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  • Writer's pictureSimon Boardman

The Difference Between Buyer Intent and Behavioral Intent and Why You Should Care

Updated: Jan 21, 2021


The biggest challenge in B2B sales today is getting in front of your prospect after they’ve decided to act, but before they’ve made a final decision. Over the last few years SMB marketing teams have bought marketing automation platforms, tools, and services to accelerate pipeline development. Now a new category called Buyer Intent or Behavioral Intent is cropping up. So, what is this and can it really help us with messaging, prospects and pipelines?

Our interpretation of the word buyer in buyer intent can lead us to the same poor outcomes that have plagued B2B sales and marketing organizations for years. It’s not because the idea of observing digital behavior is flawed, it is because we mis-interpret and implement the idea poorly. How so?

Buyer Intent and Behavioral Intent are generally perceived as synonymous in this context, but we can get seduced by the word buyer as it obviously implies someone is buying. Behavioral communicates a different meaning simply implying that someone is conducting themselves in a particular way. This sounds like a trivial distinction. It isn’t. When we elect to use the word buyer, we’re thinking someone is about to buy and before we know it, we are drowning them in content designed to get them to “pick us and pick us now”.

We need to fight hard to find the balance.

If we use the word “behavioral” intent, it balances us out, by setting the context differently – we’re looking at the indications of behavior first and buying second. We need to study the data, look for insights and then make recommendations (to ourselves, or others), act and move on. We need to think in terms of constantly improving our chances of winning and using intent data more thoughtfully will fulfill this goal.


In this example, our client is finding that Positions with the word “Director” in their title are the most active. Why does this matter? It matters because “Directors” make buying decisions and recommendations using a different landscape of ideas and motivations than more senior leaders. You need to direct your message and content accordingly.

Directors are responsible for managing organizational functions. While they implement projects to help achieve a company’s goals, they tend to focus on timelines, objectives, and metrics. They need to achieve specific results within certain timeframes with the assets they have readily available. Finally, they look to make improvements over comparative timelines like months, quarters, and years. They buy for different reasons and you need to market and prospect

to them accordingly.


One would think that more people displaying more activity over a consistent time period within a company, would indicate a higher level of “interest” by that company, compared to a small number or one person in a company. This is what we can show here, as you see below:

In this example our client is finding the top three organizations have up to ten active prospects over the preceding three to four weeks. That client might look to focus more (subtle) efforts on those accounts, by broadening their contact base, and directing other marketing and business development tactics that way.


We use five broad subjects or “Sources” to categorize the areas that a prospect is searching in or engaging with digitally. They are: Engaging with Competitors, Attending Industry Conferences, Engaged with Industry Keywords, Engaged with Industry News and Growing a Dept/Hiring a Role.

In this use case the most frequently occurring “Source” is Hiring for Specific Roles. In other words, the company is hiring. As we drill deeper into the data, we can gain insights on what types of roles they are looking to fill. Why does this matter? It matters because there are several inferences you can make around hiring activities. One would be that of change (probably growth) so that would be positive change. The other would be the alignment of your solution (products and services) that could be used INSTEAD of hiring, or even helping those new hires succeed once they are hired. Understanding context helps you direct your efforts and align your communication more effectively.


Prospecting and business development are more effective when you leverage buyer (behavioral) intent data. We generally advise that our clients reflect on how best to use this data and think in terms of “behavior” not just “buyer”.

As you can see from the use case examples, this data can be used to provide guidance regarding the right personas, what they are interested in and where they are looking. You can then better align your activities and content to deliver the maximum value at the optimal time.

This approach will help you make more revenue, by being more effective at prospecting and lead conversion, and simultaneously enable you to save money on SEO, SEM, media spend and content production.

About us: "For tech & services companies that are going places, Verto uses a formula of buyer intent data and sales & marketing know-how to help our clients build strong sales pipelines so they can consistently make their revenue targets."

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