Data privacy is a pillar of trust, and relationships—especially with customers and prospects—are built on trust.

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"[Privacy] matters in so many ways. It has never been easier to start a business, to disrupt an incumbent in a business, to build a business. Because of that, consumers and prospects are just overwhelmed with options, which makes trust so much more scarce," says Hubspot CMO Kipp Bodnar.

On the latest episode of Marketing Smarts, Kipp and host George B. Thomas get into the nitty-gritty of what's been on so many marketers minds recently: When given access to a customer's data, how are you going to use it?

The internet has created what Kipp calls a culture of abundance. And the easiest way to overcome that abundance and get people to notice you is to collect their data and use it in nefarious ways, resulting in "creepy" experiences for customers.

But taking the easy route never pans out, he insists. "If you make the decision to violate trust and squeeze out this month’s or this quarter’s results, you will fail. You won’t fail tomorrow, you won’t fail next month, but in the long run, the brand is going to decay, your engagement rates are going to go down, your search rankings are going to down."

Check out the episode to hear more wisdom on how to ask the right questions to get the right data, and—once you have said data in hand—how not to "do dumb stuff" with it.

Listen to the entire show now from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.

"Marketing Smarts" theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.

Full Transcript: A Privacy-First World Won't Hurt Your Customer Relationships, It Will Transform Them

George Thomas: I am super excited because we are having a great conversation for you the community. Speaking of community, are you part of the free MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to and sign up to become part of our free community. This community conversation for you, the Marketing Smarts listener, is about privacy, about first-party data, about being a human marketer. It is so good and there are so many nuggets that you will enjoy along the way in this conversation that I had with Kipp Bodner.

Kipp Bodner is the chief marketing officer of HubSpot where he sets HubSpot’s global inbound marketing strategy to drive awareness and demand on HubSpot’s inbound marketing and sales products. Prior to his role as CMO, Kipp served as vice president of marketing at HubSpot, overseeing all demand generation activity worldwide, building out the EMEA and APAC marketing teams, and managing HubSpot’s field marketing localization strategic partnership and social media efforts.

Kipp serves as a marketing advisor for SaaS companies including Simply Measured, Insight Squared, and Guidebook. Kipp is also the co-author of the book The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More. Kipp is also an industry leading speaker and blogger. He holds a BA in journalism from Marshall University. To be honest with you, he’s just a great human. You’re going to see that as we get into this episode with Kipp Bodner.

Kipp, one of the places that I like to start with these podcast episodes, and it’s kind of a fun question but it can actually be a scary question at the same time, as a CMO what the heck keeps you up at night?

Kipp Bodner: Being unoriginal and nobody caring about you. Those are the two things if you’re a marketer, I don’t care if it’s B2B or B2C. I think we went down this path where over the last 20 years or so we got access to so much data, and that was awesome, it allowed us to iterate, improve, understand benchmarks, all that, but it also kind of sucked some of the creativity out. You’re like, “Oh, cool. I’m just going to go do the same thing that everybody else is doing, because I know it’s going to work if I go and do that.”

But how I think about it is there is some baseline stuff that you just want to do. You’re going to great marketing automation because that’s super important. At the same time, can you tell great brand stories? Can you tell amazing product stories? Can you differentiate on how you create value for your prospects and your customers? The fear of not pulling that off is actually what sits the worst with me and is the thing that I worry about probably more than anything else.

George: As you were telling that, I started to think about this world of clones because of all this data and copycats. Marketing Smarts listeners, you probably know what I’m going to say if you’ve been around for any length of time. Different is better than better. That’s the Sally Hogshead interview, you have to go back a couple of weeks to listen to that, it was absolutely amazing.

There was an article that came out, "A Privacy-First World Won’t Hurt Your Customer Relationships, It Will Transform Them: Insights from HubSpot CMO." Guess what? That’s Kipp Bodner, he is the CMO. To set the foundation for the listeners, when we talk about privacy-first world, what the heck are we talking about, so we can lay that base conversation?

