Crunching The Numbers: The Data Skills That Matter For Marketers

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It’s unavoidable. Data has filtered its way into the marketing industry in such a manner that data skills are now a must for any modern marketer.

But despite this fact, there is evidence to suggest data is not a top priority when it comes to skill development for marketers.

According to new research from B&T and the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA), data skills are “only of moderate importance to Australian marketers”.

Specifically, analysing customer data/insight is the most important data-related skill for marketers, with 71 per cent of respondents listing it as a skill that is extremely important to their current career and 78 per cent nominating it as a critical skill of the future.

This was followed by data analysis and reporting, with 72 per cent and 75 per cent of respondents considering it very or extremely important again respectively for current and future careers.

Working as the director of product & customer marketing at email marketing outfit Campaign Monitor, Kalyn New uses these skills every day.

She uses data skills to analyse trends and opportunities, with a focus on customer data and retention.

However, she understands that these skills may be more relevant for some specific verticals.

“I’ve always been a data-driven marketer and when I’ve been hiring people into the team, that’s one of the top skills that I look for,” she told B&T.

“But I’ve also been very much embedded in the customer marketing side of things, so I think if you are more of a brand marketer working across top of funnel and ad campaigns, it’s probably less of a skill that is required.”

Developing data skills

As any marketer would know, these data skills don’t just develop overnight.

The study shows that 58 per cent of marketing skills training was delivered in the workplace by management or peers.

New explained that she initially developed her skill in data because she had no choice.

“When I first started, it was out of necessity,” she said.

But what started as a necessity soon turned into a passion.

“But as I’ve moved through my career, it’s something that I really enjoy and I feel really helps to drive those data-driven decisions and more of the ‘why’.

“It’s not like you’re just creating and sending out campaigns because someone else has told you that that’s the best thing to do. I think it really helps you become passionate about the work that you’re doing because you understand the data itself and why you’re doing the things that you’re doing.”

While some marketers might have historically had an aversion to numbers, the current state of play does not allow for this.

For carsales CMO Kellie Cordner, data skills represent a way to improve workplace conversations.

“It’s an absolute prerequisite – you need to be really comfortable with numbers,” she told B&T.

“It’s not about what you think, it’s got to be about what you know, and with data supporting it.

“I haven’t seen anything where I haven’t had to do some form of budget or ROI.”

Skills of the future?

Through comparing the importance of skills currently with in the future, the research shows that many marketers are forward-looking when it comes to their view of marketing skills.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) of marketers listed programmatic as an important skill now, compared with 31 per cent in the future.

But the biggest discrepancy was seen in artificial intelligence/machine learning. Here, just 16 per cent said this was an important skill now, compared to 34 per cent believing it will be pertinent in the future.

According to Cordner, this is perhaps down to a technicality.

“I don’t see AI and machine learning a skill for a marketer. I think they are a code and a capability that a great marketer needs to be able to find the insights and then work out what to do with that,” she said.

Cordner made the comparison: “we all have a website, but we didn’t have to build it”.

“AI and machine learning is a capability that allows marketers to understand how to better connect and how to improve their brand, as opposed to them having to be ‘on the tools,” she said.

To ensure your marketing skills keep pace with a rapidly changing industry, check out ADMA’s range of courses. Their comprehensive range of courses are taught by practicing industry professionals and include:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Data-Driven Marketing
  • Customer Experience
  • Copywriting & Creative
  • Digital Campaigns
  • Analytics
  • Regulatory

You can download the ADMA Professional Skills Census 2020 here.


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