Zero-Party Data and First-Party Data are the Holy Grail of ABM — Here’s Why You Need It

February 24, 2023

ViB Editorial Team

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In the age of digital marketing and B2B demand generation, being able to personalize your marketing messages is more important than ever. Account-based marketing (ABM) enables you to do just that, by using consumer data to target the right audience at the right time with the right message. 

With an ABM strategy, companies can expect up to 208% revenue growth, according to WARC.

But to really succeed at ABM, you need specific kinds of consumer data about your target accounts — including zero-party data and first-party data.

We love how this comic sums up the value of the four main types of data at a glance.

Getting access to higher quality data like zero-party and first-party data is not always easy, however. 

Hubspot’s research showed that the most common challenge of ABM is delivering personalized experiences. And according to a survey of B2B marketers, over one-third said that not having enough data and analytics was their biggest obstacle when it came to executing an effective ABM strategy. 

The challenges are even greater if you’re a newer brand trying to break into specific high-target accounts. Yet larger enterprises with multiple product lines, target audiences, and channels also face the challenge of keeping their “big data” accurate and up to date. 

In this post, we’ll show you some actionable ways to gather and use zero-party data and first-party data in your ABM strategy. 

What are zero-party and first-party data?

If you’re not that familiar with the terms zero-party data and first-party data, it’s because they aren’t commonly used by most marketers. 

However, this kind of data is more effective and reliable than the other kinds that marketers normally rely on — second-party and third-party data.

Here is a brief overview of all four types of customer data available to B2B marketers.

Let’s break them down one by one.

Zero-party data

What is zero-party data?

Zero-party data is information that a company collects about its customers or prospects through voluntary, explicit interactions, rather than passively tracking their online activity or inferring it from their behavior.

Examples of zero-party data include information that a customer provides through online forms, surveys, or loyalty programs, or data that a company collects through interactive features on its website or mobile app.

Zero-party data is considered the most valuable for creating accurately targeted marketing campaigns, but is also the hardest to access.

In other words, prospects proactively share their personal information directly with the company. 

Zero-party data is explicitly provided by a customer, typically with the expectation that it will result in a better user experience for them. 

Examples of zero-party data that a company might collect:

  • Customer demographics: information about a customer’s age, gender, location, and other demographics through a survey or registration form.
  • Preferences and interests: information such as the types of products or services customers are interested in, their preferred communication channels, or their preferred content formats.
  • Customer feedback: feedback on products and services such as a customer’s satisfaction level, any issues they have encountered, and their suggestions for improvement.
  • Referral information: details about other potential customers or partners that the customer could refer to the company
 

As you can see, zero-party data is often collected through direct customer-company touchpoints. 

How consumers share zero-party data with companies: 

  • Submitting customer feedback forms
  • Opting into various programs, like restock updates or newsletters 
  • Filling out preferences and interests on their account page
  • Participation in loyalty programs
  • Other voluntary interactions in which the customer willingly provides information about themselves, their preferences, and their needs.
 

You can also guess why this data tends to be pretty elusive. Collecting data directly from consumers can be a time-consuming process, and there is no guarantee that customers will be willing to provide the information at all.

See how we simplify the process of collecting zero-party data and then incorporating it in your ABM x email strategy, with insider tips like incentive-based messaging and widened targeting.

First-party data

What is first-party data?

First-party data is consumer information that a company collects directly from customers or prospects. They provide their data voluntarily but passively, i.e. the customer might not need to take explicit action.

First-party data can include information collected through web traffic data, customer purchase and account information, and interactions with customer service.

First-party data is typically used to better understand how consumers interact with their company so they can use it to improve their digital selling footprint. 

How are first-party and zero-party data different?

Unlike zero-party data, first-party data is often collected passively, without the customer having to take any explicit action. 

Examples of first-party data:

  • Website traffic data: data about the pages that web visitors view, the length of time they spend on each page, and the actions they take (such as clicking on a link or filling out a form).

  • Customer purchase history: information about customers’ past purchases, including the products or services they have purchased, the frequency of their purchases, and the amount they typically spend.

  • Customer account information: data including a customer’s contact information, billing and shipping addresses, and payment methods.

