data captures direct actions that signal a user’s intent

It’s like someone walking into a store and asking the cashier about a particular product. There’s an explicit and overt interest being shown. Understanding explicit intent data can be a game-changer for businesses.

Examples of explicit intent data include:

  • Form fill-outs: A user visiting a software company’s website and filling out a form to request a product demo or a quote.
  • Inquiries: A potential customer emailing a hotel to ask about room availability for specific dates.
  • Direct messages on social platforms: A user reaching out to a brand’s Facebook page to ask about the sizes available for a particular clothing item.
  • Subscription sign-ups: A visitor subscribes to a monthly newsletter or a premium content service, signaling a direct interest in ongoing engagement.


Implicit intent data

While explicit data offers clear indicators of interest, implicit intent data is more subtle, hinting at a user’s potential interests based on their online behavior

It’s akin to someone browsing through several sections in a store, not asking anything, but showing interest through their actions. This is where B2B database providers and B2B data sources can offer invaluable insights, helping businesses understand these subtle cues.

Examples of implicit intent data include:

  • Web page visits: A user consistently visiting a car dealership’s website and checking out SUV models might indicate an intent to purchase or at least a keen interest in SUVs.
  • Content engagement: A potential investor reading multiple articles on a financial blog about “beginner stock market strategies,” hinting at an intent to start investing.
  • Duration of engagement: Someone watching an entire 30-minute product tutorial video on YouTube, suggesting a more profound interest in understanding that product.
  • Download behaviors: A visitor downloading a whitepaper, “The B2B Marketer’s Forecast for AI, Budgeting, and Lead Generation,” from a demand generation site might indicate an intent to explore or invest in demand generation solutions.

While explicit intent data provides straightforward signals of user interest, implicit intent data requires more nuanced interpretation. Both, however, are invaluable in painting a comprehensive picture of a user’s journey and potential motivations.

With these insights, businesses can make more informed decisions, from marketing strategies to product development.

Thumbnail of ViB B2B Marketing Trends Report
Discover the latest trends and statistics — and the key actions B2B marketers and leaders need to take today. 

Where does B2B intent data come from? The 4 “party” B2B data sources

Seems like B2B intent data comes from, well, everywhere. And that’s completely true. Every user interaction generates a wealth of data that offers invaluable insights into user behavior and preferences. 

But is there a clearer way to think about these various sources? To figure out if we can access intent data on our own, prepare for potential implications, and better evaluate data providers? 

You bet. 

Let’s talk about the primary sources of intent data: zero, first, second, and third-party data.

Zero-party intent data

Unlike other data types, zero-party data is provided proactively by users, making it extremely valuable. It represents a user’s preferences, desires, and needs without any inference or assumption. As highlighted by ViB, “Zero-party data is data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand”. 

Examples of zero-party data sources include:

  • Surveys and feedback forms: Where users directly share their interests, preferences, or experiences related to your products or services. 
  • Preference centers and account info: Where users voluntarily set their preferences for content types, communication frequency, or product categories. The ViB community is a prime example of this, where decision-makers freely give info about their job profile, areas of interests, and even purchasing timelines and budgets. They do this so ViB can help connect them with a suitable vendor that can provide the right solutions.

First-party intent data

This data is directly collected from your audience without any intermediary. It’s data that businesses gather from their sources, offering a direct insight into their users’ behaviors and actions.

Wait… why do zero and first-party data sound the same?

Here’s the crucial difference: Zero-party data is provided proactively by the consumer, and first party data is collected by the company, usually without the customer initiating the action. 

Examples of first-party intent data sources include:

  • Website analytics: Tracking which pages users visit, how long they stay, and what actions they perform on your site.
  • CRM data: Information about customer interactions, purchases, inquiries, and more.
  • Subscription lists: Details of users who have signed up for newsletters, webinars, or other content offerings.

Second-party intent data

This is first-party data that is purchased directly from a different source, not yours! In other words, it is data collected by one entity and then sold to another, maintaining its authenticity and quality.

