Marketers live in a data-driven world. The better the data, the better decisions they can make on programs that drive revenue and build loyalty and retention. But the truth is, there is still a struggle in marketing to bridge the silos of their first-party data so they can stop relying on third-party data to create better customer experiences.
In the Wunderkind The CMO State of the Union report, B2C CMOs say first-party data is having the least impact on revenue:
Since legacy SaaS can only identify up to 5% of visitors to a brand's website at any given moment, CMOs say first-party data is having the least positive impact on revenue. Brands must find a way to unlock first party data as a new performance channel to make up for the loss of third-party cookies.
This is a B2C study, but if we looked at B2B marketing, we'd also see a struggle to bring together first-party data and a reliance on third-party data that doesn't entirely make sense unless the bulk of your marketing strategy is advertising-based.
Data and tech silos continue
More proof of the data challenge. The 2022 Outlook in Data and Technology from Anteraid found that two-thirds of marketers don't have a comprehensive data strategy to inform marketing. And this:
- 35% say data isn't normalized across systems
- 33% say their tools don't talk to each
- 26% say their data is outdated
The marketing tech stack can get pretty big - especially considering the number of technologies available. But this idea that we can't connect data across systems is getting old. Just about every marketing and sales technology connects with Salesforce and often HubSpot, which are the primary tool in marketing sales.
In the Anteraid report, 61% of marketers have a CRM (customer relationship management system), and 35% have a marketing automation (MA) platform (HubSpot fulfills both these needs for mid to smaller companies). The Anteraid report is based on mid-market companies; you can expect that enterprise companies would show an even higher percentage of these platforms.
It's true that not every technology in the marketing stack is easily integrated with others, but many do come with either out-of-the-box connectors or toolkits that include open APIs to build connections. Even if you took a chance on a smaller, younger technology with no connectors, there are tools out there that help you build connections (like Zapier). Of course, this requires open APIs, but what technology today doesn't provide an API?
Marketers also need to step back and scrutinize their tech stacks. Too often, too many technologies in the stack aren't necessarily providing value. In addition, in the drive to try the latest strategy or tactic, marketers are adding technologies to their stacks faster than their marketing operations team can integrate them (if they integrate them at all). The chart below shows how complex the stack is getting for many companies.
The first step is to understand what are the foundational technologies in your stack and make sure those are integrated and data flows between them properly. Some companies bring in a CDP (customer data platform) to help here as the central repository for all data flowing between applications. But even if you don't have a CDP, you can ensure your foundational tech is integrated.
Then for additional technologies, your ops team needs to bring them into the stack in a way that brings the data together.
First-party data is gold, but we still aren't leveraging it fully
Whether B2B or B2C, reliance on third-party data is confusing when this first-party data is sitting in systems, screaming to be used. For PLG companies, data is pure gold. Marketing can see who has signed up for a free trial or a freemium version and watch how they are using the application. But even if you don't have a free version of your application, you still have access to application usage data through tools that tell you about these companies and the people using the application.
All this information can then be used by marketing, sales, and customer success to reach out and learn more about the companies, their work, and the challenges they face that brought them to the application. This is about building an understanding of their ICPs and what they need, which influences everything from marketing, to sales, to product, customer success, and customer service).
This is all first-party data.
Marketing can then take this data and, using an account-based marketing platform or a CDP, analyze the data to find similar companies to market to through advertising campaigns where you can specify the companies (account-based advertising), email campaigns, or other demand gen programs.
Analyzing first-party data also helps marketers understand the entire customer lifecycle and find ways to improve loyalty and retention. Terminus CMO Natalie Cunningham talked about using first-party data to support the entire customer lifecycle:
You want to use your own data and look at which of your customers are becoming advocates. What do they have in common? Is it size? Is the industry? Is it the type of products that they came in on and they expanded into? Sometimes it's less about who they are, and it's more about the sales process of what we sold to them and what makes them most successful. Sometimes it's geo or region, depending upon what your product is, that might make a big difference. So let's start there in terms of the actual analysis process.
Intent data (third-party data) will continue to play a role, but how marketers leverage first-party data is critical now. The focus needs to be on getting first-party data connected across key applications. A 2022 Gartner Marketing Technology study suggests that this will happen through an integrated suite approach (basically going all Adobe, Oracle, or some other enterprise solution). And for enterprise-level companies, this might well be. But for mid-market companies, the price tag that comes with these solutions is too high for the benefits received.
I still point to the fact that most technologies and solutions available today have the connectors to integrate with critical systems; there simply needs to be a plan to bring the data together correctly.
It's time to stop worrying about third-party cookies and third-party data and start diving into the systems and first-party data that best influence how companies can go to market. Focus on technologies in the marketing tech stack that are foundational (CRM, content management, marketing automation, CDP, ABM) and make sure these all work together to give you a solid customer view.
Once your marketing operations team does this, start looking at the additional technologies in the stack. Make sure they are adding value and work towards ensuring they are appropriately integrated, and the first-party data they hold is combined with the rest to continue building a complete customer view.