Kipp: It’s interesting. If you want to understand what is happening in the world as a marketer, which I believe is paramount, I believe marketing more than any other profession needs to know what is coming because there is a real value in being a first mover of marketing, a much bigger value than most other disciplines.

When you think about what’s coming, in the early 2000s we had a huge technological revolution. We had Web 2.0, we had the social web, we had the birth and the rise of the iPhone, mobile web, all of those things. With that, when you were building anything in the early days, you were just kind of going and iterating, and then over time as things mature what happens is you then start to build a clear foundation, have regulation, all of those things. That’s what’s happening right now.

Apple really led the way on data privacy. I summarize Apple’s strategy as they are trying to make individual data use to a consumer transparent and controllable. They want to let consumers know who is accessing your data, this is where your data is, and you can control do you want them to have it or not want them to have it. Because of that, folks like Google and others have come on board and said you’re right, we’re entering this age of privacy and data regulation, and that is going to be really important for consumers, and then subsequently becomes really important for marketers. We saw that a few years ago with GDPR as well in Europe. If you’re a B2B marketer doing any marketing outside of the United States, GDPR was a huge deal.

That is the foundation of what we are dealing with. Our customers and prospects want more control and transparency around their data and how their data is being used.

George: So, we’re headed in that direction, there is no going back. Actually, it’s fun because I think about HubSpot and inbound in 2012, don’t call me a customer, call me a human. We’re finally at the point where the humans are like I want my data to be in a certain way. When you think about the marketers and you lean into this, why does privacy or a privacy mindset matter to the B2B, B2C, any marketer on the planet, honestly, listening in 2022 and beyond, why does privacy matter so much?

Kipp: It matters in so many ways. It has never been easier to start a business, to disrupt an incumbent in a business, to build a business. Because of that, consumers and prospects are just overwhelmed with options, which makes trust so much more scarce.

Trust is the scarce commodity of the world right now. When that’s the case, privacy is one of those foundational pillars of building trust. If you as a business can’t deliver on that privacy, why would a customer trust you to deliver a good product or service, to get the value that you’re promising? It just underpins. Why would anything else you say after that be true if you are violating their privacy and you are using their data in the wrong way and actually taking the wrong steps there?

I think that is fundamentally what we’re talking about here today is how we think about packaging trust, and that data privacy is a core aspect of building trust as a marketer and a brand today.

George: It’s so interesting because when I hear you talk about this and go down the road of trust, it’s not the first time marketers have heard the word trust. We heard the word trust so many times around content creation and valuable content and building reciprocity.

Marketers, I just want to put this in your brain. How much time have you spent creating content? How much time have you spent researching the creation of said content? Are you willing to research the important privacy things that you have to have in place as a marketer and put the actual actionable strategies and tactics to foot? Because if trust are those little golden nuggets on the internet and they’re harder to find, it’s not just about content, but it’s content, privacy, the entire flow.

That gets us into this thing, in the article you talked about first-party data. If you can unpack for the listeners your thoughts on first-party data versus other-party data types for the listeners so we can understand the balls in the court and how we need to move them and think about them.

Kipp: There’s a couple of things here. Before I get to first-party data, I want to just add something to what you were just saying. Not only do you need to be willing to learn about privacy to establish trust as a marketer, you need to be able to make some hard decisions.

The reason I say that is we’ve lived in this world of abundance where if you created an okay piece of content, you could figure out a way to get that out on Google, and Google will figure out a way to get humans to you. What’s happening now is, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen those Google search engine results pages, there’s more than just a little bit more advertising on them today than there was a few years ago. I love Google, it’s a great product, but they’re trying to do what they’re doing. As a marketer, that makes your life harder.

The easy way is going to use data in less than awesome ways for your customers to target and try to distribute that content versus creating more valuable content, creating different tools, and really kind of rethinking and doubling down on that value equation. I just wanted to frame that for everybody, because I think every marketer is going to be faced with a bunch of tough decisions.

