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Level up your first-party data strategy: How to make your data work for you

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While it feels like Henny Penny’s been crying “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” for a few years now, the inevitable end of the cookie is quickly approaching. Yes, the cookie is, indeed, crumbling and by 2023, the cookie jar will sit empty. 

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So what now? Should marketers be panicking? 

No. But marketers do need to be preparing now for a different approach to how they execute their marketing strategies. Marketers must be ready to level up their first-party data strategy. 

With big tech embracing privacy and tossing out third-party cookies within the next year, marketers who’ve pushed their data strategy to the back burner — or haven’t thought about data in a post-cookie world — will encounter major issues. 

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Why? Because they will need to rely on first-party data to deliver the personalization consumers have come to expect as a standard of service. Not all marketers are comfortable with — or have yet developed the know-how for — maximizing first-party data’s potential to target specific customers. Marketers unfamiliar with first-party data strategies will encounter major issues because consumers expect personalization as a standard of service. 

Although nearly 90% of marketers recognize the importance of first-party data, more than one-third report difficulty maintaining its quality and accuracy. 

But just because cookies have grown stale and crumbled, marketers shouldn’t despair. There’s a whole other aisle in the bakery to visit, with different ingredients like ads, chat, email and web experiences perfect for collecting and activating authentic and rich first-party data to grow revenue.

Addressing consumers’ privacy concerns

At the individual level, and certainly, in B2C transactions, consumers have become increasingly privacy-aware. While 63% of consumers expect personalization in their brand interactions, 83% worry about sharing personal information online. High-profile data breaches suffered by enterprise-level businesses do little to assuage their concern. 

These concerns have also influenced B2B buying behaviors. When customers are worried about how vendors will use private information — or whether companies have robust systems to secure data — they become more reluctant to participate in engagement efforts intended to collect valuable information. 

Because first-party data is collected from audiences directly via owned channels, it’s built on a foundation of trust. This data empowers marketers to deliver accurate, intelligent and targeted marketing. As a complex, continuously evolving dataset, first-party data offers tremendous value.

Add a little spice to the marketing mix

With the right approach to first-party data, marketers can use these insights to reach even more customers than before. And they can not just identify customers but find customers that are the best fit. First-party data like demographics, email engagement, purchase history, sales interactions and website activity do the following:

  • Better reflect customers’ core needs, intent and preferences over time.
  • Generate accurate insights with which to shape marketing strategies more effectively.
  • Empower go-to-market teams to build stronger customer relationships. 
  • Help marketing teams prioritize accounts.
  • Personalize content more accurately to create messages that resonate.

Though third-party data once did the heavy lifting of gathering customer information, first-party data, especially when paired with a holistic ABM approach, has you covered. For example, when first-party data is paired with your CRM, you can collect accurate, compliant customer information. Then you know which prospects have voluntarily engaged with your company — and can continue targeting them with personalized messaging. 

Marketers can also tie a prospect’s IP address to their email domain, which empowers companies to target prospects where they are. Another strategy for achieving more accurate targeting is an open-source, consent-first framework that uses email addresses converted into privacy-compliance formats exchanged between ad providers and publishing sites. This tool maintains customer privacy and compliance because it collects data from customers who’ve consented to data collection on websites. 

To dig more deeply into customer identities, you need contextual data — the data surrounding topics that a customer is researching and reading about. This data creates a more complete picture of needs, intent to buy and more. ABM enables marketers to layer location with content they’re exploring to further refine the ads aimed at the target audience.

Transform first-party data strategies

Here’s the thing about cookies: They provide a snapshot of momentary activity — but it’s a frozen picture. Once you have the data a cookie has collected, it’s old and stale. 

First-party data, however, gets updated over time. This enables marketers to build and maintain more complete prospect profiles. There’s no time for first-party data to grow stale because it’s constantly refreshed with new insights and information. First-party data also helps keep your CRM’s records clean and up to date. Good data gives you a competitive advantage.

You don’t need magic to create a winning first-party strategy — just some strategic planning with intention.  

Take advantage of email as a data source: Add a call to action (CTA) to your email signatures inviting visitors to chat online with the account executive, for example, or check out a specific feature of your company. An undervalued resource, corporate email makes a good data source. Multi-channel ABM enables organizations to leverage employee email channels to gather untapped data.

Fully optimize your websites: Optimizing your website creates opportunities for visitors to share information willingly. From form fills and live chat to engagement and website traffic, your organization’s website generates a wealth of data. Information gathered by these methods does the following:

  • Connects traffic with accounts.
  • Helps sales and marketing teams more effectively target current and potential customers.   
  • Generates timely interactions and best-in-class account experiences.

Turn chatbots into data machines: More than 40% of consumers prefer chatbots to virtual agents for answers or additional information. The real-time information they provide offers deep insights into consumers’ intent and readiness to buy — and helps you build out their identity graph. The ubiquitous first-party chatbot pulls information from your database and offers a straightforward approach to turning all chat sessions into personalized experiences. You can take the chatbot’s data from those conversations and use it to follow up with more messaging to keep customers engaged and moving through the funnel.

Each of these tools offers easy, convenient ways to gather data given voluntarily by target audiences — as does analyzing visitor behavior on your website to help identify clients and their specific needs and to build out ideal customer profiles (ICPs). 

First-party data strategies provide marketers with a unified view of every account. The best way to make your first-party data work for you — to identify priority accounts, capture critical intent information and target appropriate actions that drive results — is to pair it with a holistic ABM approach. Then, your marketing teams will be best equipped to understand target account engagement throughout the entire funnel, from who has engaged with the website or completed surveys or forms to who has used the chat feature. 

It won’t matter that the cookie has crumbled, because this solution provides insights to inform and guide marketing, cultivate valuable customer relationships and achieve strategic business goals.

Tim Kopp is the Chairman and CEO of Terminus. He is a recognized marketing and technology leader with more than 20 years of experience at global B2B and B2C brands such as ExactTarget and Coca-Cola. During his time as Chief Marketing Officer at ExactTarget, Tim led a team of more than 300 marketing leaders to scale revenue from $50M to $400M, through IPO, and ultimately to a 2013 acquisition by Salesforce for $2.7 billion.

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