Digital marketers have done their best to keep up with changes in privacy and data collection laws in recent years, but it’s time we accept the fact that third-party data will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs. And even if the regulatory changes that eliminate third-party data as a tool for marketers are years or decades off, the increased public scrutiny of third-party data collection, sales and purchasing will only speed up.

Five states have data privacy laws in effect or that will be in effect in the coming years, and the EU has put some industry-changing data protection laws in place. This trend will continue, and new data privacy laws will continue to pop up in new places. Refusing to address the bigger issue will set marketers back and make keeping up with our more progressive competitors impossible.

Instead of playing whack-a-mole as new rules and regulations crop up, marketers should embrace first-party data and the opportunities it presents.

The Inefficiencies of Third-Party Data

In many ways, marketers’ reliance on third-party data makes us hugely inefficient. Access to more data does not always mean access to better or more useful data. A lot of third-party data is wasted because it’s simply not useful to marketers, and we spend too much time parsing what is useful from what isn’t.

Third-party data is based on a lot of assumptions (e.g., because they’re interested in this, they must be interested in that). And while those assumptions sometimes pay off, building our marketing strategies on them creates reliance on individual team members’ assumptions. 

Third-party data is also typically collected from people who aren’t consenting to provide their data. This will become increasingly unpopular with buyers in the coming years, and it forces marketers to overcome the additional hurdle of engaging a lead who may be totally uninterested in your product or the services you offer. 

Finally, third-party data lacks a crucial piece of lead intelligence: intent. Because you don’t have an established relationship with leads whose data you’re utilizing, you can’t really know what their intention in seeking out certain information is. Without understanding their motivations, you’ll struggle to engage them.

Related Article: From First-Party to Zero-Party Data

First-Party Data Provides Opportunities to Truly Understand Your Buyers

If third-party data is based on assumptions, first-party data is based on reality. First-party data allows marketers to build true buyer intelligence instead of simply generating a lead or prospect and passing it to sales. Companies that shift their focus to collecting and utilizing first-party data will be unmatched in their ability to generate and convert high-quality, high-intent leads. 

Centering your data collection efforts around first-party data transforms lead generating into a dual-purpose tool: not only are you generating an individual lead, but you’re also collecting data that can be used to build a picture of your buyers that has more color and texture. Instead of surreptitiously gathering data from third parties, marketers need to gather more data directly from buyers and build a direct rapport. This data can be collected at each stage of the buying process and be used to provide the buyer a better experience.

Learning Opportunities

When collected and analyzed intelligently, first-party data can inform your messaging, strategies, budgets and priorities. Lead generation, data collection and strategy become an iterative process where each step becomes more effective and productive as time goes on, instead of static, siloed operations that are disparately affected by changing data regulations.

Related Article: The Future of Personalization and 1st Party Data

First-Party Data Collection Builds Trust With Buyers

First-party data also presents an opportunity to build trust with your prospects. When they deem your content and messaging valuable enough to provide their data and opt-in to communications, lead conversion becomes a trust-building exchange. 

Marketers that abandon third-party data will need to become experts in writing compelling content, testing and iterating on messaging and strategy, progressive profiling, reporting and analytics. Marketing teams and agencies will need to push all of their members — content writers, designers, marketers and project managers — to become obsessed with performance and lead data so they can improve their craft.

And like the quality of leads gathered using first-party data, the outcomes of our work will improve when we pursue this type of lead and data generation. Our focus will naturally shift to light-lift, high-impact activities and away from the kinds of production tasks that have plagued B2B marketers for years. 

Collecting first-party data may initially require some reworking of your current strategies and priorities, but it will result in more engaged, interested leads. It offers the opportunity for true alignment with your buyers’ pain points and needs and to focus on the strategies and messaging that engage only the highest-intent, highest-quality leads.

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