What I will promise everyone now is that if you make the easy short term decision, you will fail in the long term. If you make the decision to violate trust and squeeze out this month’s or this quarter’s results, you will fail. You won’t fail tomorrow, you won’t fail next month, but in the long run, the brand is going to decay, your engagement rates are going to go down, your search rankings are going to down, all of those things are going to happen.

I think that’s just an important thing that I wanted to make sure we anchored on as we go and talk about these types of data. Then you bring up this awesome point around first-party data. To help baseline people around first-party data, first-party data is the data that you as a business own, and you own because your prospects and customers have given that to you and given you permission to have that or given you permission to track them if you’re a software provider, for example. There’s lots of ways that you can gather first-party data, but at the most simple level it’s the data that you own and you’ve been given permission by your customers and prospective customers to have and use to help create a better experience for them.

George: I love that. It’s funny, there are so many things running through my head. The first one is there’s a speaker that talks about if you do what is easy in life, life will be hard, if you do what’s hard in life, life will be easy. I think that we could just change the word life to marketing and it would totally work for everybody. The other piece of this, though, is you talked about we had this life of abundance. You just kind of put a sort of okay piece of content on Google and they kind of just show up. What’s funny is if we think about this first-party data versus the other, we had a life of abundance, you could kind of throw some stuff other places, use some other people’s toys and do some okay, maybe not okay things. It’s just really interesting to me.

In the article A Privacy-First World Won’t Hurt Your Customer Relationships, It Will Transform Them, how do you think the right focus or right strategy will actually be able to help the marketers transform the relationships, aka the experience that they’re providing for people?

Kipp: I think it depends on what type of marketing you’re talking about. There are a few things that happen here. I co-host a podcast called Marketing Against the Grain with my good friend and colleague Kieran Flanagan where we dive into all things marketing. Recently, we talked about the massive change in spread in search.

If you are a young person 18-24 in the US right now, 40% of your searches do not start on Google. They start on TikTok, they start on Instagram, they start on Reddit. The search market continues to grow, which helps Google, but it’s bifurcating a ton. Because of that, when you’re thinking about data, a lot of the new ways people are discovering your brand at the brand and attract stage are very much less direct response, they’re much more awareness driven.

If you think about TikTok and Instagram, wow, those are great platforms, you can get a ton of awareness, and that awareness can correlate with direct traffic and other things on your website so that you can know directionally what’s going on, but it’s not like the classic Google of I know I got this much search volume, I rank at this place, I can estimate how many visits I’m going to get, those visits go right to this landing page, and I know exactly what I can convert.

First of all, the most important thing from awareness on down is going to be having the right data for targeting. You can’t just go and buy and append a bunch of creepy third-party data and freak people out with your targeting, because then you’re just using a ton of data to make assumptions about what people want. Versus actually collecting that first-party data, having real understanding of what people want, whether that be through their behavior, through the data that they tell you, whether it be that they tell you what they actually want.

I think those are the things that if you’re a marketer right now that you’re really thinking about targeting, whether it be brand, acquisition, automation, wherever your funnel, you’re thinking about do I have the right data from targeting. It’s literally as part of your customer in thinking. Who is my customer and what do they need? What do I need to understand about them to give them the best experience? How do I map that to the data that I can get, whether that be the right first-party data or credible non-creepy third-party data that exists well in a privacy-first world?

George: Let me just inject here for a hot second. We’ll get back to the interview with Kipp Bodner, but I have to ask. Are you going to be joining me at the B2B Forum in October? That’s right, I’m going to be there, ready for some connections and shenanigans. October 12th through 14th, 49 sessions to get your education on, four keynotes that you’ll absolutely enjoy. It’s going to be a party in Boston. Head over to for more information. With that said, let’s get back to this great conversation with Kipp Bodner.