  • Customer service interactions: data collected through the customers’ interactions with the customer service team, such as the reasons for their inquiries and the resolution of their issues.

Remember that first-party data is usually not data that consumers are proactively sharing with a company, but that the company is proactively collecting. 

How first-party data is collected from consumers: 

  • Pushing out online forms and questionnaires to consumers

  • Using cookies, website browsing habits, and other tracking technologies

  • Collecting data customers use in online and in-store interactions, like payment and shipping information

  • Collecting information from email and phone call interactions

  • Tracking social media activity, including posts, likes, and comments

Second-party data

What is second-party data?

Second-party data refers to data that is collected by one company and shared with another company. Think of this as someone else’s consumer data that you are allowed to use, ideally with the right privacy laws and permissions negotiated.

Second-party data is typically collected or shared in two ways: data-sharing partnerships and data licensing agreements

Examples of second-party data

Here are some common examples of second-party data that a company could share with another company, especially if they have complementary products or services.

  1. Customer lists

  2. Email marketing lists

  3. Online browsing data collected using tracking technologies

  4. Purchase data

  5. Social media data

It’s important for companies to carefully consider the privacy and security implications of sharing B2B data lists with others. And also to ensure that they are complying with relevant laws and regulations when collecting and sharing data for B2B marketing purposes.

Second-party data is typically collected or shared in two ways: 

  • Data-sharing partnerships

  • Data licensing agreements

How second-party data is collected through data-sharing partnerships

In a data-sharing partnership, two companies agree to share data about their respective customer bases in order to target specific audiences or segments. This data can be collected through a variety of methods, such as online purchases, in-store purchases, website and app interactions, customer service interactions, and social media activity.

For example, a company that sells marketing software might partner with a company that sells CRM software. The two companies could share data about their respective customer bases in order to target potential customers who are interested in both types of software.

How second-party data is collected through data licensing agreements

In a data licensing agreement, one company provides access to its data to another company in exchange for payment. The data may be collected through similar methods as in a data-sharing partnership.

For example, if HomeAndGardens.com asks its shoppers to fill out a survey about what they need in their home and garden and people proactively provide that information and give permission to share it, the company can sell it on the open market to other businesses. 

Third-party data

What is third-party data?

Third-party data is data that is collected and owned by a company that is not affiliated with the company using the data.

This data is often purchased from data aggregators or brokers, and is generally considered to be less reliable and accurate since it isn’t obtained directly from the source.

Examples of third-party data

We can think generally about the types of third-party data that are collected, which include those that are often used by B2B marketers because of their accessibility and cost-effectiveness.

  1. Demographic data: age, income, education level, or other demographic characteristics

  2. Behavioral data: online behaviors, such as websites visited or products viewed

  3. Interest data: preferences, hobbies, or other psychographic characteristics

  4. Firmographic data: size, industry, location

  5. Technographic data: data around technologies or software that businesses are using

  6. Intent data: data around online searches or other behaviors that indicate a business is interested in a particular product or service.

Third-party data could be sold by data brokers or other companies that specialize in sourcing and aggregating large amounts of data from various sources.

This data is typically collected and aggregated from a variety of public or nonpublic sources including the ones we’ve already talked about above. In particular, we’re adding public records in the mix, and these could be business registration records or property records for example.

Imagine if a potential buyer visits three different furniture stores in one day, Apple takes note of the locations on their iPhone or watch. Back at home, the shopper might continue their search for end tables online. Now, Google collects and aggregates that search data. 

Anyone with access to this consumer’s data could infer they are in the market for end tables. They didn’t proactively provide that information, but, nonetheless, the data was collected by third-party entities and used to make inferences for marketing purposes. 

How are third-party and second-party data different?

The major difference between second-party data and third-party data is the level of control that the company using the data has over the collection process. this then affects the accuracy and reliability of both types of data.

  • With second-party data, the company has more control over the data collection process because it is directly involved in the partnership or agreement. 

  • Third-party data, on the other hand, is often sourced from a wide range of sources and collected by companies that are not affiliated with the individuals whose data is being collected, which can make it less reliable and potentially less accurate or up to date.

Why are zero-party data and first-party data so important in ABM?

