Ten years ago, Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing” changed the way we think about developing relationships with our customers. Today, the noisy atmosphere and constant concerns of data privacy call again for a new paradigm, a new way where marketers and consumers work together to craft better Marketing and Communication experiences.
The idea that is ushering in this new change is Zero Party Data, the newly named data source that refers to consumers telling brands how and when they want to be communicated with. Zero party data present a novel, and idealistic business challenge – to invest in the quality of their content and to strategic and hyper-personal in their marketing.
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What Is Zero Party Data?
Zero party data is information that the consumer actively gives brands that indicate their communication preferences. This includes the consumers’ preferred channels and communication mediums, their interests such as news, updates and product releases, and the frequency in which they would like to receive these messages. Ths consumer-brand interaction typically unfolds on a preference center page, where consumers can select various communication options that the brand must honor.
Historically, Zero Party Data has been considered a subset of first-party data, since this refers to data that is owned by the firm. However, the value and the ramifications of storing, protecting, and honoring this data justify its own classification. This trust between brand and consumer is paramount, especially given recent global data breaches and multi-million dollar lawsuits and fines being levied on some of the world’s leading companies. So the stakes are higher than ever to gather this information from consumers and use it in a respectful, and compliant way.
Who Is Doing Zero Party Data Right?
For many years, Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies have been paving the way to create the best possible consumer experience. Take the New York Times for example – leading the way when it comes to news and preferences, and how consumer data is treated. Just visit the email subscription center of the New York Times site and you can spend an hour viewing and subscribing to the almost 70 different versions of newsletters that they provide, from business news to parenting, art to education and hobbies. Going beyond that, the Times also shows how often these newsletters go out, and who they are written by – you can of course also opt-out of any of the communications
“Some of the leading B2C companies are killing it when it comes to customer preferences”, says a leading agency executive. “Take Google, for example, Google news is completely customizable, I can tell Google everything I am interested in it comes up with a perfect layout for me that I can read everyday. Ultimately, when Zero Party Data is used the right way, it greatly benefits the customer, and what is good for the customer is good for business”.
How Does This Work for B2B Marketing?
Unfortunately, most companies do not offer the option to collect this data, and even if data is collected it is often not stored and actioned correctly. Not only are brands missing out on potential customer value and profits potential, but many are in danger of violating compliance laws and data privacy regulations. B2B firms especially need to evaluate their own processes as they often lag behind others in the category of customer experience.
Much of this stems from a lack of prioritizing customer experience. The focus is more on Product Marketing (how great we are), or biased Content Marketing (here is how to best use our product). While the majority of B2B companies do offer the ability to unsubscribe, most lack a comprehensive preference center where customers can truly customize their communication relationships.
“Data is money – it’s as simple as that,” claims an Analyst from a Marketing Technology research firm. “By offering more ways to collect data from your customers, you are literally growing revenue. And a no-brainer way to build a data collection touch-point is by building a preference center.”
The Zero Party Data collected from the preference center can be deployed in a multitude of ways, benefiting both the customer and the business. One prime example is taking topics the customer is most interested in, working them into your content strategy, and personalizing email sends for elevated customer experience. Now customers will be receiving content they enjoy, and will be more likely to engage and convert.
What Are the Steps to Employ This at Your Company?
The first step to employ this in your organization is to build a comprehensive preference center. This will vary based on your business and the amount of content and communications you produce. For companies that produce a prodigious amount of industry reports, white papers, webinars, etc – this preference center can be large, displaying a wide selection of topics and content types that the consumer may want to receive.
Smaller firms may have fewer choices, such as a newsletter, product updates, and frequency of emails to start. Regardless of what type of preference center you have, starting early is your best bet to building out a robust inventory of zero party data.
Next, you want to provide multiple mechanisms to let your users know that they can customize their preferences, and what the benefits are of doing so. For example, the footer of all your website pages and emails should have a “Manage Your Communication Preferences” call-to-action. Let customers know that you value their privacy and their time, and by explicitly giving this information, they can customize their own experience and get the types of communication they want. Make sure to abide by all legal compliance regulations, such as GDPR, CASL, and CCPA.
From a technical standpoint, B2B companies will need to normalize their data based on preference center information and adapt any ongoing nurture programs to respect and this new information. “People often disregard the power of a well-implemented email preference center,” puts forward Sara McNamara, a senior MarTech consultant with deep industry expertise.
“By allowing prospects and customers to input their own content preferences in an email preference center, marketers are able to take the guesswork out of serving their prospects and customers the content that they want to receive, when they want to receive it. This generally leads to higher engagement and happier, more loyal, more well-informed customers – and more sales.”
Where to Go From Here?
As the industry evolves to put more pressure on businesses to respect customer wishes and enhance customer experience, Zero Party Data will become the gold standard to collect and utilize in business practices. But the time to start is now – brands that are ahead of the game are already reaping the benefits of better customer interaction and profitable performance. Zero Party data is the next step in the progression of Permission Marketing, and will eventually lead Marketing into a new era.
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