Is first-party data still safe? How to still collect and use it in a privacy obsessed B2B world

In this blog, we'll uncover what first-party data is, why it's more important now than ever before, and discuss ways in which B2B businesses can transition toward a cookie-less, privacy-compliant world.
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Aubrey Morgan
June 29, 2021 . 4 min read
Banner image first party data

First-party data is the data that ruined the party, so to speak—a party that frankly, needed to end. Big companies misusing personal information finally inspired GDPR, CCPA, and now dozens of regulations restricting what firms can collect and keep. Aka, all that very difficult to track information scattered across your CRM and half a dozen other top systems.

For a quick refresher, first-party means data that your firm collected firsthand—on your site, in your app, or on some web property you own. It’s often free. It’s also often hidden—people rarely know you’re capturing it, how it’s being used, how long you’ll store it, etc., despite all the pop-ups. And therein lies the issue. 

Privacy regulations aim to restore a balance and give power back to users by way of massive and seemingly random fines. And while its intent is primarily to protect consumers, it impacts B2B organizations just the same. The regulatory bodies are purposefully vague about how to remain compliant—the onus is on you, the business, to figure that out. This has left a lot of B2B companies wondering, how much of their hard-won first-party data is still strictly legal? And even if it’s technically legal, might some of it still not be safe to use?

What is first-party data? 

Anything you collect firsthand, on properties, sites, or apps you own.

  • Contact 
  • Name
  • Title
  • Firmographics
  • Product data
  • Website activity
  • Video viewing data
  • Call recordings

The hidden benefits to your first-party data

As we’ve explored in previous articles, there are many types of data, each with unique uses and draws. In the face of privacy regulation, there’s a growing movement toward what’s known as zero-party data, or data that customers voluntarily provide so you can better tailor their experience. (Think of an onboarding quiz where the app asks what your goals are.) While zero-party has its advantages—it is by definition, completely consensual—first-party data also has its advantages.

Unlike with other data types, first-party data collection is non-intrusive. That is, you don’t have to constantly be pestering people, asking what they want, and unable to market to them unless they respond. With first-party data, you can simply watch the things they click or tap and infer their intent. 

That means that if you’re using first-party data for personalization, you don’t need someone to complete a whole survey before you serve up relevant case studies. Precious few people respond to surveys anyway. The polling firm Gallup finds their response rates have been declining for the last five years and it’s probably due to the fact everyone is polling users these days. They are overloaded with requests.

People don’t always want to be asked. Often, they’ll appreciate when you simply know. Look at any number of positive product reviews on G2 or TrustRadius and that’s often one of the things that surprises and delights people—the company saved them clicks by knowing what they like. It’s all part of that data-compliance balancing act: Buyers actually want you to have their first-party data, when you make it useful to them.

Then there’s the next advantage of first-party data: It’s free. Unlike second-party data that requires partnerships and third-party data that costs money, buyers since the dawn of the internet have been acclimated to trading basic contact and firmographic information for white papers. Despite 1,001 data breaches exposing 158M Americans’ records in 2020, a majority of Americans are still happy trading their personal information for insights. And while 27% of Americans use ad blockers, it’s worth remembering that 73% do not. 

So, first-party data is well worth the fight. The trouble is, managing in a typical B2B SaaS operations environment is tremendous pain rife with compliance issues.

Why first-party data so often runs afoul of the law

GDPR and other laws present a sort of international data bill of rights for users. Among the covered data types are “customer contact details”—aka, all the first-party data common to B2B sales, marketing, and success operations. 

Individuals have the right to:

  • Know what data companies hold on them
  • Not have unnecessary data collected
  • Be forgotten, if they request it
  • Only have their data collected for fair and legitimate purposes
  • Have their data processed in a secure manner
  • Have their data processed fairly and transparently
  • Retained only as long as necessary
  • Kept up to date

If you just read that last item and gasped, you probably realize that nearly no B2B marketing or sales organizations or their systems are built to accommodate this. Fragmented data is the number one complaint today. Data is scattered across systems, new systems are added almost weekly, and tying it all back to individuals and allowing them to view and expunge it is a tall order.

To collect first-party data and accommodate all these regulations, you need to know what you have on every individual, secure it, and delete it when it’s no longer needed. And for that, something like Syncari helps.

How Syncari protects your first-party data

Syncari provides a distributed source of data truth. That means it’s able to identify the data where it lives across your systems, clean it continuously (so someone who requests to be removed isn’t, because of a typo), and create systems that expunge old data. 

You can, for example, set rules such that once an opportunity is moved to closed-won, sensitive (and no longer necessary) data is removed from the CRM and adjoining systems automatically. Or, you can set recurring cleanses to hunt for orphaned data that looks like it might be sensitive. And perhaps most useful of all, should you fall subject to an audit, your response time will be minimal, and you’ll be able to demonstrate that you have both a complete awareness of what data you do possess, and can quickly prove none of it is illegitimate or unnecessary.

Well worth the fight

First-party data—that sort you collect first hand on your website or app—is immensely valuable. Don’t be convinced that in a post-cookie era, it is unnecessary. Buyers appreciate you having it when it makes their lives easier, which is the whole point of modern revenue operations, and with the right systems in place, you can use it legally and safely. Done right, buyers will thank you for it.

Syncari saves so much time and headache in the long run

Written by Aubrey Morgan
Aubrey is the Director of Demand Generation and Operations at Syncari. She brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience, leading GTM Ops teams across email, marketing operations, lifecycle (right time/right message) and integrated campaigns.

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