How to Think About Intent Data for Your Marketing & Growth Campaigns (with Kate Athmer, VP of Growth at Bombora)

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This is a podcast episode titled, How to Think About Intent Data for Your Marketing & Growth Campaigns (with Kate Athmer, VP of Growth at Bombora). The summary for this episode is: <p>Data has always been a tool in the growth/marketing toolkit. In the last few years, intent data has become a more and more popular set of information to leverage to drive better results. In this episode, Matt chats with Kate Athmer, VP of Growth at Bombora, about how teams should think about intent data, mistakes she often sees, and other tips and tricks on how to leverage it.</p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(3, 28, 51);">Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Matt Bilotti on Twitter at @MattBilotti and </span><span style="color: rgb(91, 112, 131);">@DriftPodcasts</span></p>

Matt Bilotti: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Growth podcast. I am your host, Matt Bilotti, and I am really excited today to be joined by Kate Athmer, who's VP of growth at Bombora. And we are going to dive into the topic of intent data, using intent data on growth teams for marketing campaigns, experiments, and how you can think about that, so we're going to go from top to bottom. And Kate, thanks so much for joining here today.

Kate Athmer: Thanks for having me, Matt. A quick intro to myself, I'm Kate, VP of growth at Bombora. It's like my title was purpose- made for this podcast. But for those of you who aren't familiar with Bombora, it is the leading provider of B2B intent data. And then my title as VP at growth is a really fun role there. I work with the sales and the marketing team to do everything from demand gen, so getting the leads in, to helping the SDR team know what to do with them, and get them to convert into sales meetings, and getting a lot of feedback from the sales team too, in terms of what their needs are and what kind of content and messaging they need to actually seal the deal. So I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to talk about all things growth.

Matt Bilotti: Absolutely. And it's extra fun because you're doing growth at a company that people purchase to do growth- type stuff, so it lines up really well. So one of the core things I want to dig into here is all around intent data, and how to use it, and how to think about it. Can you just define intent data for folks listening, if they don't have a good concept of exactly what it means?

Kate Athmer: So intent data comes in a couple different flavors. So let's start with first party intent data because most people are using that even if they don't call it that, so data about what people are doing when they visit your website. So if you have Marketo, for example, or HubSpot, you've got the marketing automation platform that's doing the tracking, or Drift. It's paying attention to what people are engaging with on your own website. And enough of that information, probably not just one interaction, but enough signals, enough interactions on your website., typically, marketers translate that into some sort of signal of intent. And a lot of times, that's what pushes something to an MQL, for example. So we call that first party intent. The industry typically calls that first party intent, so it's whatever's happening on your own website. And then there's third party intent data, which is what's happening everywhere else. So I like to call it lead scoring the internet, so paying attention to what your prospects or your prospect accounts are doing off your website before they even get to your website, on other websites, on competitor's websites, and aggregating all of that data to understand when somebody is looking to buy. So in a simple sentence, intent data is just information that's data gathered from the internet about what people are doing that potentially signals an intent to take an action, hopefully to purchase your product.

Matt Bilotti: Yep. And most growth marketing teams and product teams out there are generally leveraging the first party data, which is like you were saying, all the data that you already have through your existing systems, and we're seeing more and more companies layering on that third party type data. Can you talk a little bit more about how, let's say, a growth team or marketing team could be using intent data? What are the types of things that I could do, that I couldn't otherwise do if I hadn't?

Kate Athmer: Yeah, definitely. So I think there's a ton of things you can do with intent data, and there's... A lot of our prospects and customers are sometimes overwhelmed with getting started, and so there's a couple ways that we typically encourage people, just, first of all, to start small, but a couple key ways to start... For the marketers listening, you're typically used to the question of, okay, if we buy this, how is this going to drive revenue? That's always the question. Intent data can be used to improve email open rates, but no CFO is going to say," Great, approved. Your email open rates are through the roof," so I think it's really important, especially for companies that are limited resources... Typically, growth stage companies are pretty tightly strapped. Getting started with a use case that's going to involve sales or the SDR team is what we recommend. And account prioritization, with the rise of ABM, people have these account lists that are 6, 000 accounts and then they have three SDRs to work them, and it's like, there's no way the SDRs can work all those accounts. So our number one use case that we recommend is figuring out a way to use the intent data within your existing sales process to help the SDR team or the sales team prioritize which accounts to work, put the 4, 000 accounts that aren't ready to buy aside, let the intent data tell you to put those on the back- burner, let them simmer, and really focus on the accounts, probably 15% of your target accounts, that are actually in market at any time. So that's the number one use case and the number one way to get started that I typically recommend. If you are not in a position where you're working with an SDR team, or if you're marketing or you're a marketing agency, display is another great use case for that. So prioritizing which accounts you want to target with display advertising to make the most of that budget, that's where we steer people if they're like," We don't interact with sales at all. We're not measured to revenue. We just want our marketing to perform way better." Great, target your display. And I guess display shouldn't be limited to just display like, social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, those count too in that bucket, so just using it to figure out where to best target your ads and what those ads should say.

