Advertising guru Sir Martin Sorrell said that “2020 is the year of first-party data.” He’s partially right. Actually, its importance will extend far into the next decade, as savvy marketers leverage data-driven marketing. Associations are no exception to this trend. They should be collecting data and using it to improve member engagement, scale their digital properties, and pivot in real time. Taking control of first-party data is crucial for an organization looking to improve their digital experiences. 

What is first-party data?

First-party data is the information that organizations can collect from owned digital properties, direct from their audiences and customers. It might include demographics from CRM systems, open rates and click through rates from newsletters, website analytics, social media stats, purchase history and more. Unlike third party data, first-party data is fully owned by your organization. 

Third party data is purchased from external sources, such as market research surveys.. The aggregators who collect it have extensive networks, so this data is often comprehensive, and much of the cleaning and management will be done for you. But the fact that data aggregators are selling it to the masses means that it is not unique to you, or specifically about your members and audiences.

In a digital-first world, the opportunities for leveraging first-party data are endless. As first-party data is entirely bespoke to your organization, understanding it and utilizing it effectively helps you retain and evolve your competitive edge. Because you have agency over your collection and cleaning practices, you can be sure of its quality, as well as relevance to you and your organization. It’s imperative to launch a strategy both for collecting first-party data,  and for using it to meet organization objectives.

There’s a reason that in 2017 The Economist said:

“the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”

How do you collect first-party data?

Of course, it’s one thing to collect data, and another to extract actionable insights from it. CDPs, or Customer Data Platforms, gather and streamline data. CDPs have evolved with ecommerce and online subscription businesses that rely on leveraging user data in order to grow.  While they offer excellent data collection capabilities, CDPs are often confusing. Without an advanced data science degree, it can be difficult to understand how to use the data. Hum is a CDP purpose-built for associations. Where we differ from traditional CDPs is in our analysis and reporting capabilities. We help associations get the most out of their first-party data, with clear reporting and top-level features built for every user. No data scientist required. If you've ever logged into GoogleAnalytics and experienced information overload anxiety, Hum is for you. Every Hum data story is easy to understand and even easier to make actionable for association-specific objectives. 

So now you understand what first-party data is and how to collect it. Here are few ideas about how you might leverage your new insights. 

Personalize the Member Experience

Today’s members don’t just want a personalized digital experience – they expect it. Association data allows you to create  specific communications and experiences, because you’ll know exactly which topics will resonate with each and every individual. You might deliver this personalized experience via the content you serve, the emails you send, or the events you offer. By giving your members more of what they want, your retention rates will improve. Continually delighting your membership base is essential not only to make sure they renew membership year after year, but also to encourage them to tell others about your organization.

Attract New Members

By collecting data to better understand your existing membership, you will get a good idea of what new members might want as well. Use first-party data to form comprehensive audience intelligence that allows you to address the entire member journey, from initial discovery to long-term engagement with your association. First-party data allows you to know what people want. And you’ll be able to meet demand, no matter where they are in your funnels. In addition to creating content and experiences that resonate with new audiences, you can use owned data to inform paid ads campaigns to drive recruitment.

Become Nimble and Proactive

First-party data is particularly potent because it updates in real time, allowing you to continuously evolve and adapt offerings. Delight audiences with custom digital experiences based on their unique patterns, preferences and behaviors. This nuanced audience understanding allows your organization to be proactive rather than reactive, as befits the fast-paced landscape in which you are operating. Take on this competency to become a nimble, entrepreneurial, future-ready organization.

Train Your Teams

First-party data allows you to listen to your members. Learn what they want, how they want it, when they want it. It enables your team and stakeholders to develop real time feedback loops to find better ways to meet member needs. Imagine how this level of understanding could evolve your member support and customer service teams. And the opportunities for organizational growth are endless. Using data to inform your approach means your decisions are always rooted in a real-time understanding of what’s most important to your audience.  

Evolve Your Offering

In the long term, you can use first-party data to mold and shape your association’s future direction, providing rationale for each and every management decision. In short, data takes the guesswork out of major decisions, both strategically and operationally. Everything from member experiences to marketing strategies, recruitment campaigns, events and operations can be developed in response to trends and insight that you get from your first-party data. 

If you want to know more about how your association can leverage first-party data to engage members, extend membership, and evolve the organization, get in touch.