I love when you said assumptions. My brain immediately went to I would much rather market and provide an experience to those around me off of reality, not off of assumptions. It comes down to, as Mark Schaefer says, the most human businesses win. If you’re in reality, if you’re being the most human, if you’re using the data that is your data, or some data that actually lives in this privacy reality world, then it’s going to be far better off, you’re going to gain more trust, you’re going to be able to build a better business.

Speaking of building a better business, that leads me into if I’m not new at this, new at this, what the heck, what is the mountain top, what does success look like? What does first-party data look like in action? Maybe more importantly, what does that first-party data look like as far as successfully using it, viewing it, measuring, whatever direction you want to go in?

Kipp: When you think about succeeding, there’s a few steps here. Obviously, I’m biased, I work at HubSpot, we sell tools for marketers and sellers and customer service folks, but you need some type of system where you can bring that data together and use it for engagement purposes. That is just fundamentally critical to any marketer today.

You have to have that foundation of what is my system of record in terms of how am I bringing in that data. Hopefully, my system of record is also my system of engagement where it’s all one database and you can go and easily use that data for the different types of marketing that you want to do, whether that be marketing automation, whether that be advertising, whether it be search marketing, whatever it may be. First step, clear system of record and place to have good clean data.

Second is do I understand where my data is coming from. It’s going to come from forms, tools, maybe some data providers that are high quality. And how am I going to make sure that data is normalized, mapped to the right contact and account records, all of those things so that I can actually action on it.

Then the third thing is how do I actually use it in a way that’s not dumb. Let’s be real. Let’s say that we are an environmental engineering company and we serve the southeastern part of the United States. We probably have 20 competitors across the southeast at a reasonable scale. Say five or ten of them are just kind of bad, so we’ll take those off the board. Let’s say you have 10 people that know what they’re doing. The majority of those 10 people are going to do either stupid and malicious things or obvious things. They’re going to say it’s obvious that because I have this data, I’m going to personalize my email. Great, that’s awesome, and that’s a foundational thing.

But if you want to win, if you want to be the most successful company in your market and the most successful brand in your market, you have to say what is the data that I have and what is the data that I have that no one else has. That is an important point that is going to be easy for people to miss. If I don’t have data that nobody else has, how do I get it? How do I get it and how do I understand?

In the early days of HubSpot—George, you remember Website Grader—we got people to put their website in, run a report, and we had all kinds of data about their business. Once we had that domain, you can get a ton of different understanding of how well is their marketing going, how much money do we estimate that they’re spending on ads, etcetera. All of those things are really valuable, but you need to get non-obvious that no one else has and use it in ways that aren’t just non-obvious but that create remarkable value for your customers.

I think so much about what are the day to day problems that my customers are facing, and how can I solve them for free or very little money.

George: I think there are so many good pieces in that last section. Marketing Smarts listeners, you know what I’m going to say, it’s the rewind point. Rewind and listen to that again. When you said don’t do dumb stuff with your data, I was literally laughing behind the scenes. Nobody could hear it or see it, but I was laughing because I’m like, yes, please don’t do dumb stuff with your data.

Then you had a moment there where you were talking about data that other people don’t have. My mind was like, oh my gosh, this is so important. You even said this is an important part that people are going to miss. Usually, when you’re talking to other marketers or business owners, you’re like, “Do you have a form?” Yes. “What do you ask on the form?” First name, last name, email, job title, company name. Okay. Listeners, by all that is holy, do me a favor and realize that this, when we’re talking about first-party data, it’s about the right questions. Might I even add it’s about asking the better questions than your competitors are asking. That’s going to get you a foot up and help you lead the way.

One of the things I love to do on the Marketing Smarts Podcast is show the potholes, show the hurdles, give people a way to dodge them or jump them, and give them superpowers as far as B-to-B marketing. Around this privacy first-party data conversation we’re having, what are some of the hurdles that you’ve seen marketers fall prey to?

Kipp: Oh gosh. It’s hard. We’ve talked about a lot of them, but this is a great way to summarize those and have any further conversations about them.

