Do You WANT to Own Your Data?

A colleague asked me what the number one business problem I hear when consulting with clients.  My response was clear – Data.  Prior to the launch of CampfireSocial, I spent over 20 years as a global market researcher and business strategist working for companies such as Kraft, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, Freeman, & GES. My training in research gave me an appreciation for the importance of and the power behind data.  To me, data is the currency that can get leadership into the hearts and minds of their members, show attendees, clients, exhibitors, sponsors, and even their staff. The more you know, the better you can curate experiences to make everyone in your ecosystem feel that they matter to your organization.  The more they feel that they matter, the more they spend!  Who doesn’t want that outcome?


But here’s the thing. Leveraging data isn’t enough.  Data is most powerful when you own your own data. One of CampfireSocial’s non-negotiables is that our clients will always own their data. Here’s why it is so important. When suppliers such as virtual event companies, communities or even LinkedIn own your data, they can sell your data. They often use your data to create opportunities to target your audience for your competitors.  Every CPG company I’ve worked for has required strict NDAs.  The reason?  To protect the integrity of their IP which includes data.  They don’t want competitors getting wind of an innovation or customer feedback on their products and services.  Associations & show organizers need to follow suit in order to protect the longevity of their member & attendee value proposition. That’s your IP. Imagine if your supplier sold your attendance data to competitive shows.  These competitors would now have the insights into the hearts and minds of your audience and can easily steal attendee share, dollars, and big ideas.


You might be thinking that this is a no-brainer and your organization cares about data.  Or on the flipside, that your organization doesn’t even have the bandwidth to leverage your data properly. The reality is organizations are still collecting customer data every single day. According to a 2021 UFI (Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) whitepaper, Douglas Emslie, group CEO of the Tarsus Group, shared that “there has been a substantial increase in the data ‘we’ are collecting on our customers and their behaviors, as well as an increase in the data our customers are being asked to provide, both explicitly and implicitly.”  


Therefore, we must remain responsible stewards of data.  Your customers’ data are actually owned by them, and they entrust the organizations that deploy their data to use it to provide services back to them.  They are not granting permission for 3rd parties to monetize it.   Emslie reminded readers that we need to put policies in place to manage customer data or we risk losing the trust, engagement, and loyalty they’ve demonstrated.


Therefore, I encourage your organization to always check your vendor MSAs to make sure that you own your data, ask your vendor how they secure your data, and inquire about whether your data are tethered to their product (or can you integrate with other software or move your data).  Simply start there.  


Whether you actively use customer data or not, don’t put it in the hands of your competitors and don’t allow others to monetize your hardwork.  That revenue belongs to you.  It’s time to embrace it.


Written By:

Erica Bishaf, Founder & CEO of CampfireSocial

You can reach Erica at

Did you know that CampfireSocial also offers engagement consulting to help your organization better tap into the needs of your members, show attendees, and exhibiting partners.  Contact our strategy team at to learn more.

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Meet the Author

Erica Bishaf

Founder & CEO

Erica Bishaf is an award-winning global brand strategist (24 years), market research professional, and a 2X tech startup founder. Her startup experience includes CampfireSocial, the private community & marketplace platform, and Pet Gotcha Day!, the immersive video platform for animal shelters. In addition to her passion for startups, she has worked for consumer-packaged goods companies such as Kraft, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, the Illinois Lottery, and MillerCoors in a variety of roles encompassing global product innovation, package redesign, brand equity, shopper & retail insights, and strategic planning. In 2015, Erica started her own consultancy where she led projects for startups, growth stage companies, Fortune 500, trade & professional associations, top 10 trade shows, and private equity firms that focused on building brand & communication strategies, strategic planning & workshop design, innovation, segmentation identification, UX/UI design, consumer journeys, A&U work, uncovering shopping & retail touchpoints, and more. Erica has also built teams from the ground up for three organizations. She enjoys bringing an entrepreneurial lens to her work to identify new opportunities for growth and using quantitative and qualitative methodologies plus financial data to accomplish her clients' goals. Her clients have said that 'Erica is a keen observer of human behavior who can translate observations into action and one who spurs others to better thinking and better results.' Erica can be reached at

Erica Bishaf
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