Matt Bilotti: Yep, yep. So starting points, figuring out who you should actually reach out to out of the universe of who you could, and then display ads is another method. And I'd imagine that, if you're thinking about even more advanced use cases, I'm thinking about how we use third party intent data at Drift, you can start to, not just customize the display content, but you could also start to customize the content that shows up on the homepage, right? One of the things that we did was, we used third party intent data to change the value prop wording, or the images, or the graphics that showed up on the homepage, given what those types of accounts were looking for on the internet.

Kate Athmer: Yes, definitely, especially if you're an organization where you have a couple of different products that you sell and you can make your topic buckets... Topics are like keywords, but better. If you can make your topic buckets around those products, and then if someone is showing a lot of intent in a particular topic bucket that you've created, make sure that they see that product part of the website. They should start there. Start them with the product that they're looking for, and maybe don't even give them the whole menu of what you offer. They can go find that if they want to. But yeah, to your point, serve up the messaging related to the product that they're researching, just anything to make the buying process better these days. Make it faster, make it easier, help them find what they need right away. If you have those signals and if you have that personalization information at your fingertips and you're not using it, the buyers are probably going to be frustrated.

Matt Bilotti: Yeah. Some of the folks listening here are definitely on marketing teams. Some are also on product teams, and I think about how you can use third party intent data in the product, right? Similar to how you can alter or change the content on the website, you can alter or change the experience, maybe in something like a free trial, right? And you can be more likely to serve up a specific action in the product or a way to connect to a sales person if you know that they have higher intent just beyond product usage. One of the things that I was talking to on this podcast, one of the engineering managers on the growth team at Airtable, and she talked a lot about how they do human- in- the- loop- type work i- their self service product. And so, it's all about identifying when, out of the free user base, somebody is ready to purchase, right? You could just send them through self- purchase flows, but you can do way more to loop in a salesperson if you know that there's higher likelihood that this person is going to not just buy a$ 10 license, but purchase a$3, 000 license for a whole team.

Kate Athmer: Yeah, definitely. It always keeps coming back to prioritization, but it's like, who's actually not going to be turned off by a sales call, but is actually ready for it? That's the biggest reason for intent data, is figuring out who to talk to and when to talk to them.

Matt Bilotti: Yeah. And one of the things you were saying about, when customers are getting started with intent data, that they often enter this world where there's so many things that we could do, and it's overwhelming, and they maybe try to boil the ocean and do everything at once with all the data. Are there very clear mistakes that you see teams doing? I'm thinking, if I'm listening to this podcast and I'm considering like, let's get rolling with some intent data, what else should I be aware of, or look out for, so that I don't make a mistake and waste two months of everybody's time?

Kate Athmer: I think the number one mistake is a marketing team buying intent data and just expecting that the sales team is going to be head over heels for it, and chomping at the bit to see every bit of the intent data, and to have score information available for every single account that's in their name, and that they're just going to pore over this data, and extract insights, and be really strategic with all this intent data, and that's just not the reality of most sales organizations. So I think the way we've seen people have the most success there is actually just, again, starting small, but sometimes piloting it with a couple of sales reps and giving them 10 accounts a week, like, here are 10 accounts that should be ready to talk to you, that seem very interested, they're showing interest in not just one topic, but they're showing interest in a whole bunch of topics, all related to what we sell, these are the 10 accounts. Regardless of whatever else you do this week, you can at least call these set accounts, right? And starting that small, getting those reps by, and one of those reps lands a deal, like that first week from those 10 accounts, everyone else is going to be like," Give me that data." I think starting small is definitely important, and then the more you can do to incorporate it, and this is where RevOps or marketing ops people are heroes. The more you can incorporate it into the process that sales is already familiar with and already using, the better. And hopefully, they have a good process, because if not, everything's going to be messy anyway, but put it into the sales process, get the data where they're used to seeing it. Some people even... CodeScience actually is one of these people. They put the data into their account scoring model and sales doesn't need to pay attention to what the data means. Sales doesn't need to know what the score is. They just know that it was factored into whatever the scoring model that they've created, that surfaced the best accounts for them to call. So they know the data's in there, but they don't have to know how it works, they don't have to learn something new. They're just like," Okay, my AQL list is better now." Just being thoughtful about not disrupting the sales processes is pretty important.

