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News & Insights

News & Insights

Buying Intention

Information services have traditionally sold access to

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their own readers or subscribers under a pretty simple premise: we get X thousand qualified “prospect” eyeballs in one place and a tiny percentage of them will reach out to purchase something. This model shifted to a more “pay-per-performance” basis with the digital era, but it was still a matter of selling to a certain number of qualified prospects who took an action—clicking, reading a whitepaper, attending a webinar, etc.—to show interest in a product’s ad. What we at IEI are seeing now, however, is not another variation on this theme. It’s the emergence of what could be the next truly “new” business model for delivering customers to B2B vendors.

The current models are like this:


  1. $ from seller to middleman (publisher, information service)
  2. Indication of selling intention by seller (ad stating “Buy our products!”)
  3. Action by prospective buyer (call, click, read, email, download)
  4. $ from buyer to seller


  1. Indication of selling intention by seller (ad stating “Buy our products!”)
  2. Action by prospective buyer (call, click, read, email, download)
  3. $ from buyer to seller
  4. $ from seller to middleman (publisher, information service)

The emerging model is simpler:

  1. Indication of buying intention by buyer (RFP)
  2. Action by seller to buyer (response to RFP)
  3. $ from buyer to seller

Of course, the universal RFP system is not yet in place for businesses as it is for government marketplaces. The inevitable rise of VRM (vendor relationship management) systems will address that. VRM marketplaces will replace many of the middlemen—publishers and information services—in the current models, unless of course the middlemen become the VRM providers.

The key with VRM is that it turns the tables and puts the buyer in charge. In other words, the buyer’s “intention” is what drives the interaction. Buying intention is usually captured via primary source research like the controlled circulation surveys that ask whether you intend to buy widgets over the next 12 months. But that intention has been sold in the aggregate to customers and not piecemeal (i.e., “we have 30K subscribers and 1% will spend over $100K in the next 12 months on widgets” versus “here are 300 prospects who will spend over $100K in the next 12 months on widgets”). The thing is, the seller just wants the prospects. They don’t want to create artwork and copy for an ad. They don’t want to set up an 800 number. They just want to move the needle on sales.

The desire for this

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simpler LeadGen model is driving a new wave of research on the buying intention of B2B customers. Why retain a call center to ask for names and email addresses of prospective buyers when you can ask “What are you going to buy and when are you going to buy it?” That data then gets sold to the widget producers at a hefty price that’s still cheaper than the publishing model. It’s also more direct than dealing with all the moving parts in a controlled circulation publishing process. In fact, it removes the whole premise of “publishing” in the first place.

Now, some companies will become information providers themselves via corporate blogs, Twitter feeds, webinars, whitepapers, etc. When the ecosystem of vendors who follow these feeds hits critical mass, they just need to publicize their own RFPs and they’ll get the qualified bids they want at virtually no cost. For the majority of firms, however, there will still be a need for middlemen to make sellers aware of buying intention. The middlemen who do the best job of delivering leads to these firms will drive the final nails in the coffin of the current business models.

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