Examples of second-party data sources include:

  • Direct partnerships: A travel booking website might partner with a hotel chain to access user stay, preference, and feedback data to tailor their offerings.
  • Data purchased from publishers: A brand might buy data directly from a popular blog or media site to understand reader interests and behaviors.

Third-party intent data

Now third-party data is the most common of them all. It’s sourced from external platforms and entities that aren’t directly involved in the collection process. 

Unlike second-party data where you know the source, third party data is aggregated from various sources. 

Yes, it can provide a broader view of user behavior, albeit sometimes at the expense of timeliness accuracy, and compliance — overall making it the least reliable of all the data types.

Examples of third-party data sources include:

  • B2B data providers and aggregators: Companies that aggregate and sell business-related data, which can be used to enhance B2B marketing and sales strategies.
  • Social media listening tools: Platforms that capture user interactions, mentions, and behaviors across social media channels.
  • Data aggregators: Firms that collect, compile, and sell data from various sources, providing a broader view of market trends and behaviors.

There’s a place for each data source. What’s important is to know how to leverage different data types and sources strategically

Now that you know their unique advantages and potential challenges, hopefully, you’ll be able to choose the right data type that allows you to deliver more personalized, relevant, and compelling experiences and solutions.

How to use intent data? 4 strategies to start

How can we better design and execute our marketing strategies now that we have a deeper understanding of our prospects?

I’ve been giving clues on where this intent data should be used, so let’s focus on just its applications quickly. 

If you’re not as sure where to start, I recommend these four fundamental intent data marketing strategies to maximize the benefits of intent data

I also break this down in a separate blog if you want to go in-depth: How To Use Intent Data? 4 B2B Intent Data Marketing Strategies

1 – Using intent data for customer segmentation:

A lot of us already use various customer segmentation strategies. But by using intent data, you can more accurately slice and dice your audience based on what they’re genuinely interested in — and what campaigns fit them the best. 

Using your existing segments, further refine them according to prospects’ behaviors or interests together. For example, are they cold leads, brand-aware warm prospects, marketing-qualified leads, or sales-ready leads? By knowing these nuances, you can craft campaigns that speak directly to each segment’s needs.

2 – Using intent data for content marketing:

Creating content is an abstract process that can sometimes feel like shooting in the dark. But intent data acts as the flashlight, revealing exactly what a prospect is searching for or needs. 

By understanding the specific challenges and goals your audience has, you can more accurately decide on the right messaging, topic, and format. So, for instance, depending on where they are in their buying journey, you might choose to provide a beginner-friendly article or perhaps a more in-depth case study for those closer to making a decision.

3 –  Using intent data for email marketing:

Timing is everything in email. With intent data, you won’t have to approach timing blind. If you notice a prospect suddenly engaging a lot with topics around a particular product, that’s your cue to slide into their inbox. 

Plus, intent data can help refine your lead scoring, so you can be sure that your team’s energy is spent on the most promising leads.

4 – Using intent data for prospecting and sales:

Especially when you’re using explicit and zero sourced party data, intent data can easily pinpoint sales leads.

Based on information like the prospect’s budget, timing, and consent, you can identify who’s just about ready to buy or who’s seriously considering your competitors. 

This means your sales pitches can be laser-focused. 

If you’re looking for top-notch, accurate intent data, solutions like ViB’s Deal Intent can be a real game-changer for precise and reliable intent data.

❓Find out how Deal Intent gets you precise intent deal data. 

Should I outsource to B2B intent data providers?

While there’s undeniable value in gathering and analyzing this data yourself, sometimes the expertise, tools, and resources required might be beyond your current scope. 

Outsourcing to specialized B2B intent data providers can offer a solution. These providers have the experience, technology, and know-how to accurately gather, interpret, and leverage intent data, ensuring you get actionable insights without the steep learning curve. 

The question isn’t just whether you should outsource, but more about finding the right partner that aligns with your business goals and needs.

I know, it can be daunting! So I’ll include some tips on how to evaluate the right vendor (and a free cheatsheet!)