It’s doing the easy thing in terms of taking data that might not be on the up and up and using it, and that might also lead to a creepy experience. “I’m okay with creepy if I think it’s going to increase my conversion rate,” is what I would call it. It’s like any creepy increase in your conversion rate is directly correlated with a decrease in your brand equity. You have to decide do you want to make that trade. I think for a lot of companies they shouldn’t make that trade. I actually think for almost all companies, they shouldn’t make that trade. Unless you’re in it for a really short term, that’s not a great trade to make if you’re trying to build any kind of business. That’s one.

The next pothole is, honestly, operationalizing data. No matter what it is. I think most marketers have a bias to action, which I love, I have a bias to action. A bias to action is amazing, but it normally causes you to underinvest in the infrastructure you need to act. I don’t mean that just from a technology perspective. I mean that from humans to build, to write scripts to clean the data, to have a data engineer even on just a project basis to properly architect and set everything up.

I think a really clear pothole is I got this data, I’m going to go do some stuff with it, and six months down the road my data is a mess, and I can’t do all the things I thought I could or wanted to do with it. I think balancing that bias for action with enough of a foundation. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but is it going to scale? Have we thought this through enough that it’s not going to be a total mess in three to six months?

As somebody who has seen a lot of technology in his life, what I will tell you is technology is generally pretty good, for the most part. It has its flaws. The challenge, what most people hate about most software is basically what I just described. It’s like that necklace that gets tangled in a jewelry box where the chain is five knots and you’re like, “I’m just never going to wear this thing again because it’s all tangled up.” It’s like I’ve messed up this software so much that it’s just easier for me to go to a different type of software and start all over again. You lose a lot of time when doing that, candidly.

I think if you can architect things from the beginning so that you’ll keep that necklace untangled, then you can be in a really good durable place, and also know that your competition won’t. That’s the hard non-obvious thing to do and it gives you a real competitive advantage long term.

George: So good, as far as saving time, saving money. God forbid you have a dirty database. It’s almost like crippling your entire team. If you hear your team say, “I don’t trust the source anymore,” ugh.

Kipp: One of the things that I always think about in marketing in general, but I think it’s certainly apprised to the data and privacy side, is there are so many aspects of marketing where it’s like I’m doing this thing, but if I was on the other side as a consumer, I wouldn’t do it. I’m sending a bunch of direct mail, but I’m throwing all of my direct mail away as soon as I get home. That kind of doesn’t work.

What you just said is if your team doesn’t trust the data, what is your customer going to think? If the people closest to thing think that it’s bad, what is the customer experience from that actually going to be? It’s going to be worse. It’s never going to be better. It’s always going to be worse.

George: I love this so much. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself, it’s a golden rule of life. I’m just saying.

A fun little thing that I like to do, I like to talk about costs. Of course, we’re not talking about a software cost or anything like that here. As a marketer you’re busy. You’re trying to learn TikTok, you’re trying to learn content creation, you’re trying to learn YouTube. There’s a lot of things going on. You can either choose to pay attention to or not pay attention to the things that you feel or don’t feel are important. You might go, “Privacy… meh.”

Kipp, what is the cost of not paying attention to this first-party privacy data conversation as B2B, B2C, or any marketer on the planet?

Kipp: It’s a great question. This is how I think about it. We know that from a technology perspective there are a few companies that really have an undue amount of authority in the world. Google on the search side, Amazon on the commerce and hosting side, and Apple on the internet access hardware software side to basically control our access for greater than half of the mobile users in the world and a huge percentage of the desktop users. The cost for not caring about privacy is the cost to go against Apple.

What do you think the cost of that is, and do you think that’s a smart thing? If you’re saying to yourself, “I’m okay going against Apple,” Apple is up on the hill of privacy right now. I commend them. This has been a big journey for them, they’re six or seven years in. What they’ve done is, I think, brilliant for customers and brilliant from a business strategy perspective. I really admire what they’ve done.

