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3 reasons marketers need to care about first-party data

Satya is the Senior Manager of Demand Generation at Census. She's passionate about scaling startups, cultivating D&I, and Valentina hot sauce.
3 reasons marketers need to care about first-party data


  • Changes to the technology landscape are making it harder for marketers to rely on third-party cookies alone for campaigns.
  • First-party data unlocks a new era of data-driven marketing, improving customer experiences, driving revenue, and increasing campaign ROI.
  • First-party data allows for personalized messaging and outstanding customer experiences.
  • It helps sales and marketing teams work together to identify qualified leads and drive sales.
  • First-party data enables next-level audience segmentation, leading to better targeting and higher ROI.

Third-party cookies fueled many a great marketing campaign in the early days of campaign targeting and segmentation, but our days of using them as our sole data source are numbered and fading fast.

More than 83% of web surfers use Chrome or Safari as their default browser (which means less and less information about user activity on the web). This year Apple closed a loophole in Safari that allowed third-party cookies to sneak by (another limiter to gaining insight into customer activities). Google promises cookies will be off Chrome entirely before the end of 2024 (and another).

As cookies crumble, the success or failure of your campaigns now rides on third-party’s powerful cousin, first-party data.

A marketing or ops pro who can unlock their organization’s first-party data have more power to personalize, predict, budget, and drive revenue than ever before; we just need to uplevel the tools we’re using to make the most of the data we already have in our company’s data warehouse.  

Thankfully, there are some great marketing minds focused on getting the most out of first-party data in this new era, and I got to sit down with three of them at ConCensus 2023.

They highlighted three main reasons data-driven marketers should care about first-party data:

  1. First-party data helps build outstanding customer experiences
  2. First-party data helps marketing target and convert higher-quality sales leads
  3. First-party marketing can improve campaign ROI through improved segmentation & targeting

Here’s a breakdown of the best insights they shared about why every modern marketer should be thinking about first-party data. 

Reason #1: First-party data builds outstanding customer experiences

Cookies segment audiences into groups. Everyone in the group gets the same message. First-party data segments audiences down to the individual level.

Any time someone fills out a form, watches a demo, or tries out a feature, they share first-party data. Instead of basing messages and offers on what people like your customer do, you can base them on what this particular customer actually does.

“I love that first-party data lets you have a real conversation with your users and your prospects based on what they’re doing in your product,” said Matt Avero-Sturm, fractional director of marketing operations at Sprig. “When you start from a real, value-based personal perspective, you can really deliver a great experience. That’s an advantage your competitors don’t have because only you and your user have that relationship.”

Customers know their personal data is valuable. When they trust you with their information, they expect to get something equally useful in return – an optimized experience.

“As a product marketer, first-person data is super important to understand how people are getting along on the customer journey and where they’re getting stuck,” explained Angela Soares, product marketing lead at Google Cloud. “It gives me the ability to send them the right message or the right content to unstick them and provide them the best possible experience.”

Armed with first-party data, you can alert customers to useful features they didn’t know existed. You can also build a one-on-one brand relationship that turns customers into evangelists, as Spotify has done with Wrapped.

Many companies using first-party data today are only tapping into a fraction of its potential, like flagging power users as upsell opportunities. While that’s great, it’s like buying an iPhone just to make calls. Yes, it can do that, but it can do so much more. 

Reason #2: First-party data can drive sales

There’s a classic conflict between marketing and sales teams at B2B companies focused on product-led growth.

Sales gets frustrated at marketing for wasting their time with leads who will never buy, and marketers get frustrated with sales teams who ask for leads but never like the ones they’re sent.

First-party data to the rescue.

If sales and marketing can agree on what does make a qualified lead (fueled by first-party data), marketers can segment for that. Then they can further refine the pipeline by designing high-value automated email sequences to nurture the people most ready to buy.

Not everyone who signs up for a webinar is a sales-qualified lead. But maybe someone who logs in four times a week, consumes specific content, follows the brand’s social media accounts, and signs up for a webinar is.

“You have a finite number of sales folks, and they have a finite amount of time,” Angela said. “Giving them the right audience signals can help them prioritize their time, reach out to customers open to conversations, and have more targeted and productive conversations.”

First-party data offers a great opportunity for sales and marketing to buddy up and work together toward business goals. Using a tool like Census, these audience signals can flow directly into the CRM in a way the sales team can use. Going deeper, an organization can overlay buyer persona data with win rates and deal sizes. With that information, sales teams can focus on the most high-value use cases.

First-party data offers next-level audience segmentation

First-party data gives you insight into customer buying behavior so the messages you send have a better chance of hitting home – and generating ROI.

“Very few customers have a lot of time when an ad is served to them,” explained Rohit Thosar, Senior Manager-Martech at Masterclass. “You need surgical targeting to grab that millisecond of attention. Blind targeting won’t give you a return on your investment.”

If ad creative is generic, audiences won’t respond to it, even if the offer is good, Rohit said. First-party data helps you identify specific segments of your customer base and build creativity around the specific actions users took, products they bought, and content they interacted with in the past.

For example, let’s say your product is a small-business CRM. First-party data lets you know what features a particular lead is interested in. So you know if they will most likely respond to an ad focused on your product’s lead gen, accounting, or contract capabilities. Personalizing marketing to scratch the right itch for your leads can improve marketing ROI by as much as 30%

This is super useful in a B2B enterprise company like Google, Angela said. The sales cycle at Google Cloud is long and might involve dozens of influencers and decision-makers. First-party data helps segment that audience into personas, who can each receive the messaging they need to move them along on their journey.

“Instead of spray-and-pray, you can target customers,” Rohit said. “They get nudged by a very targeted product or offer in the platform they prefer to buy from.”

First-party data also helps you test your marketing platforms. You can improve your total ROI by reallocating ad spend to concentrate on the highest-converting channels. Applying first-party data to its marketing strategy cut ClickUp’s customer acquisition costs in half.

The future of marketing is the first party

It’s a pivotal time in the world of marketing. News breaks seemingly every day of companies shaking up their marketing teams, strategies, or technology. The goal behind all this change is simple: boost efficiency. And first-party data is a vital part of that.

Companies providing the best value will get the best first-party data. They can then use that data to inform marketing, sales, and go-to-market strategies (think of it as a virtuous cycle). The market is getting increasingly competitive, and the ability to act on data quickly is a huge advantage.

First-party data promises a higher quality of insight into your users, and the best part is that it's data you actually own, and you already have it sitting in your warehouse. Quality and accessibility are paramount when building new campaigns, running marketing experiments, and exploring new marketing technology like generative AI (as they say, garbage in, garbage out). 

“A lot of companies are re-evaluating their marketing leadership, marketing strategy, marketing budgets, and the people in the seats have become much more efficiency focused,” Matt said. “Efficiency automation is a component of that. So is surgical targeting. So is high-value AI. And first-party is driving so much of that.”

Want to learn more from Matt, Angela, and Rohit? Catch their entire ConCensus 2023 session on demand. 

And, if you’re ready to find out how you can activate all the first-party data sitting in your warehouse already, check out how Census empowers data-driven marketing teams.

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