One day in the not-too-distant future Apple is going to drop App Tracking Transparency (known around the industry, confusingly, as ATT). In anticipation, it seems as if there’s a new article daily about how companies are trying to cope with these upcoming changes to tracking and privacy requirements. Most concerned are those who rely heavily on third-party data to drive their digital marketing—which happens to be a large percentage of all businesses.
The biggest news this week is a PR nightmare for P&G, one of the largest advertisers in the world, who is being reported as working with China to try and find ways around ATT. This, according to Mobile Dev Memo, involves joining a kind-of data co-op, “where members — which pay a participation fee — pool IP-indexed fingerprints to allow for devices to be identified as they engage with apps.” All in all it’s not a great look for the brand, the potential geopolitical consequences and sure to be something that makes Apple unhappy.
While not necessarily the desperation that consumer packaged goods companies have, there is a lesson in here for B2B businesses as well. Most B2B companies are also reliant on top-of-the-funnel leads coming from advertising that relies on third-party data. That data seems to be going away if both Apple and government regulation has their way. Even Google, long the king of online advertising, is pro-actively changing how they allow you to target, moving people into anonymous groups or clusters.
If we play this out moving forward it seems clear that between big tech companies and government regulation, the ability for businesses to target users in apps and on the web will look drastically different in the next few years. Specifically, companies will become even more reliant on first-party data to reach prospects. Where does that come from? People have interacted with your website or product that opted into sharing their information with you.
The Case for Research Led Growth and First-Party Data
B2B buying research all points to customers wanting to do more and more research before they buy and even before they talk with sales. That means they are coming to your website, looking at your docs, getting technical help to understand how they might integrate your product into their stack, and trying to ascertain your competitive strengths and weaknesses before they ever talk with anyone on your team. In the traditional GTM world, most of this happened before they gave you any first-party data. Marketers got around this lack of data by relying on third-party data, whether through ad networks or other means of identifying anonymous visitors. Eventually, you’d try to stick some content behind a gate so you could generate a lead and get their email or a newer B2B business might capture this information through a product trial or freemium play, but that would often happen much later in the cycle. That process, it seems, is going to need to start a whole lot earlier.
How do you do that?
Well that is the big question and why sales and marketing have to be aligned on the idea that capturing a prospects information is the single most important step in the early part of the funnel. If the information can be captured, that information can be stored and you can work to understand the buyer’s journey all the way up to the point where the buyer raises their hand to say they are read to talk to sales.
How do you get started?
You want to start by having a Customer Data Platform (CDP) in place. This is something you can build yourself or can buy something like Segment off the shelf and customize for your needs. A platform like this should do much of the heavy lifting to ensure that your customer data is federated in a way that every person that interacts with your website or product is assigned a unique user ID. Once you have that User ID, you can start to make sure that your downstream systems all use it, be it CRM (as a contact and part of an account), product analytics (as a user on a customer account), marketing automation (as a prospect to be nurtured) or anywhere else you want to pipe data.
Selfishly when you have this in place, this is also when Variance becomes valuable to your organization. Variance, in working off of your CDP, can be configured so any known visitor can be sent directly to your seller or marketer to inform them of actions taken. X user downloaded this whitepaper, Y user checked out the pricing page, Z user is converting from free to paid and has added their credit card. Once you have this data you realize how much more easily you can talk to, target, and work with your funnel—whether they are just a prospect doing research or they are your largest customer looking to expand. Here is a borrowed and anonymized illustration from an early alpha user that might help visualize how the data is collected and disseminated.
It is said that oftentimes the best companies take weaknesses and make them strengths. With these changes imminent, and likely more to come on the horizon, now is the moment to take what might look like a disadvantage and judo it into an enormous advantage to how you go to market and grow your business.