What is first party data? It’s certainly a trending topic in the conversation on professional association growth and sustainability, but there is a lot of uncertainty on what first party data is and why it matters to your association’s bottom line. Savvy association leaders are as concerned about collecting data on their members as they are about leveraging it for use across channels  to improve member touchpoints. First party data is the key to creating custom digital experiences that continue to delight members, especially digital-first Millennial and Gen Z members who don’t just want a personalized digital experience - they expect it. 

Do you know how to use first-party data to develop better member retention touchpoints and strategies? We’ll be having conversations like this at digitalNow on December 2 - 4. If you’d like to join us, click here to sign up to attend online or in person. Otherwise, read on for some need-to-know details on smart uses of first party data for your association. 

What is first party data?

First party data is the information you collect directly from your audience or customers. It includes: Data from behaviors, actions or interests demonstrated across your website(s) or app(s), and data you have in your CRM. 

Since the dawn of the internet, businesses have been trying to leverage data to better understand what people are doing online and why they’re doing it. In recent years, there’s been a push towards owning that user data so that businesses can better understand the behaviors and preferences of their digital audience in real time.  Owners of first party user data have the information they need to continuously surprise and delight their customers with custom digital experiences based on their unique patterns, preferences, and behaviors. First party data is key to attracting and retaining new audiences with content that appeals to them on a personal level. 

How might an association collect first-party data?

There are a number of great tech tools available for free or low-cost that can help you collect first party data on your digital users. One of the best free sources of first-party data is Google Analytics. Anyone with a website can set up a free google analytics account and start collecting data to illustrate what interactions are happening on their website in real time.  While Google Analytics is easy to set up and use, many association staff members have a hard time determining what’s important in a sea of numbers and trends, and it can be difficult to make  broad and nebulous data feel actionable for an association’s purposes. 

Many modern association tech tools leverage what’s called a CDP or customer data platform. A CDP not only collects data, but organizes it so it’s easy to read, understand, and make actionable in the context of real business and growth problems. If you’re looking to add new software to your association’s tech stack, be sure to ask if a CDP is part of the offering. A word of caution: all CDPs are not created equal. It’s one thing to collect data, and it’s another thing entirely to act on that data. Make certain that your tools can help implement data insights into your day to day operations.

Ok, I know how to collect first party data, but how would I leverage it?

First party data can be used in a variety of ways:

1.  Nurturing Current Members: If you know what your members are doing on your site, what content they’re engaging with, and what problems they’re facing, you can create custom experiences to address their unique concerns. 

 2. Attracting New Members: If you know what drives your current members, chances are, you can use that data to attract new members. Use first party data to create content that will resonate with your current audience, and can also be used to attract new audiences.

3. Finding New Members: Relatedly, you can use demographic and psychographic data on your current audience to inform paid ads campaigns to find potential new members that you aren’t capturing using other recruitment techniques. 

4. Training your Teams: First party data is essentially a constant feedback loop direct from your members. Use it to constantly learn about your members, and train your internal team members and stakeholders on ways to better meet member needs. 

5. Creating Better Member Experiences. Over time, you can use first party data to actually mold your association’s future direction in terms of member experiences, marketing strategies, operations, and more. You will start to see trends emerge that might inspire new marketing and recruitment techniques, or ideas that need to be fast-tracked in order to continue providing value for your members. 

Now that you’re an expert on first-party data, it’s time to implement some digital-first best practices into your association's growth strategy. If you’d like to learn more about how to leverage your owned data to create engaging digital-first member experiences to grow your association’s member base, sign up for our digital transformation content deep-dive. We'll send  helpful content on digital transformation direct to your inbox, and yes, we'll be using first party data strategies to send personalized, tailored content based on your specific interests!