A recent report by the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) identified 33 key skills that marketers need, including five data skills. The survey also found that 38% have had no training in these skills in the last 12 months. However, the levels of training in data are even lower with only 22% to 16% saying they have received training in these skills in the last year. So what is being done to address this?
While data skills are important to marketers in their current roles, many see this importance growing as time goes by. When asked which skills were very or extremely important in their current roles, 72% of marketers said data analysis and reporting. However, when asked which skills will be very or extremely important for their career progression, 83% said data analysis and reporting, while 83% said analysing customer data.Clearly, the level of training marketers receive in these skills does not marry with their perceived importance.
In the last 12 months, only 22% said they had training in analysing customer data or insight, 18% on data analysis and reporting, and 16% on data and database management.
But why are data skills so important to marketers specifically? According to Jane Cave, managing director of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM), it is because time is of the essence. She said: “People are going to need to be able to interpret information immediately. There is not going to be the time to send it off for an analyst to have a look at it and come back with their thoughts and recommendations.”
For Elliot Bertram, business partner and head of marketing in the UK and Ireland at SThree, marketers who understand data make better decisions. He said: “It is essential marketers understand how to analyse data to get to know their customer better and use it to make informed decisions.”
"A data-savvy marketer understands the importance of using data to provide ROI."
For Kerrie-Anne Payne, client services director at The Frank Agency, data is important to marketers because it leads to a better strategy. “As the number of touchpoints is increasing and marketing budgets are evermore under the spotlight to deliver results, a data-savvy marketer will understand the importance of how you can use data to provide ROI. Data can give the marketer the insight to plan and execute a targeted communications strategy.”
It seems there may be a confidence gap with marketers not wanting to pursue training in data skills. Bertram said: “Those who struggle with numbers may not make the leap to seek training in the first place,” while Payne said some marketers may be under the misconception that having data skills means you have to manipulate data. She said: “Marketers may lack the confidence to embrace the data discussion.” Payne went on to say that this confidence gap could be closed by marketers understanding the relationship between insight and data.
However, there could be another reason for the low take-up and provision of data skills training among marketers. Wayne Tassie, business director of programmatic EMEA at DoubleVerify, said: “First-party data that a company collects during a marketing campaign, and second-party data generated from post-campaign analysis are often viewed as an output. They are seen as the end product of the marketing cycle, so why provide training in data skills for an end product?”
"Data is most valuable when it is first generated."
Tassie said that to overcome this obstacle mindsets need to change. He said: “We need to go back to basics in regard to making data-driven marketing decisions that leverage first and second party data. Data is most valuable when it is first generated. When more organisations come to this realisation, data skills training will become standard.”
According to Cave, better trained marketers will lead to the marketing industry being more professional, and while marketers are inherently adaptable, open to change and to taking on new challenges, she believes it is down to management to lead the way with company-wide training initiatives. She said: “If you leave it to learning and development teams, it is based on appraisals and individuals who are self-selecting. But businesses have to, at senior strategic level, look at the direction of where they’re going and analyse where the gaps are.”