First things first: your business needs a data strategy

Marketing

Over the past decade or so, third-party data platforms have made it ridiculously easy to hyper-target even the most niche consumer. Facebook, Google, and now Amazon have built vast advertising empires accessible to anyone with a modicum of digital-savvy. However, it may get harder in the short-term for marketers to reach their target as users are demanding more control over their personal information.

In May, Facebook began preparing advertisers for a massive change coming to the social network. In the not too distant future, users will have access to a “clear history” function allowing the removal of all personal data from the platform. It’s unclear how many users will be inclined to clear their data, but it will certainly be more than zero.

In June, Apple introduced “Sign in with Apple,” a service that automatically creates a disposable, anonymous email address allowing users to sign in to third-party apps without using their email addresses.

Much has been written about the importance of collecting first-party data, the inherent challenges, and the freedom that comes from not relying on the major third-party platforms. If your business doesn’t have a first-party data strategy in place today, it’s time to put one together. Below are a few tips to help you get started.

Choose the right platform

Finding the best data management platform (DMP) for your business should be your first course of action. Your decision may depend largely on the type of data you want to collect, your collection method, or how you want to use that data once it is in your possession. When interviewing or researching various vendors, you must understand what you want to know about your customers and what they, in turn, will expect from your organization.

Clarify the value for your users

Before asking for personal information, communicate the value that you will convey upon your users in response. Users are increasingly wary of handing over data for fear of misuse. Approach your collection efforts with empathy for the user in mind first. What are they getting out of the relationship? In a world where privacy comes at a premium, why should customers engage with your brand and permit you to interact with them? And for goodness sake, don’t greet your users with an email signup form laying overtop your homepage. You wouldn’t block customers from entering your brick and mortar location until they signed up for your newsletter. Why do the same thing on your website?

Set goals that matter

When it comes to building your user database, what would make a significant impact on your business? Answer this question both in short and long-terms. If you only focus on the long-term goal, it can seem so far off and unachievable that it’s not worth the journey to get there. Having incremental goals along the way to your destination can provide momentum to your initiative through marking mileposts along the way.

Your goals may be to capture a percentage of customer transactions, a share of a geographic population, or simply grow your existing database by a certain amount. Maybe your database needs to grow beyond simple demographic information and into more sophisticated psychographic profiles.

Find a champion

Once you’ve launched your initiative, someone needs to “own” it. Whether it’s a full-fledged department or one individual, someone needs to ensure the program is running as intended and that all stakeholders are updated on the organization’s progress towards the stated goals.

Clean and purge, ruthlessly

Like yogurt in your refrigerator, data has an expiration date. As your data rolls in, it will be tempting to focus on the big number of how many records you have in your database. The more important metric, however, is your number of active or engaged users. If your list is filled with one-time customers or vague intenders that merely signed up to participate in a promotion, you don’t have a list with enduring value to your business.

Find ways to re-engage with inactive customers. If they don’t respond, move them to an inactive list. Don’t spam or target users that are no longer interested. Doing so will only waste your resources and sour the target on your brand message.

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