Matt Bilotti: Yep. So it sounds like, don't overwhelm everyone with all the data. There's a good approach that you could take that gets the data in the right place for people to leverage it. That's a good starting point, rather than just trying to coat the data across your entire marketing and tech stack. It's better to get a couple clear use cases in place across your stack, and then roll it out to additional tools.

Kate Athmer: Yeah, definitely.

Matt Bilotti: Cool. So a lot of growth marketing teams like to operate as fast as they can, and so a thought that comes to mind is, how long does it take to actually get rolling with this sort of data? We just talked about how you can get the data in, in a specific use case, but if I'm going to pick up any third- party data tool, am I looking at a couple days of setup and get going, or am I looking at a couple months? What's the timeline here? How do I factor that into my growth process?

Kate Athmer: Well, a lot of that's going to depend on the process on your side, and then also, which tool you acquire. So Bombora is just data. We sell intent data and we give it to you in either... We have 25 integrations, so you can just get it automatically through one of those. We have a bunch of partners. You can literally just get it in a spreadsheet every week, delivered to you if... We actually have some data science teams, that's their preferred way, because it just goes into their CDP, and magic happens. We can give it to you via an API feed. So it's really like, how do you want the data? Where do you want it to live? Do you want it in your marketing automation platform? Do you want it in your CRM? Do you want it just straight? I can pull you a report right now, send you an Excel file, and you could give it to your SDR team to work, so you could start in literally 10 minutes if you want. But like I said, it's better to put it into the process, warm the sales team up a bit to it, so maybe a month or two, depending on how quickly your revenue ops team can work. So if you're going into a marketing automation or CRM, for example, sometimes people have these massive Salesforce backlogs, and they start one way, and then they switch another way. Well, we have a couple partners that provide intent data. If you're buying it from somebody else where the intent data is already part of the platform, it's going to take a lot longer because multiple people have to learn a whole new platform. So I think you probably can think of a couple ABM platforms that might have that intent data in it, and yeah, the onboarding there really varies because it's a new tool versus just integrating into your existing systems and processes.

Matt Bilotti: Thinking about some of the ways that your customers are using the data that you provide, are there any really interesting, unique ways that you've seen, like, oh, I didn't think that someone might use it that way? Does anything come to mind?

Kate Athmer: Just Media, which is, I believe, now Just Global, they did a... with, I'm not sure if I can say the name of the client so I'll blind it, but they did an exercise where they established a baseline of Bombora's intent data for topics related to that business, and then they ran an awareness campaign for their clients, so display advertising, just really, when you think, just an awareness campaign, not even lead gen, just billboards and display ads, that type of stuff. They ran that campaign, and then after about six months of that campaign running really in earnest, they again looked at the intent data to see if they could measure a lift with the intent data, and they could. So they were able to essentially prove the value of an awareness campaign, which traditionally, you just don't measure. You're like," We know it works, but we can't prove it works." So they were actually able to prove that it worked, so that was pretty cool. Now, I don't recommend that for most of our growth customers because your budgets aren't big enough. My budget is not big enough. So that's a very large organization- type use case where they've got millions of dollars a month in awareness advertising budget, think like, Coca- Cola. So it wasn't them, but that size organizations. It's pretty big organizations with pretty big media budgets. So that was a fun one, not one we see every day, not one that happens too often, but it's cool, and it shows that intent data is really able to measure a lot of valuable information.

Matt Bilotti: And I imagine that there's also tons of scrappy ways that you can... if you think about any of the tools that you're using today to... You're running experiments, whether that's email, or like you were saying, display, or stuff in the product, I'm sure somebody with a creative mind can find ways to leverage it in all those little moments.

Kate Athmer: Yeah. Another really powerful way to use it that we actually... I'm surprised more people don't do this, but getting the data into the hands of your customer success leader to just look at every week and see if any of your current customers are researching competitors, or topics related to competitors, or topics related to other products you sell that they haven't yet bought, so looking for the churn prevention in there, but also looking for the upsell opportunity. I'm trying to remember the name one of our customers recently actually purchased from us, because our rep was doing a demo and he pulled a report and he said," Are any of these accounts familiar to you?" And the prospect said," Oh, yes. This one is actually a customer of ours." And so, the rep dove into the data and he said," This customer of yours is researching three of your competitors right now," and the guy is like," Okay, oh, shoot. I have to go. Let's revisit this next week." He goes, they do the whole thing, they saved the customer. So he comes back and he's like," Saving that one customer based on this sample report you gave during a demo call, that paid for this product, so here's the money. I'm ready to buy Bombora's data. It's already paid for itself." That happened, that's real, and it's probably the most straightforward way to use the data. So any of you customer success people out there listening, they're not usually the first people that are coming for intent data. Usually, customer success is not requesting a demo on our page, but they should be, because that's the best way to hit your renewal quota.

