In today's digital business environment, it's already a given that data must play a role in facilitating effective management. Nowhere is that more apparent than when dealing with creating a high-performance marketing strategy. The trouble is many companies struggle with building the internal expertise necessary to create a data-driven marketing department.
Part of the problem is that a data-driven marketing team bears little resemblance to the marketing departments of the past. Instead of featuring only creative copywriters and visual artists, companies must build a marketing analytics team that will be able to collect and interpret the available data to give the creatives their marching orders.
The good news is that it's no longer all that difficult to assemble a high-skill marketing analytics team, provided that you know what positions need filling and what their roles are. To help, here's a guide to create a marketing analytics A-team:
Defining the task at hand
Since not all businesses have the same marketing needs, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to building a marketing analytics team. That means the first step is for management to look inward and take action to define the precise results it expects from its marketing efforts and what business goals it will support. Before that happens, though, it's useful to set realistic boundaries to guide the process.
The first consideration is organization size. For a small business, it won't be practical to build an analytics team that contains specialists in each data discipline. Instead, the end result of the process will be the creation of an effective group of marketing data generalists—a team that can flexibly handle every marketing aspect, from analysis to campaign design and execution.
The opposite holds true for a larger business. Since it's more likely to have a bigger marketing budget, it's also more likely to invest in the latest AI and ML marketing technology to aid its efforts. To make the most of that investment, it's necessary to assemble a staff with expertise in getting the most out of the marketing platforms in use. While each member might bring less breadth of experience to the table, they will bring a greater depth of knowledge in their specialties—resulting in the best possible marketing outcomes.
After setting boundaries, the next thing to do is categorize the types of work and goals the group will need to handle. Speaking generally, most marketing tasks fall into the following categories:
- Sales and lead-generation marketing
- Customer retention and loyalty
- Individual product or category marketing
Ideally, the team should be built to allow for a working group to handle each of the categories above. For a small business, this means hiring a single generalist for each one.
The members of the team
Once the goals and boundaries are defined, the next thing to do is to build a team with the right skills to do the work. The number of team members will vary based on the size of the business, but the roles they play are always the same. They are:
Director of Analytics
When assembling any data science team, there has to be a central manager with a broad understanding of the data tools, skills, and technologies that will advance the organization's goals. That person, however, doesn't have to be a marketing specialist. That's because their job is to guide the specialists underneath them to get results, and not to do the marketing work themselves.
For businesses that already have a CRM system or other business intelligence platform in use, there should already be someone who's responsible for managing its use. More often than not, that individual will hold a master's degree in business analytics or another comparable certification. In that case (and if their work is already exemplary), they can be elevated into the role of director of analytics.
It is that person's job to:
- Decide on the KPIs that will measure the efficacy of all data operations
- Make sure that the marketing and data operations support the right business goals
- Act as a communications go-between for management and other business stakeholders
According to Cam Secore, founder of Power Moves, there's real value in choosing an internal candidate for the job. He says that "Upskilling an existing employee to take on the role of director of analytics works especially well because that individual will have a real-world functional understanding of how the business operates. That means they'll be better able to devise and execute a data strategy based on the real needs of the business. In other words, they'll know the difference between the theoretical benefits of data analytics and how it can be best brought to bear on the company's real challenges."
If no suitable candidate exists within the organization, the director of analytics should be the first hire, as they should have a hand in assembling the rest of the marketing analytics team.
Data Visualization Specialist
To build an effective data-driven marketing team, there must be someone with the skills to translate the data into a compelling business case that decision makers can understand. This is the role of the data visualization specialist. The right person for the job should have a good understanding of the specific industry that the business operates in, as well as a background using whatever visualization tools the company intends to use.
Within a data science team, a visualization specialist's job is akin to that of a storyteller. It's their job to create easy-to-digest charts, graphs, and infographics that convey to the business's management what insight the available data provides. More than that, though, it's their job to convince those stakeholders of the data's validity and convince them to act on it. Without an effective data visualization specialist on board, it's almost impossible to make sure that the business's marketing strategy stays rooted on solid analytical ground.
Alexey Grakov, co-founder of custom software development company VironIT, says that the strategy-breaking impact of not bringing in the right data visualization specialist can't be overstated. He says "If your business intends to put data at the heart of its marketing efforts, top-to-bottom buy-in is key. But managers can't be expected to get on board with things they don't understand. So, you either have to train your executives to be data scientists or find a visualization specialist that can translate the data into a form they'll understand every time. That's why hiring the right person for the job is so critical. If they're not at the top of their game, all of the work that goes into generating insights from your data is for nothing."
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To be able to draw the right conclusions from available marketing metrics, sales results, and other relevant business data, there must be someone on the marketing team that knows all the right questions to ask of the data. They must also have the technical knowledge required to create the data models required to extract the right answers. The person that can do all of that is known as a data scientist.
More specifically, businesses should look for a candidate with preexisting marketing data experience to fill this role. The good news is that the labor market is responding to the demand, and there are more candidates suited for the specific job of marketing data scientist than ever. The most qualified among them typically have experience as a junior marketing data analyst, so they'll already know the specifics of gathering and processing marketing-specific data sources.
Market Research Specialist
To round out the team, a market research specialist (or several, if the business operates in multiple markets) is a must-have. It's their job to provide context to the data the team is examining. That makes it possible for the marketing team to understand the motivations of customers in a given segment—essentially the "why" of what the data reflects.
On top of that, a market research specialist will also be able to use the data to try to identify new opportunities that may not be apparent to a marketing generalist. Working in concert with the other team members, they can help to shape the future direction of data collection efforts as well as the broader marketing strategy the company pursues.
It's important to understand, though, that an early-stage business or a small business need not hire a market research specialist as a prerequisite to getting started with data-driven marketing. The data itself will almost always provide ample opportunities for market growth for such firms. Later, when the company enters a growth phase or has to contend with tougher competition, adding a market research specialist can help fuel further success.
The bottom line
The roles defined above represent the broad outlines of a marketing analytics A-team. For a large business, they will be the leaders of the group, with junior-level associates in each discipline rounding out the team. For small businesses, these roles represent the multiple skill groups they must target when building a team of generalists. Such businesses can get away with less overall expertise because the scope and scale of the marketing analytics work won't be as great as that of a large firm.
No matter the size of the team, however, it's important to recognize that all of the skills covered here are valuable and necessary in their own ways. Major skill deficiencies in any area can compromise the ability of the whole team to do effective marketing data analytics work. So, the bottom line for businesses, large and small, when setting out to build such a team must be to aim for the most well-rounded staff possible. That way, they can turn their marketing into a data-driven machine and send their company soaring to ever-greater heights.
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