Intent Signals: Which Ones Are Truly Actionable?

Published: May 21, 2019

Jeff KostermansRemember “predictive analytics” — now more commonly referred to in B2B marketing and sales circles as “intent?” Well, that space has matured, and today there are more than a handful of companies touting intent capabilities. But not all intent is actually intentional when it comes to real interest in your solution.

There are plenty of signals that each of these vendors collects that could indicate real interest, but ask any sales person if content interest is enough and you’ll hear that interest needs to be accompanied with fit and opportunity.

Intent signals emanate from many sources, including viewed content, job postings, press releases, earning statements, funding rounds, etc. But they are really just intent “signals.” Each signal needs to be understood. If an intent vendor tells you a company has high intent to purchase your solution, you need to know what that really means. If you don’t, you’re buying a black box.  

Third-Party Content Signals

If a signal pertains to third-party content that was viewed, do you know the exact nature of that content or did the vendor categorize the content into a broad content category that is appealing to many potential customers? Can you see a link to that content? Was that content viewed by multiple people at a firm — or multiple times by one person? Was the person viewing the content the right person to influence the buying cycle? When you are notified of the content consumption, do you know what stage of the buying cycle the company is in?  

Get the latest B2B Marketing News & Trends delivered directly to your inbox!

The last thing you want to do is tell your sales team that a company has high intent when that intent is not accompanied by fit, opportunity or timing. An example of this would be if you are targeting large enterprises with an AI-powered data solution for data scientists. If you told your intent vendor you are interested in the content categories of “AI,” “data science” or “business intelligence,” you could be getting signals from people checking out articles on how data science is helping accelerate drug discovery, or how AI is helping reduce crime. Content as a signal is only as strong as knowing the detailed context and how finely it is categorized. It should therefore always be augmented with other signals.

Technology Signals

If specific technologies correlate to your ideal customer profile (ICP), knowing that a target prospect has these technologies can be actionable. Yet, most tech-stack data is inferred by scraping websites and is rarely validated as still being used.

Also, be aware that just because a firm is leveraging a certain technology, doesn’t necessarily mean that the firm is happy with it. Tech stacks are constantly changing based on the needs of the client, new incoming personnel responsible for technology decisions and a host of other factors. If your ICP contains technology signals, they should certainly be a part of your intent criteria for potential fit, but only if you have a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of the data. Ideally, the web-scraped data should be human-validated to prevent sales from embarking on a wild goose chase or leading with false assumptions.

First-Party, Hand-Raising Signals

If your firm is leveraging a marketing automation solution like Marketo, Hubspot or Act-On, you’re likely acting on intent signals based on engagement with your website, whitepapers, webinars, emails, etc. Unlike signals from some intent providers, marketing automation solutions can tell you specifically who is engaging. Lead scoring enabled by marketing automation helps identify the most interested prospects, as well as fit. But with enterprise sales and long sales cycles, you typically need multiple people interested in your offering. So, it’s good to know if the engagement with your content stems from one person or from multiple people at your prospective account. ABM solutions like Engagio can aggregate engagement at the account level to measure unified interest.  

What About Data Decay?

Pay close attention to this one. How long does it take you to act on your signals? Opportunity or timing is a big part of B2B sales, so if you have a high degree of confidence in fit and true intent, acting quickly on the signals is key. It consistently works well to act quickly when you get a blend of signals from multiple sources. We’ve also seen that the highest level of intent indicative of a sale is engagement on the website. The challenge, of course, is not so much revealing who is checking out the website, but actually getting additional key titles into the CRM and marketing automation solution quickly, so those contacts can be nurtured and reached out to.  

In summary, the most actionable intent signals are those emanating from accounts that meet your ICP. When the signals convey intent to purchase (such as engagement on your website), you need to quickly get coverage of the buying center at those accounts — before your competition does. This enables you to control the narrative through nurtures and other integrated outbound efforts. Rather than tasking your inside sales team to get complete account coverage, consider automating that with the help of outsourced specialists who can do it quicker and with greater accuracy.

Jeff Kostermans, Vice President of Demand Generation for LeadGenius, has more than 17 years of experience in marketing and lead generation for technology companies. LeadGenius provides a combination of technology and human intelligence at scale to help global revenue teams by producing rich, actionable data on an ongoing basis. LeadGenius’ global team of researchers, combined with data science, delivers customized lead generation, lead enrichment and data hygiene services. Data powered growth. You can contact Jeff at

B2B Marketing Exchange
B2B Marketing Exchange East
Campaign Optimization Series
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Strategy & Planning Series