I spoke with a veteran marketing strategist this morning, and when I asked him the expected “What’s new?”, he gave me a very unexpected “Everything!” In his opinion, Marketing is undergoing one of those once-every-few-decades fundamental shifts, and it’s all because of the deluge of digital data spewing from the Internet, that Marketing Managers now have to deal with.
What kind of data, you ask? All kinds of Marketing Analytics! It starts with web traffic data, includes Search-Engine Optimization (SEO) metrics and scorecards, Pay-per-Click Advertising metrics, Social Media analytics, prospect conversion data (profiles and their digital footprint), Customer-Relationship-Management (CRM) data, etc. etc. etc. Even for a small corporate website with a mere 2,000 visitors per month, Google Analytics data alone – with various ways to slice and dice the data – can overwhelm the uninitiated.
Gossamar covered this data explosion in our post entitled: “The Shift from Art to Science in B2B Marketing”. The post also covered the substantial opportunities for Marketing Managers in this shift, from being able to better calculate marketing ROI, to improved market insight, to better micro segmentation, and the ability to test campaigns on-the-fly.
Opportunities aside, we both wondered if today’s Marketing Managers are properly equipped to deal with this increasing emphasis on data and marketing analytics? After all, the mainstays of the Marketing Manager over the past couple of decades have been creative and strategy. Not Business Decision modelling.
There are telltale signs all over the industry of this growing shift to number crunching. For example, Return-on-Marketing-Investment (ROMI) calculators seem to be a hot item. From social media to Inbound Marketing, Marketing Managers are being asked to present the data to justify their programs. “Show me the numbers!” is the new cry from the executive suite.
In another interesting development, Web 2.0 marketing services firm The Pedowitz Group recently talked about adding a Marketing Analyst to their model for a “Revenue Marketing” team, specifically to handle the volumes of marketing analytics data, and recognizing the importance of this position to the success of an Inbound Marketing effort.
The New Marketing Skill Set
To take advantage of this shift to data, Marketing Managers, or at least someone on their teams, have to have new skill sets, including:
- Data Gathering. Data is everywhere, but finding exactly the data you need is often like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Marketing Managers need to know where to look, and what automation tools to use to generate the data. It might include a “mash-up” of data from various sources. Having an ability to fluently work with spreadsheet programs is a core requirement: to sort, filter, and manipulate data.
- Data Analysis. This is the most important part of the entire data management process. What correlations matter? Which trends are significant? For example, a website bounce rate of 45% can be both excellent or terrible, depending on the specifics of your website. Successful data analysis requires both marketing and technical skills to know what the numbers mean and which numbers are important.
- Data Reporting. Ultimately, the Marketing Analytics process will lead to recommendations for improvements, new programs, and new budgets. To convince the various stakeholders, the Marketing Manager needs to be able to make his or her case as vividly and quickly as possible, to make the numbers “sing”. Reporting skills, and the ability to condense complex data into simple dashboards, scorecards, and other management reports is crucial to getting support from the rest of the organization. Translated into career speak: Know how to report, and elevate your chances for that promotion and/or big raise.
Marketing Analytics for Hire?
What percentage of Marketing Managers currently have such marketing analytics skills? My guess based on my own network is less than 10%. Colleges and Universities across North America have not yet woken to the new reality of Inbound Marketing, Marketing Automation, and Marketing Analytics. There are no Marketing Engineering courses to be found at universities, nor Marketing Analyst courses at your local college.
Larger companies may be able to plug this hole by hiring technical analysts, and teaching them the basics of marketing, so that they produce meaningful results. Small and mid-size companies that do not have the financial resources to hire such a technical specialist will need to look for this support from specialist service providers on the outside.
But what outside group can provide this service?
Traditional agencies certainly do not have the analytics skill-set to fill the void. Nor does the traditional Marketing Strategists. It’s simply not in their genes.
Chances are the new breed of Inbound Marketing Automation Consultants can help. By definition, they offer both technical and marketing know-how. To be sure:
- Ask for samples of their marketing analytics prowess.
- Check their process for data gathering, analysis and reporting.
- Make sure they produce clear, concise management reports, with actionable insight. Delivering reams and reams of data is not value; it’s an expensive distraction.
The bottom line: There is Gold in all that Marketing Data. The company that knows how to mine it will develop a giant competitive advantage. The marketers that develop the necessary skill-set will stand head and shoulders above their peers, and write their own career tickets.