When it comes to marketing, few things are as important as knowing your customers and prospects. This is especially true when it comes to building an effective ABM strategy. 

Many businesses make the mistake of relying on second and third-party data for their ABM efforts. 

Their thinking runs like this: “I need to know what people are searching for on Google” or “I need to understand what potential customers are doing on another company’s website. If I can get access to this information I could hit the jackpot.” 

Relying on second and third-party data can be problematic because these databases often contain inaccurate and outdated information or are missing key details about the people they’re trying to reach. 

Instead, both zero-party data and first-party data are important in ABM because they allow companies to create more relevant, personalized marketing campaigns that are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of individual customers or prospects. This can be particularly effective in terms of generating leads and closing deals with key accounts.

Additionally, using zero-party data and first-party data can help to build trust between a company and its customers or prospects, which can be critical in the context of ABM.

Benefits of zero-party data and first-party data for ABM

Both zero-party and first-party data deliver several valuable benefits that support ABM strategies—they’re more directly connected to each consumer than third-party information. Building your marketing campaigns on such a solid foundation can improve the performance of ABM strategies.

1—Accurate and detailed

Zero-party and first-party information are so much more likely to be accurate because the users themselves personally or even proactively share it with you. 

They also tend to include more details about why they did something than data collected by automated means—such as cookies, analytics software, or advertising robots.

2—Objective

Zero-party and first-party data is directly connected to the customer’s behavior. It’s data that’s unbiased because it’s not inferred — it’s straight from the consumers themselves, versus being purchased from or traded with third parties. 

3—Valuable and on-demand

It’s data you can repeatably collect from consumers through its own sources and channels, whenever the data is needed. Because your own business controls this data, marketers can optimize timing and specificity to achieve much better results.

4—Effective

We like to call this data “personalization on steroids” because it can be used to create content that will exactly resonate with the target companies’ buyers’ exact challenges and goals.

5—Compliant

Because the data is supplied by consumers voluntarily or through direct means, it doesn’t violate their privacy. This also avoids triggering regulatory penalties for not complying with compliance requirements.

Pitfalls of second-party and third-party data 

Second and third-party data alone is never enough to build a successful ABM strategy. It can even cause significant problems, including these three challenges:

1—Less accurate

Second and third-party are not always accurate and can very quickly become outdated. 

In one study, Deloitte asked consumers to spot-check their data from several major third-party data providers. Only 29% of consumers found that the data from third-party data collectors was 50% accurate or better. 

2—Restricted

Second and third-party are becoming increasingly restricted by ever-stricter state-based and country-based privacy laws, which come with high penalties for non-compliance. 

This is especially the case with third-party data, but it’s also true with second-party data if the aggregator is not rigorous about ensuring that consumers have opted in to share their data. 

And with growing concerns about personal data and cybersecurity, we need to be sure that consumers continue to trust us with their data.

3—Outdated

This is a big one. Second and third-party data is generally not directly tied to consumers’ purchase history. 

For example, in the furniture store example, suppose the consumer had searched online for coffee tables, then went to a furniture store. They filled out the survey but then purchased the items that day. 

The furniture store might sell that second-party data, but the consumer is no longer in the market for end tables. So the next company to try and use the data to sell end tables will have outdated, useless information. 

The fact is that this type of data ages quickly. 

This is why the smartest data strategy you can employ is to create opportunities that encourage your own customers to willingly share their information with you. That will be the most accurate and up-to-date data available — and the most helpful information to boost the success of your ABM strategy.

🔍 How are B2B marketers approaching generative AI, lead generation and marketing budget allocation today? Check out our latest B2B marketing trends report for the latest stats and strategies you need to know.

Thumbnail of ViB B2B Marketing Trends Report

Discover the latest trends and statistics — and the key actions B2B marketers and leaders need to take today. 

How to gather zero-party and first-party data

It is true that zero-party data and first-party data can be more difficult to obtain than other types of information—but once you know the secrets, collecting this type of info is easy.

Let’s think of the two main ways to gather this data: 

  • Within your existing subscriber base and organic reach
  • From net new prospects outside your contact list
 

1—Gathering data within your existing subscriber base and organic reach

Marketers tend to overlook zero-party data buried in their own subscriber databases and organic traffic. So how can you develop a strategy for gathering more? 

