The marketing analytics skills gap and why it’s your fault.
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The marketing analytics skills gap and why it’s your fault. I’m talking to you, the 37%ers.

Author: Edwin Thompson | Categories: Digital Analytics, Digital Marketing

There is no doubt there is a skills gap in marketing. The rapid change and innovation in marketing is like nothing we’ve seen. Marketing automation, web technologies, social media, and mobile are among some of the most highly sought after skills today. The people that possess these skills are aggressively recruited and the companies that need that talent discover a constant race to attract and retain top employees. As high as the demand is for these, there're one other elusive skill marketing leaders seek: Analytics.

In the Online marketing institute’s 2014 state of digital marketing talent study, they found that Analytics was one of the most coveted skills, yet also one of the biggest areas of weakness for organizations – a gap of 37%*. OMI defines the talent gap as the difference between skills/specialties marketing executives value the most and the skills their talent currently has. It’s a great survey.You can find the report here.

So if the skills are that rare, why is that your fault? Let me say that first, there is a common error made on the part of marketers who interchangeably use the terms “Reporting” and “Analytics”. Let’s clear that up so there’s no confusion.

The definition of analytics:

noun, (used with a singular verb) Logic.

The science of logical analysis

If you’re thinking that’s not very helpful, I’m with you, and to be honest, the dictionary definition of reporting makes no sense in terms of marketing, either.

Wikipedia had this to say about Data and Analytics: “While data collection is relatively simple, a thorough analysis to make sense of collected data is critical. By thoroughly analyzing the data, organizations can gather actionable business insights to improve the marketing effectiveness and marketing efficiency.”

In the interest of clarity, let’s say:

Reporting is the process of data collection.

Analytics is the process of interpreting data to develop actionable insights.

Fair enough?

My point is that Executives are asking for analytics and what they are receiving is reporting.

According to the OMI survey, it’s a matter of talent not being available and/or not being properly developed. I can’t disagree, but with most things marketing, the cause of any problem is rarely a single point of failure. It’s usually a combination of strategy, people, process, and technology.

From a technology standpoint, we are absolutely drowning in data from the systems we use and the tools to break it down are readily available. There are no excuses here.

Strategically, “Analytics” is seldom part of the conversation. By a strategy for analytics, I mean knowing what numbers you need to influence and why, assessing the current capabilities you have to provide meaningful data, determining who is responsible for distilling and formulating recommendations, and what is the plan for improving those capabilities and when. If analytics doesn’t get strategic attention, it also doesn’t get properly resourced, whether or not you think your team has the skills.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. “We need to improve our analytics capabilities, and I know you are all very busy, so I’m looking for an intern.” Sigh of relief from the team (Yay! No more reporting!). The intern or entry-level person is hired. They run reports, create spreadsheets and build PPT presentations. The reports look great. There is still no analytics. Why? Because the person extracting the data has little or no experience to really assess what’s happening and is unable to formulate recommendations. It’s extremely common that this is pushed down to junior staffers with little or no experience.

Ready for the double-whammy? They don’t want to do it because they have a sense of entitlement! According to that same OMI survey, “70% of respondents say that new employees expect to advance or be hired for upper-level positions before proving themselves.” When does asking someone to do something they don’t want to do (and have no experience doing) ever result in a positive outcome? Your current team hates reporting too because it’s totally unrewarding.

This is what we are doing, and why it’s marketing leadership’s fault there’s a skills gap on analytics. I wouldn’t be living up to my promise if I didn’t provide you some ways to address the situation.

  1. Create your analytics strategy.
  2. Communicate the analytics strategy and what the outcomes will be.
  3. Stop hiring junior staffers to do something more senior people need to do. (Seeing what the more senior people do will teach the junior staffers.)
  4. Stop calling it reporting, that sounds like a chore.
  5. Start asking for “insights” (it’s what you actually want) and ask for the data to back up those insights.
  6. Make decisions based on the insights provided and communicate them as a group (so everyone learns). If people feel recognized for their insights, it won’t be a one-way, time-sucking item on the to-do list.
  7. Consider a reward for top insight for the week. Example: Must be a recommendation for change, have a short, achievable window of completion, and have the data to back it up.
  8. Everyone must be involved and teamwork is encouraged.
  9. Recognize that it’s a process. If they don’t get it right away, keep working on it.
  10. Revisit and re-communicate the strategy frequently as it evolves.

*Source: Online Marketing Institute.