B2B Lead Scoring vs Intent Data Explained

It would be just too easy — but also ideal — if customers came to you with an open budget and a smile. Imagine prospective customers being able to identify solutions to fit their business, then the first business they find is yours, they call you up for a demo, and sign on the dotted line the same day. Then, you wake up.

Dream customers are identified by sheer hard work: First you find customers who are ready to buy. Start with your brand and your website. If you build it, they will come. 

There are international sales representatives who sell SaaS all day long and are great at what they do, but the stages up to that point take a heck of a lot of effort to first find the prospects — ideal customer profiles (ICPs) that fit. Remember that the ICP is the type of company that will stand to gain the most from your product or service, and not the individual you have to convince — the buyer persona. 

You want to connect with the people who reach out and show interest in your brand, your product, your business. 

There are a couple of approaches that are best suited to assist you in building these meaningful connections. Let’s look at B2B lead scoring versus intent data and explain what they are, what are the differences, and which one is the right approach for your startup or growing scale-up.

What is B2B lead scoring?

B2B lead scoring prioritizes your international sales leads. You cannot reach out to everyone who ventures across your website or hears about your product or service. But you can identify and know them. Tire-kickers abound as well as serious prospects, and you need to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. This allows your inside sales and business development representatives — often just called SDRs — to also prioritize their time and efforts to the prospects currently researching your products and services, and thus most likely to need your solution, and buy.

Prioritizing with B2B lead scoring does just that. It also shows you who has the intent to buy, and why you need to be calling them now. Actually, make that yesterday. 

So, it’s not just about getting leads into the funnel, it’s about converting faster. B2B lead scoring is also about creating personalized pitches that will turn those leads into loyal — and returning  — customers. The brand advocates who will tell everyone else, if you get it right. 

You should really care about B2B lead scoring and achieve high pass-through rates and close deals on a higher proportion of opportunities, says Gartner.

Gavin Page — our CRO at Salesforce Europe and head of our UK B2B lead generation – leverages lead scoring more to help drive priority, both with a one-to-one account-based approach (ABM) and a one-to-many ABM. With multi-channel lead generation, our European lead generation team leverages social media, email, telephone and more. Plus, we encourage our customers to engage in live events and webinars. 

What is intent data?

Prospects are sometimes snail-like slow to decide what they want and when, but, also like snails, leave trails. In today’s world of digital transformation, prospective customers let you know when they are ready to buy and when they are ‘just browsing’ or ready to buy. How? Because they will research fully before they commit, and this will include:

  • Visits to websites
  • Sign-ups for webinars
  • Download white papers
  • Follow people and groups on Linkedin
  • Subscribe to newsletters

All of this is intent data, or simply, behavioral data. It tells you who they are, how serious they are and if they are ready to buy. 

There are two kinds of intent data:

  • First-party intent data: You collect first party intent data when a prospect clicks into a part of your website, like a landing page, a survey or questionnaire, or a form they will fill in. 
  • Third-party intent data: Aggregated datasets, gathered from a variety of means - analysts, marketers, research agencies - and then sold to you as a service by a third-party provider at a usually high cost. 

Which is the best approach for you, lead scoring or intent data?

It’s really a decision you need to make based on how far your company already has grown, and how much you are prepared to spend. Yes, it’s really about the budget, like so many business decisions. Let’s revert to Gavin, who argues that, of course intent data can be really valuable if you really invest across the whole customer experience but that's much more expensive to do. This customer experience includes:

  • Website heat mapping for buyer location and other demographic information
  • Account and prospect info platforms
  • Customized landing page
  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Connecting with brands on social media
  • Engaging in online chats
  • Provision of 24-hour chatbot for questions
  • Email alerts for new products
  • Newsletter subscriptions
  • Measuring frequent visitors or length of time someone spends on your website (bounce rate)
  • Observing online behavior
  • Spam detection

But it takes time, and it takes investment. Scale-ups don’t have time: You need to rapidly move into new territories ahead of the competition, and startups don’t have the luxury of time as they race to get to market. Nor are they likely to have funding that is not already allocated to doing just that. 

We can conclude that intent data can offer you the full package. Everything internal and external connected for a fully integrated platform-led approach. But it comes at a huge investment of time and money.

"This is very challenging cost-wise," Gavin explains. However, he warns, there are a lot of sales agencies hawking cheap intent data but that's really not what they are going to get. Tech blogging giant TechCrunch, he points to, sells a lot of promises of intent data, but really, when you sign up to their site, you have to respond with some buyer intent for the next year. This causes more proximity bias than accuracy. "Most just pick the first boxes, so they can move on."

Whereas we can also conclude that B2B lead scoring done correctly will assist your international sales team by building an effective lead scoring model to really define lead priority and accelerate your funnel, for far less cost. Prioritize, define, convert, sell, repeat. And we can help.

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