Think about that. They’ve been in this for six years. So, not only are you going against a company that has a lot of control of the marketplace, but they have been doing it for a long time and are deeply committed. It’s not a flash in the pan thing. They’re six years into a twenty year thing. Great. Do you want to spend the next 15 years going against them? I sure as heck wouldn’t. That just seems like a recipe to go insane. Doesn’t it?

George: Let’s get in the trenches. We have a couple more questions here. You’ve added a ton of value to the audience. Let’s get in the trenches. In the article, you talk about Google Analytics. Obviously, you work for HubSpot. You use HubSpot and I use HubSpot. This question, though, I want to position it around potential HubSpot users and not-HubSpot users. I’ll just get into the question so that everybody can get the answer.

Just chat about Google Analytics and the Marketing Smarts listeners’ CRM. What as marketers should they be doing, whether it’s HubSpot or any CRM, Google Analytics, matching them together, thinking about Universal Google Analytics, GA4? Oh my gosh.

Kipp: I’m a first principles driven person. One of the things that I think you need to understand about not just Google Analytics, but any type of web analytics right now, as it comes to tracking return on investment and tracking direct response performance, is getting more directional unless absolute every day. That is a very important thing.

I think the intent of your question is, yes, you need to have the best analytics possible, and Google Analytics is a great product. You’re going to supplement that with other analytics, like most CRM marketing technology companies have their own analytics. You’re going to put those two things together and you’re going to try to integrate those so that you can do better ad targeting and all of those things. You should absolutely do that, if you’re listening. Super important.

What I’m saying is once you have that done, how you interpret that data and how you act on that data and how you build strategies on that data is the next thing you do, and it’s actually the thing that has all of the leverage.

The thing to understand is a decade ago, you and I could look at data analytics in Google or HubSpot and we would be like this is black and white, this is exactly what happened, I know my traffic from these keywords, I know exactly who these users are, I can track them, I can retarget them, all of that. Now you don’t. Now they’re more like sample based than absolute. You have to understand that when you are looking at the data today.

George: Thanks for taking me back to the good old days.

Kipp: It was so fun back then.

George: So fun, and a little bit easier. Again, if you do what’s hard, life will be easy. If you do what’s hard, marketing will be easier, and your customers will thank you.

Kipp, this has been amazing. Last question for you. I always like to get some words of wisdom. You’ve been doing this for a long time and you have a lot of experience under your belt, I like to call it wisdom. What are some words of wisdom that you would want to leave the Marketing Smarts listeners with today?

Kipp: What I would leave everybody is I think one of the great things about marketing is that it changes all the time. I think that’s what keeps me and you interested. Right? There’s always new stuff to learn, it’s always changing. That’s pretty amazing. There’s always key inflection points in the history of marketing where technology changes human behavior, and because of that human behavior marketers have an opportunity to do new things. We saw that in the 2000s with email marketing. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.

The wisdom I would give you is don’t ignore those inflection points. If you think that we are not in one of those inflection points right now coming out of this age of abundance, this age of data driven absolutism where you can zero dial things in perfectly, to an age of privacy-first, customer-first, to an age of connection. I’d actually argue that all of that knob turning got us further away from the customer, further away from the story. There’s going to be a clear before and after here from this inflection point.

I would really encourage everyone to not sweep this under the rug. To say this is actually going to be a key pivotal point in the timeline of marketing, I can be on the right side of history. And being on the right side of history normally means I will be way more successful than most of the people who are not on the right side of history. Be a student of this stuff, solve for your customers, and don’t be afraid to say things have changed and we have to do things differently.

George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast? Make sure you reach out and let us know either in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.

Also, I have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to You won’t regret the additional B2B marketing education you’ll be adding to your life.

We’d like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we’d love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode where we talk with Mitch Duckler about developing an indispensable B2B brand inspired growth strategy, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you’d like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B-to-B human. We’ll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.

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