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How to Select an Intent Data Provider

Looking for a solution to optimize your marketing campaigns? Intent data may be the answer you need. By analyzing the online activities of your potential customers, you can determine what they’re interested in and whether they’re ready to make a purchase. But how do you choose the best intent data provider for your business? With so many options available, it can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this selection guide to help you evaluate your choices and make an informed decision. Let’s get started.

Intent data is intelligence that measures an individual’s interest in a product, service, or general business topic. Intent data can come from a variety of sources. As prospects search the internet, download or view a piece of content and see ads, they provide insights that can be collected and formulated into a picture of their intent. The actions they take provide signals as to what they might be interested in buying, when, and at what scale: the more time they invest in engaging, reading, and viewing content around the specific topic, the more likely they are to make a purchase (from you or a competitor) soon. Intent data monitoring gives a window into this behavior.

The value of intent data is that it shows evidence of people’s actions, based on a combination of gathered and aggregated data. There is no gap between what people say they are interested in and what they are actually doing.

While intent data (and the technology that drives it) is revolutionizing the way marketers approach their practice, choosing the best solution can be difficult. We have created this selection guide to provide you with a tangible framework to evaluate solutions and, ultimately, select one that best meets your organization’s unique needs.

We will go over:

  • Data sources
  • Channel sources
  • Recency of data
  • Data analysis
  • Data security
  • Integrations


Data Sources

First, consider your data sources.

First-party data

First-party data is data that is collected on your digital properties via tools like Google Analytics, your CRM, or a social network’s native analytics. From registration forms to downloaded content, email interactions, and social engagements, your digital footprint captures myriad data points on prospects’ actions.

Advantages: No additional cost, available only to you

Disadvantages: Limited scope


Second-Party data

Second-Party data is essentially someone else’s first-party data that they then sell. The seller collects data straight from their audience, and it all comes from a single source. You purchase or use second-party data directly from the company that owns it; there is no middle man.

Typically sold and used second-party data includes:

  • website activity
  • mobile app usage
  • social media metrics
  • customer surveys

Advantages: Transparency

Disadvantages: Can be expensive, limited scope

Third-party data

Third-party data is the information that is garnered from external interactions on third-party websites. You don’t own it, and it is usually bought from an intermediary.

Generally speaking, third-party intent data sources fall into three categories:

1. Publisher data

This is often described as the highest quality source of intent signaldata. That’s largely true, although it does have its limitations. A publisher – the entity that owns a site or other digital channel – is most likely to know who a visitor is through a site registration or newsletter subscription.

2. Location and movement data from mobile devices

This tells you where individuals are through IP addresses and other mechanisms. This source is used mostly for firmographic and account-level validation.

3. Advertising Real-Time-Bidding (RTB) Data

RTB is the practice of buying and selling ads in real time on a per-impression basis in an instant auction. This data helps establish domain- or company-level intent at an aggregated level.

Advantages: Largest scope and data sources

Disadvantages: Expensive, can be low quality or poorly aggregated

Having more data sources paints a much clearer picture of your audience and their true intent. It also prevents incorrect information from tainting the dataset. We recommend using a variety of data sources.

Critical questions to ask:

  • Is your provider using data from first-, second-, and third-party data in their intent data?
  • From which publishers is data being drawn?

Channel Sources

Because people search across multiple digital sources, it is critical to monitor various channels to identify prospects truly interested in your product or service. To get that complete picture, a successful intent data monitoring solution should include a broad range of online activities, including:

  • Search engine queries
  • White paper and ebook downloads
  • Website and blog visits
  • Webinar registrations
  • Social media engagement
  • Digital ad and banner ad click-throughs
  • Podcast listens and/or downloads

While not every activity is necessary, the more intent signals you track, the better picture you have of that buyer and where they are in the buying process.

Critical question to ask:

  • What channels are included in your dataset?

Recency of Data

Recency of data is also crucial when selecting an intent data provider.

Markets and technology change. With those changes come changes in what people search for and how they search. That means that old intent data (in some cases, old can mean more than a day old) is less relevant.

With technology advances, intent data can now be instantaneous. The last 60 minutes of online activity is more relevant to intent to purchase than data from a month ago.

By tapping into fresh data, marketers can eliminate wasted efforts aimed at prospect behavior that no longer reflects current market conditions or advancing technology.

Critical questions to ask:

  • How recent is the information being funneled into the dataset?
  • How long do the results stay in the dataset?
  • How often is new information being added?

Data Analysis

Collecting relevant data from a breadth of sources and channels is just the first step. Data is only as valuable as the ability to analyze it and find patterns and insights. Without this next step, the data is no more than information in a spreadsheet.

Your provider should be able to analyze and weigh the impact of various intent signals to find meaningful patterns.

An example: If you see activity from an IP location three times, you can visualize a pattern and determine what business the signal is coming from. If the same IP address registers for a webinar or whitepaper with an email or a phone number, now there is a connection between that IP address and a person and company. Combine that data with firmographic data about the person and the company, and you can make a determination as to whether they are truly in the market for your solution (and to what degree).

Critical questions to ask:

  • How is the data aggregated?
  • Are certain types of data weighed more heavily when making determinations about the viability of prospects?


Data Security

Don’t forget about data security and privacy regulations when trusting an intent provider. CCPA. GDPR. HIPAA. FedRAMP. SOC 2. The alphabet soup of data security and privacy regulatory rules can be daunting – but it’s critical. Any time you discuss using data about individuals for marketing and sales, privacy is going to be a major concern. When you ask “What are you doing about privacy regulations?” the answer should always be the same ”We are committed to privacy, and we stay up to date with all regulations.”

When looking for an intent data solution, it important for the solution to provide:

  • Full transparency to customers as to what you plan to do with their data.
  • A clear path to opt-out of communications and to control of data.
  • Timely reporting for any security lapse so it can be remediated quickly.


Critical questions to ask:

  • What privacy and security certifications does the solution hold?
  • How often is the solution scanned for vulnerabilities?
  • What other safeguards are in place to prevent privacy breaches or the non-compliant use of data?


A great intent data solution should be a tool that helps marketers do their job more efficiently and with greater efficacy. That means making sure the data is easily integrated into your current martech stack. This includes:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software (Salesforce, Hubspot, Netsuite)
  • Marketing automation solutions (Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot)
  • Data management software (Salesforce, Cloudera, Snowflake)
  • Display advertising platforms (Google AdSense, Facebook Audience Network Ads, mMedia)
  • Retargeting solutions (AdRoll, MailChimp, Perfect Audience)


Critical questions to ask:

  • What solutions does your tool integrate with?
  • How long do integrations typically take?
  • Do integrations require IT resources from our team?
  • Are they manual/do they require APIs?


While every company has its own unique needs and goals for its intent data, the topics we just covered will help any company – of any size – find the right provider for them. More than anything, it is important to ask the right questions to ensure that the solution will set you up for success.

Want a better read on intent data providers? Read our update on how to select an intent data provider, including case studies and key trends and statistics.