Does your company really own all of its data?
Data ownership is becoming increasingly important in the modern business world. But, you might not actually own as much of your data as you think.
For growing businesses, data ownership is often a top priority.
To be sure, “data ownership” encompasses a wide breadth of responsibilities. As a 2018 report from NewVantage Partners shows, industry leaders’ data-focused priorities include:
- Leveraging owned data to compete against data-driven rivals
- Removing friction with from use of data for various processes
- Combining organizational data with emerging technology in an efficient and reliable manner
Over the course of the next three articles, we’ll be digging into everything you need to do to bring all this to life within your organization.
In this first post, we’ll be addressing the topic of what ‘data ownership’ really mean for your business.
Let’s get started.
What is true data ownership?
To explain what true data ownership looks like, we need to back up a bit and explain the difference between first-, second- and third-party data:
- First-party data, or primary data, refers to data that your organization has collected based off of actual engagements, events, and experiences involving your business. Ex: Company A collects website engagement on its site visitors.
- Second-party data is data that has been collected by another party, that your company has purchased or otherwise obtained specifically from the party that collected it. Ex: Company’s A and B enter an agreement to share Facebook audiences with one another.
- Third-party data is data that has been aggregated from various sources by a single entity, who then sells this data wholesale or “a la carte” to interested parties. Ex: Company F (for Facebook) collects data on its users, then sells this data to third parties.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, first-party or primary data is the only type of data a company can truly consider its “own.”
(For the purposes we’ve laid out for this series, we’ll be focusing mostly on first-party data. Still, it’s important to understand the difference between each type to show why first-party data is the most valuable of the three.)
To be sure, you probably already collect a ton of primary data as it is.
A few examples of primary data include:
- Media placement accounts
- Campaign performance data
- Audience targeting and engagement data
- Website analytics data
- Marketing stack data (the data collected directly via your CRM and other marketing tools when using them to engage with your customers)
- Content and media
Media placement accounts
Your campaigns are running on third party platforms, such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads. Over time, these platforms come to store some of the most crucial data regarding your marketing activities: the demographics and other attributes of your audience segments, the budgets allocated to different campaigns, your content and media, and some of your campaign performance data.
If you leave the keys to all this data out of your reach, you may one morning wake up to find that you’ve irretrievably lost control over it—by which point it will probably be too late to do anything about it.
What this essentially means is that if you need to involve an agency in your campaigns execution, that agency should be using your account to access your advertising platforms—and not the other way around. You need to make sure that from the get go, your ad accounts are associated with your brand through a unique email address which uses your domain name. This will ensure that if you need to change your external campaign management, your data will stay with you.
Campaign performance data
As you run more and more marketing campaigns over time, you’ll inherently be privy to data regarding:
- The effectiveness of your marketing campaigns
- Your audience’s responses to these campaigns
- How your marketing efforts have improved over time
Unfortunately, if your company doesn’t truly own this data, it won’t provide nearly as much value to your business.
Say you’re working with an agency, who assumes the bulk of your company’s marketing efforts. Part of this involves the agency collecting campaign data on your behalf, then presenting you with a summary of findings, potential options for moving forward, etc.
In this case, you don’t own your campaign performance data; the agency does.
This means you’re completely reliant on them to a) give you the real picture of what the data actually says in the first place, and b) always know what the best course of action to take will be. To make things worse, you’ll likely lose access to this data completely if your company decides to part with the agency.
Ensure your campaign performance data flows to your organization first, then allow the agency to access it on your end.
This allows you to maintain true ownership of your campaign data, while also providing your partner agencies the ability to use the data to improve your next marketing initiative.
Audience targeting and engagement data
Similarly, you should also own the data behind your targeting strategies (as opposed to settling for second-hand interpretations).
When working with an agency, it can be easy to allow them to take the reins when creating customer profiles and personas, and when collecting the data needed to target them effectively. On some level, it makes sense: You’re hiring the agency because they know best, right?
But, without access to the actual data used to create your audiences and segments, you have no idea if these targets are even accurate—nor whether they align with your intended audiences in the first place. Moreover, you’ll be at your agency’s mercy in terms of engagement reports.