The four most common collection methods include: 

  1. Use surveys or data collection tools: Think surveys, polls, opt-in forms, chatbots, virtual assistants, or even interactive quizzes or games. These can be conducted online on your website, through email, or through social media, and can ask questions about preferences, behaviors, and interests.
  2. Analyze website and app activity: Companies can gather first-party data by analyzing the activity of their subscribers on their website or mobile app. This could include tracking page views, clicks, and conversions, as well as analyzing customer behavior and interactions with different features and functions.
  3. Use customer relationship management (CRM) systems: CRM systems can help companies track and manage customer interactions and data. This can include data on customer preferences, behaviors, and purchase history, as well as data on customer interactions with the company’s website, mobile app, or customer service.
  4. Utilize data from customer interactions: Companies can also gather zero-party and first-party data through interactions with their subscribers, such as through phone calls, email, or in-person meetings. This could include data on customer needs, preferences, and feedback, as well as data on customer interactions with the company’s products or services.
 

Top tip: Offer incentives in exchange for data

Our biggest tip when it comes to tapping into your own database is to take advantage of incentives! These could be discounts, special offers, and gifts, to encourage consumers to share their zero-party data. 

Because offering personal information can be a hurdle for consumers, providing that extra motivation helps encourage them to act promptly.

2—Gathering data from net new prospects outside your contact list

Gathering data outside your B2B contact lists and organically-generated traffic is all about lead generation.

Your best bet is to focus on strategic collaborations, such as working with a B2B demand generation agency to execute data-gathering strategies

1. Collaborate on data collection campaigns with a B2B data provider

A data provider or demand generation agency can help you design and execute data collection campaigns to source for your targeted prospects, and these are delivered as demand generation services.

For example, a B2B appointment setting service helps you identify and contact qualified leads — and gather data relevant to the sales process. It also takes your company one step further by setting up appointments or demos for your sales reps to follow up on.

Other ways include creating and distributing targeted content in exchange for data within the agency’s reach and managing email marketing campaigns to engage with targeted B2B prospects and generate leads for your business.

2. Conduct market research with a B2B market research partner

A demand generation agency can also help you conduct market research on various B2B market segments, to gather information such as intent data, needs and preferences, buyer types, and more. 

Effective B2B market research services partners will be able to directly survey the right customers and industry experts in their network, through forms, focus groups, or interviews — i.e. valuable zero-party and first-party data.

That then helps you create a better understanding of your target audience and formulate effective personalization or ABM strategies for each segment. The research results can also be used for creating content that resonates with your audience and helps you generate leads.

Related: Read how this cybersecurity company boosted market leadership with a state-of-the-industry research program

Get the data you need to achieve greater ABM success — with ViB

ViB’s expertise in generating leads through the use of zero-party and single-party data can help you to succeed with ABM. 

From working with clients and building its own community of millions of hyper-segmented IT influencers and decision-makers, ViB offers companies three advantages when it comes to leveraging the right data for every ABM or email marketing campaign:

  1. Direct access to a pre-engaged tech community: As a B2B demand generation agency, ViB has direct access to a pre-engaged tech community, consisting of professionals who are actively interested in and engaged with technology and related topics. VIB regularly collects zero-party data from the members through an ongoing, proactive data-collection program.
  2. A range of B2B demand generation services: ViB offers a range of B2B demand generation services that can help companies reach and engage with targeted B2B prospects, including ABM email marketing, appointment setting, and market research. These services can help companies gather valuable data on their target accounts and create more personalized and effective marketing campaigns.
  3. Expertise and resources: By working with ViB, companies can tap into the expertise and resources of a team of experienced demand generation professionals. ViB’s team can help companies design and execute data collection campaigns and other lead generation efforts, leveraging their knowledge and experience to generate high-quality leads for their clients.
 

Gaining a deeper understanding of your target accounts and creating more personalized and effective ABM campaigns starts with a simple foundation — data. Discover ViB’s proven marketing services with a free consultation today.

Ready to get started with B2B lead generation?

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