Matt Bilotti: Yep, right. Most people think about it with a starting point in sales, but the retention play to understand who you need to retain and how you can upsell them, yeah, that's a good plan. I am surprised not as many people use it for that. Cool. So one last question, something we were talking about before we hopped onto the recording here was this whole switch to a cookie- less world, and how a lot of marketing folks and growth folks are a little spooked about it, and what it means for their use of data, and the ability to leverage cookies and all that. Could you speak to that a little bit and maybe put some people people's minds at ease?

Kate Athmer: Well, advertising is not going away, so we know that. I guess it depends on which area we want to put people at ease. Cookies are going away. That's real, so it's not fake. It's not going to change their mind at this point. There's a lot of other data that you can use for targeting people. I think in the B2C space, it's probably a lot scarier. In the B2B space, you know it, we're used to pursuing accounts. So a lot of what we're doing, advertising- wise, is account- based anyway. It doesn't necessarily rely on cookies. There's a lot of other ways to identify an account and to serve ads to them. Intent data is not generated using cookies, so we have a very diverse account identification tool set, and so company search data and Bombora's intent data will not go away. We do have advertising solutions that people use to target using our data. And because we have such an extensive co- op, we have 4, 000 different publishers, so then all of their properties are part of our co- op, we have this huge collection of publishers that we can work with to come up with identification solutions as well. So I would say, look for sustainable ways to advertise in the future, and look for sustainable ways to get intent data in the future, and places that have co- ops or at least good relationships, opted in, GDPR- compliant relationships. Those are going to be places where you will be able to find the gold once the actual cookie finally goes away. And we've been preparing for this for years. I mean, they've been talking about it for years. Bombora has been adding all these different identifiers for years. When it happens, we're ready.

Matt Bilotti: All right. Anything else that you feel like you wanted to touch on, that we didn't get a chance to cover here?

Kate Athmer: Oh, man, I'm trying to think. I mean, I guess I would say, just to reiterate the point about intent data, doesn't have to be complicated, and intent data doesn't have to be super complex. And yes, we have people that are using intent data through every bit of their sales and marketing strategy, and it's the foundation, and they have a data science team, and they have a CDP, and they have all this stuff that a growth company with 500 employees is like," Okay, next year. We're almost there." I mean, there's only 500- person companies, they're there now, too. But even the 200- person companies, Bombora is 200 people. We have a data science team for the data. We don't have a data science team for our marketing strategy, though. We're doing it the way most people are still doing it. But just getting that little bit of data and putting that into your process. I mean, customers are expecting this journey that's frictionless, and talking to them, and personalized, and the information that they need, and none of the crap that they don't need, and so marketers are really expected to cater to that and to be using whatever data they have at their disposal to do that. So I would say, start small, get started somewhere. But really, you can't just rely on the data on your website, so make sure you're making use of data that you can get from other compliant, sustainable sources to make your marketing better, to make your brand presence better, and to make your sales team happier, which I think is something everyone's... Everyone in marketing is like,"How do we make sales want these leads?" So talk to them, figure it out, find who's got the budget for it. I do think it's an important lever to pull when you're trying to achieve growth quickly.

Matt Bilotti: Yeah. Awesome, Kate, well, thank you so much for joining. Really appreciate having you on the podcast.

Kate Athmer: Thank you, Matt. It was a great time.

Matt Bilotti: Absolutely. And for everybody listening, thank you for spending your time listening to this. There's plenty more episodes with some amazing folks, digging into different tactics and strategies. So check those out, hit the subscribe button for more in the future. If you're a fan, leave a review, would really appreciate that. And my email is matt @ drift. com if you ever want to reach out about anything. Thank you so much, and I will catch you on the next episode.


Data has always been a tool in the growth/marketing toolkit. In the last few years, intent data has become a more and more popular set of information to leverage to drive better results. In this episode, Matt chats with Kate Athmer, VP of Growth at Bombora, about how teams should think about intent data, mistakes she often sees, and other tips and tricks on how to leverage it.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Matt Bilotti on Twitter at @MattBilotti and @DriftPodcasts