earned data

Let’s Talk About Earned Data Strategy

Earned data, the kind offered up out of your customers’ free will, is often the most difficult to obtain ethically, but it is also the most valuable.

Earned data, the kind offered up out of your customers’ free will, is often the most difficult to obtain ethically, but it is also the most valuable.

In marketing 101 we all learn about how to create a strategy across owned, paid and earned media. It’s generally accepted that earned media coverage is the hardest to achieve, but the most valuable. Why? Because you’ve managed to convince people to talk about you of their own free will. You haven’t paid them; you have simply invited them to make a judgment based on the information available. And because of that, the theory is that what you read in a paper or magazine, written by a journalist doing his or her own research, is more credible than the full-page ad you may have bought or indeed the rhetoric on your own home page.

By David Eldridge

The same kind of terminology is increasingly being used to differentiate categories of customer data, in terms of how the data is acquired and how it will be used. For decades, marketers have relied on a broad range of sources of data including third party data. In recent years, with martech and adtech becoming increasingly powerful, this data has become the lifeblood of marketing. But in the wake of legislation like the GDPR in Europe and CCPA in the US, and consumers becoming increasingly interested in who has their data and how it is used, huge swathes of this data are rapidly falling away. This sea change is leading to major data collectors like Google fundamentally changing their approach and phasing out third party cookies, and much of the current online advertising targeting being declared “non-compliant” with regulations by organisations such as the Information Commissioners Office.

Put simply (marketing 101 again), if you want to earn and retain the trust of your audience, you shouldn’t use customer data unless the customer has given you explicit permission by proactively ‘opting in’ to receive information from you or for their data to be used in the way you are using it. Of course, that doesn’t stop organisations continuing to spam customers from old databases and using lots of third party sources to attempt to improve “targeting”, but as people become increasingly aware of their legal ‘right’ to privacy, and ever more discerning about the brands they do and don’t want to deal with, it simply doesn’t pay to get this wrong! People that complain about the use of their data typically stop being customers of the offending organisation within a very short period of time.

So, what about second-party or first-party data? Well, briefly, second-party data is generally shared between business partners, and can help marketers reach a customer visiting a partner’s site, or identify what kinds of content that customer is likely to find most compelling. First-party data is typically gathered by your company, generated by interactions with your own customers or prospects. It is generally governed by your privacy policies and terms of use, and can provide valuable insights such as how an individual interacts with your brand over time.

Why is Earned Data so valuable? It’s because the value goes both ways.

First-party data is very valuable, because it’s been gathered via a direct interaction between company and customer. However, a lot of that collection is automated, and much of the way that data is subsequently used is inferred or assumed. The customer doesn’t have control over that, and as a result first-party data is often used inaccurately and in annoying and intrusive ways.

The truth is that the most valuable data type of all is what we at 3radical called Earned Data. So, what exactly is earned data? This is data that’s intentionally shared by the customer with the brand with an understanding of how it will be used. It can include things like preference centre data, purchase intent and personal context as well as information about how an individual interacts with the brand (first party data). It helps the brand to build an understanding of each customer over time, to personalise the experience and orchestrate the most appropriate, engaging and productive journey from that point on as well as to inform product and service development and customisation.

Why is Earned Data so valuable? It’s because the value goes both ways. We talk a lot about ‘in-the-moment’ exchanges of value between customer and brand – that’s the essential contract between the two parties. If the brand doesn’t deliver value – not just once but every time there’s an interaction – then the consumer can simply withdraw consent for their data to be used. And if they personalise inappropriately, or intrusively, that’s going to have the same effect. Brands have to work hard to earn an individual’s trust and incentivise ‘empowered’ consumers to part with their personal data, and keep working hard to keep the relationship going over the course of multiple interactions over time. It’s not easy, but the best things in life never are. It’s the treasure trove of information that allows the brand to build long-term loyalty by optimising the way in which each individual is engaged with – it’s permissioned, rich and unique to the brand.

There’s a lot of very clever technology throughout the marketing tech stack, much of it involving AI and machine learning to infer customer needs and behaviours and personalise interactions, with spend on martech alone topping $120 billion per annum in 2019. That’s great, but without access to Earned Data and having this at the core of marketing – the massive investments made won’t have anything to “fuel” them as other data sources disappear.

Brands must now focus their data strategy around Earned Data. Straight from the horse’s mouth. Volunteered. Real. Authentic. Trusted.

David Eldridge is CEO at 3radical.

This article originally appeared on 3radical. Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash.

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