Making an informed decision when evaluating the right B2B lead agency doesn’t have to be rocket science. Get the one-page checklist of the 15 must-ask questions, to cover all your bases, easily.

Selecting the right B2B intent data provider: Criteria, considerations, and best buyer intent data tools

Instead of telling you the “right” answer for the best B2B intent data provider (there isn’t one!), let’s talk about what areas you need to look out for. 

For a deeper dive, check out the 5-step Guide to Assessing Any B2B Lead Generation Agency, where we break down various types of lead generation goals, methodologies of different agencies, and the fairness of their pricing structures.

1 – Approach, results, and reputation: 

Sussing out exactly how your data providers source leads and intent signals is one of the first things to do. 

Get into the nitty gritty of what types of intent data they source (explicit or implicit?) and what databases they tap into (zero, first, second, or third party).

And if their process is unclear, back it up by researching the provider’s standing in the sector. Seek reviews, endorsements, and feedback from fellow enterprises to measure their trustworthiness. All these touchpoints can tell you a lot about:

  • Data timeliness: Is the data up-to-date?
  • Data precision: Does the data accurately capture the lead’s details?

Case studies can help you see tangible outcomes and the provider’s capacity to yield results. The provider’s tenure and industry experience can indicate their proficiency and dependability. Check out this case study where one customer estimated a 67X ROI from ViB leads. 

2 – Compatibility with current marketing and sales instruments: 

If you’re dealing with a larger volume of implicit data points, which usually come in bulk, effortless integration with your pre-existing tools guarantees a fluid operational flow. 

The provider should facilitate straightforward integration options to boost productivity and minimize manual data migration.

3 – Data confidentiality and protection: 

Data security is of utmost importance. Plus, reaching out to contacts (who would opt out if they had a choice) doesn’t help earn their trust. 

Your provider should only sell compliant data. Ensure they adhere to standards like GDPR, and have mechanisms in place to safeguard data. 

For example, ViB Deal Intent gets each prospect’s consent to be contacted by our partners, i.e. solution providers like you, before we initiate the handoff. That consent is manually negotiated on demand.

You can also prioritize features such as data encryption and secure data storage solutions to shield sensitive data.

4 – Costing and investment returns: 

I always get asked, how much contact data and lead generation services cost.

My best answer to grasp the provider’s pricing structure, whether subscription-driven or a pay-per-use model. Then, evaluate potential ROI by examining past client achievements and results to ensure you derive value from your investment.

If you’re looking at a pay-per-lead model, a good rule of thumb is to take around 1-3% of your average deal size as your cost per lead. 

diagram of estimated cost per lead for b2b pay per lead generation companies who offer a pay per lead model

But remember, the higher the chances of conversion, the more you should expect to pay — and vice versa.

Psst, I’ve reviewed the best B2B intent data providers, if you’re interested to see how major players or even some underdogs rank. 

Deal Intent: Your zero-party deal intent data solution

We’ve gone through a lot, so let’s sum things up.

To see the quickest marketing and sales wins using intent data, there’s a specific type that can significantly up your chances. Zero-party sourced intent data that’s explicit, accurate, and timely. 

And there’s a solution.

Deal Intent is a zero-party intent data solution that delivers sales-ready leads who are actively considering solutions in specific markets

These leads come with invaluable deal intent signals, including:

  • Purchasing timelines
  • Budgets
  • Decision-makers involved
  • Competitors being evaluated 
Graph of intent data points collected as part of ViB Deal Intent's unique zero-party data collection approach

The key to getting such specific and explicit signals? They’re sourced directly from prospects from the ViB Community — filled with tech decision makers who are eager to discover emerging tech.

It’s through our community-driven approach to lead generation that we pinpoint buyers actively searching for solutions, ensuring that the leads generated are qualified and spot on.

In turn, such precision ensures that your team doesn’t just connect with leads with undetermined interest, but with the right buyers, ready to make decisions.

Need more info? I’ve got just the thing. Get the full specs with the Deal Intent datasheet today.

Need more info to get started with B2B lead generation?

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