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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2022-05-05

We’re entering a “new era of transformation” in digital advertising, as coined by McKinsey. Businesses everywhere have a greater responsibility to ensure data privacy for their customers—and anyone who visits their website. And third-party tracking cookies are out (or they will be, soon enough). The changes have sent some marketers into a tailspin.

There’s been a lot of talk and thankfully some action in terms of new strategies for reaching the right audience and delivering the right message to drive sales. One thing in particular that’s been a hot topic has been whether marketers are better off using first-party data, third-party data or both to power their campaigns. Let’s break it down:

First-Party Data

First-party data is information you collect directly from your audience or customers. It consists of a company’s own customer data along with data on prospects developed directly by the company, such as leads from trade shows, website inquiries and other sources.


  • No cost to obtain.
  • Your company owns the data.
  • This data tends to be high quality as it was provided directly from customers/prospects that are interested in your company.
  • It can also be used to better predict future behavior for a customer because you can reference how they’ve already interacted with your company.


  • No reach to target individuals who are in-market but have not engaged with your company as a prospect or customer.
  • No scale - First-party data can’t be used to scale your business as it has to be acquired from individuals as they interact with your company directly.

Third-party Data

Third-party data is information that you license from outside sources that are not the original collectors of that data.


  • Large scale - Data providers can manage and license tens of millions of contacts, offering businesses the opportunity to reach new markets. (Side note: At OMI, as a third-party data provider, we validate our email contacts prior to delivery in order to ensure the highest levels of accuracy for our customers – this is a big differentiator for us.)
  • It is useful for firmographic, behavioral and contextual targeting as the data typically includes many fields and can easily be sorted and segmented.
  • This data works better and is even more powerful when combined with first party data to fill in missing pieces from a customer or prospect record.


  • Not unique - It can be used by many companies, including your competitors.
  • As the data provider has compiled the data from other sources, it lacks transparency.

Here’s my take: First-party data is better for conversions, as prospects have actively engaged with your company. But third-party data is better for lead generation, as it allows you the reach and scale to target potential customers who otherwise would not have seen your ads or message. Leveraging first-party data from initial third-party data campaigns allows you to personalize your content and optimize conversions.

The bottom line: the best solution is to use both.

There are many ways to go about building an audience with data from a third-party provider, but one of the most effective is through intent data. Intent data gives marketers insights into the digital behaviors of prospects by tracking their digital behavior, such as the search terms they use, and then reaching them with targeted ads.

At OMI, as IP addresses and intent data surge to specific content on the internet, we monitor that data to provide more than 14 billion new intent signals to our clients each week. The signals are grouped into buckets by industry and interest level, with additional insights added about the types of departments and contacts most likely to be associated with these buckets. From there, the data is matched by IP address to the company associated with the searches—and to the potential buyer contact as well, using our database of more than 17 million companies and 78 million contacts with email addresses.

For example, here are some of the financial-specific intent audiences available for our customers:

  • B2B>Decision Makers>Financial>Line of Credit
  • B2B>Decision Makers>Financial>Business Checking
  • B2B>Decision Makers>Payroll Services
  • B2B>Decision Makers>Invoice Financing
  • B2B>Decision Makers>Business Credit Cards
  • B2B>Decision Makers>Small Business Accounting

As well, intent data can be sorted by firmographic data such as number of employees in a business.

Targeting the correct prospects starts with building the right audience. Only then can you start to work on content and personalization. From my perspective, the best way to target the right prospects, with sufficient scale and reach as well as personalization, is to use both first-party and third-party data.

OMI has 75 million of our 80 million manager-level and above contacts matched to the LiveRamp ID graph, including 65 million records from our SMB and medical market databases. Contact us today to learn more about building a custom audience.


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