Bombora, the intent data provider for B2B marketing and sales, today announces Bombora for Growth, an offering which gives access to a concentrated version of that data to smaller companies, at an accessible price.
Bombora for Growth collects data which surfaces the behavior of prospective buyers across the web, and not just on clients’ proprietary web properties. The data is “portable” into existing solutions such as Salesforce, Marketo, and HubSpot, as well as the major data platforms and CDPs (LiveRamp, Oracle; Lattice, Leadspace, Everstring).
The breaking news gave me an opportunity to speak with Mike Burton, co-founder and SVP of data sales at Bombora — not just about Bombora for Growth, but about the whole intent data category, and its significance for B2B.
Why intent data matters
“What’s happened over the last five or ten years,” said Burton, “is that the way companies buy products and services has changed pretty significantly.” Forrester, after all, has famously reported that 57 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete before a sales rep is even in the picture. “This is research taking place largely on the Internet. In the past, if you were going into a buying cycle, you’d just engage with the companies that you think you might ultimately work with; and those companies would be part of that process from the beginning. The promise of intent data is to tap into that part of the process which is no longer visible to a vendor during the prospect’s buying cycle.”
Without intent data, vendors have no chance to be a strategic advisor as the potential buyer educates him or herself. “Over the last 12 to 18 months, the market has figured out that this data is really important, in terms of getting into sales cycles and driving pipeline,” Burton explained.
Where intent data comes from
Any touchpoint is fair game, and in a B2B context that might include online behavioral data (pages visited, time spent, assets downloaded), as well as attendance at webinars or live events. To what extent is Bombora dealing with anonymized data?
“Great question. At Bombora we’re tracking companies and locations of companies. We don’t go any deeper down than the location…of the business, into PII, or known users. The nature of the data is to understand when companies go into these distinct research spikes, or what we call ‘surges’ of interest in particular topics. Those topics often act as a really strong proxy for personas. If Boeing, in Texas, is in a big research surge on accounting software and budgeting software, there’s a really good chance that’s coming out of a finance department, or a finance persona, rather than H.R. or a sales department.”The company, plus the region and persona, together help users of Bombora’s data know who they need to be engaging with. For example, if there’s a surge in downloading highly technical data, it’s probably more likely members of an ops team, rather than executives with nothing better to do.
“An important differentiator for Bombora specifically,” Burton said, “is we found that all of that research is almost always taking place. For example, Boeing and its finance people are always looking at things around budgeting and accounting. They’re finance people at a big company, so there’s always some level of interest. The key is understanding that normal, and then surfacing when there’s a distinct spike above that baseline. Maybe your example of technical download is always happening; every company we track has a unique baseline of activity for every topic area, which makes our data more precise and actionable.”
Regular baseline activity, in other words, is not a signal that a business is in market. “Correct. Another example is that Bank of America is always interested in data security. It’s always top of mind. But that doesn’t mean they’re in market for a data security solution. It just means they care a lot about data security. Understanding normal is key to our data set, and it’s something that’s very unique to Bombora.”
The rest of the intent data market place, claimed Burton, doesn’t have the scale and precision to offer the equivalent.
From accounts to individuals
Burton had been discussing activity by companies, but of course in this ABM-centric B2B world, it would also make sense to talk about accounts. At what stage does it go beyond accounts to understanding the intent of key individuals within those accounts?
“That’s done downstream with our customers. We say Bank of America, say, is surging on accounting software in Texas, those sales people who sell accounting software are going to hunt on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, or DiscoverOrg, InsideView, or whatever their platform is, and they’re going to go find engagement from individuals. Or, the marketing team will target ads, or paid social, or drive traffic to their site through syndication, and they’ll capture known users that way. The capturing of the PII happens on the customer side.”
While intent data is of growing importance in B2B, we don’t hear B2C marketers using the term. But surely there’s an analogy when it comes to online retailers making next best offer, or re-targeting, for customers presenting online behavioral signals? “Sure, it’s just semantics probably,” Burton agreed. So that’s tried and true on the B2C side, and in a way a lot simpler. Just one person make a decision to buy a scarf, and that’s that. Whereas in B2B, you’ve got these buying committees across different regions, different departments, and different personas, doing research across way more territory. It’s much more complicated. In consumer, they don’t tend to call it ‘intent data’ necessarily, but it is a similar concept.”
Bombora for growth
Turning to Bombora’s new offering, it seems to be a way of making intent data services available below the enterprise level. “That’s exactly right,” said Burton. “It was kind of an organic evolution for us. When we got started, it was much easier, and more viable, to sell the data to larger enterprises that had analytics teams, and data pipelines already in place. Companies like Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Cisco, and HP, they buy data; and they have the means and the pipelines to do so. And then over the years, a few things happened. One, the use cases became hardened; we saw how the data was used in the real world. Two, the more important thing, integrations. To use the data at scale, it really needs to be integrated into workflow. Over time we built more and more integrations into platforms like Salesforce, and Marketo, and a bunch of others.”
Understanding how the data could be used, and having integrations to turn it on easily, it was then viable to make the data more accessible to a larger part of the market-place. Burton walked me through the process, in the context of a Salesforce instance.
“Say a 200 person software business has Boeing as an account record in their Salesforce. We will append the topics surging at Boeing, that that customer has licensed from Bombora, onto the account object in Salesforce. Once it’s there, it becomes searchable, so they can create tasks for sales people; or they can use Salesforce as a hub and pipe that data to sales platforms, or marketing automation platforms. Once the data’s in the system, it can be piped out to a bunch of different workflows.”