This means you’ll be taking your agency’s word that they’re:
- Targeting the right audiences with the right message
- Adjusting their targets based on incoming engagement data
- Actively looking to uncover new audiences using performance and industry data
On the other hand, when it’s your company that’s holding your audience-related data, you have a clear view of who your targets should be—and can work with your agency to figure out how to best reach them.
Website analytics data
Going along with audience-related data, it’s also essential to truly own your website engagement data. This data includes attributes such as:
- Session Duration
- Bounce Rate
- Pages Per Session
- Return Visits
...and much, much more. This data is usually accessed through Google Analytics, so it’s essential that the GA account you’re using will be owned by your brand, rather than an agency or a private user.
Website analytics data can tell you a whole lot about your audience—on both wide-scale and individual levels. It allows you to understand how they engage with your website, how they behave when shopping online in general, and what gets them to move closer to making a purchase.
In owning this data, you enable all decisions made regarding your online experience to be based on the findings within said data. This will ensure the improvements you make will actually make a difference in the eyes of your audience—and allow you to get a clearer sense of where your online experience should head moving forward.
Marketing stack data
If you’re working with an agency, chances are they’re using a wide variety of marketing tools and software to get the job done.
An agency’s marketing tech stack typically includes tools such as:
- Communications software, such as email marketing and social media management tools
- A content management system for publishing and delivering various marketing content
- Customer relationship management software
The thing is:
If you allow your agency to use their tools—even if done on your behalf—you’re still allowing them primary access to the data these tools collect.
To add to this main issue, it’s also worth noting that the tool your agency uses for a specific purpose might not be the best one for your purposes. You want your agency to use the tools that best fit your business’ needs—not the “average” business in your industry.
At any rate, the solution is for you to own the tools within your marketing stack, and ensuring your employees and agency utilizes them through the lens of your organization.
You can do this by creating a single email account (e.g., email@example.com) to be used across each tool in your marketing stack. Within each tool, you can then grant access to different entities within your company and outside of it, as appropriate.
This is essential for preservation and posterity of data, as it ensures the myriad data collected from your marketing tools remains within your organization forevermore. In the event that you part ways with your agency, or even when parting with employees, the data they’ve collected on your behalf will stay with your organization after the other party has moved on.
Content and media
Much of the data mentioned above is collected, analyzed and used to engage prospects and customers on your website and through your marketing campaigns. The assets which make up your campaigns—including images, creative copy, videos, and your website and landing pages code (HTML/CSS/JS)—are often created by external service providers.
However, for the smooth functioning of your marketing efforts, it’s vital that these assets are owned by the brand. Since you’ll often want to repurpose older campaigns or even just refer to them in your creative process, you need to make sure that your content and media are stored by your brand, where you can access and use them at will.
Even if the initial creators aren’t in-house employees, make sure that the assets are stored on your turf even before a campaign is launched or a website turned on, so you can step in at any point. In other words, don’t leave all your eggs in a basket you’re not even sure where to find.
Your data isn’t bulletproof
Now, even if you have set up this initial phase of data ownership (i.e., ensuring all data relating to your business flows to your business first before being used), the fact remains:
Your data isn’t bulletproof.
A lot can go wrong throughout the process of collecting, storing, retrieving, and using first-party data that can decrease its value—and even eliminate it completely.
Which is why it’s vital that you have proper data governance processes in place as you begin to ramp up your data-collection initiatives.
An introduction to data governance
Data governance is the process of preserving the quality of the data you’ve collected over time.
Breaking this down a bit further, data governance involves:
- Developing and following uniform processes for data collection—knowing exactly what you’re collecting and ensuring all collected data meets the same standards set by your organization
- Storing data in a safe, secure, and centralized location that allows for accessibility, while also ensuring data is never improperly changed or lost
- Allowing access to data only as necessary to both internal teams and third-party users
- Using data in such a way as to ensure that the actual data remains intact—and that you maintain ownership of this data as you use it
Unfortunately, data ownership can be corrupted in myriad ways.
For example, many analytics software and other such tools’ terms state that the provider of said tool assumes ownership for any information that passes through their software. In this case, what was once your primary data can unwittingly become the property of an entirely different party. Sure, you’ll still have access to the data—but all other benefits of data ownership will transfer to the other party.
The solution to such a problem is to create a comprehensive data governance plan, ensuring that your data stays your data.
Which is right where we’ll pick up in part two of our series on data ownership.