Guest post by Robert Murphy, Managing Partner at Movéo.
In today’s world, technology and marketing conditions are dynamic, but clients still demand predictable results, minimized waste and accountability. In order to achieve these goals, marketers must master the ability to collect the right data and then glean insights to drive strategy and measure effectiveness. The smartest marketers not only understand this approach, but are leading the charge to take it mainstream.
During upfront planning, it’s essential for marketers to use the right tools, analyze data, pull out meaningful insights and use that information to craft a strong strategy. On the back end, data allows marketers to measure the success of a campaign or program and optimize future plans based on those results.
This has changed the way we as marketers work. Jiani Zhang, Movéo’s Director Vice President of Data and Insights puts it best:
“We have easier access to more and more data in all kinds of areas to help us make decisions, build better and more engaging customer experiences, dig out insights and uncover opportunities, rather than thinking about everything with a gut feeling and guesswork,” says Zhang. “[Data] and the insights we gather from it helps us make more efficient, more accurate decisions.”
Along with the demand for data comes the demand for talented data analysts—marketing specialists who understand how to interpret 21st-century data and identify insights that will inform their clients’ strategies and ultimately help them achieve their business goals.
So what exactly are agencies and companies looking for in a data analyst? What characteristics do you need to succeed in today’s data-driven marketing world?
Statistical analysis is only one part of the job. Data analysts need a creative spirit, one that pushes them to experiment, remain flexible and solve problems with a new, fresh perspective. And though there’s plenty of solo work time, they have to be able to share knowledge and collaborate as a team member. “I spend about a third of my day in front of a white board, with my team brainstorming different ways we can solve a problem,” says Dean Malmgren, a Data Scientist and Partner at Datascope Analytics. “That’s a very collaborative thing.”
Top-notch data analysts look for the meaning—the “why”—behind the numbers. With an insatiable drive to discover actionable insights, they constantly ask questions and search for solutions. Curiosity fuels them and the possibility of failure doesn’t scare them.
Matt Webster, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Planning at Movéo believes curiosity is the “one crucial character trait” for those working with data. “At the end of the day, what you really want is someone who’s curious, who enjoys drilling into data and spending a lot of time with it, hours on end, and coming up with a big insight that fuels the development of a strategy,” says Webster.
3. A strategic perspective
While data analysts often have to dig deep and get lost in data, those who are most effective also have the ability to think beyond a tactical level. With a “big picture” outlook, they keep both the client’s goals and the end customers in mind. Countless tools and theories exist, but these analysts have the wisdom to know which are most relevant to the current project and how to apply them appropriately.
4. Effective communication skills
Great data analysts understand how to transform meaningful data into digestible insights and how to communicate those insights to a wide range of audiences—everyone from clients to the creative team and the IT department. “Storytelling is a very important skill—to [be able to] translate the numbers, the metrics, into very clear and straightforward, actionable and engaging stories,” says Zhang.
By distilling the data into something simple, something people can believe in, data analysts have the ability to make people care. “People need to trust the results,” says Malmgren. “The only thing that makes a data-driven tool useful is whether or not you trust the [results] it puts in front of you. Developing that trust by making sure [the data is] communicated in an effective way is really important.”
5. Continuous learning
Data analysis goes far beyond number-crunching. New technology, tools and theories require the most talented data analysts to stay up-to-date by attending industry events, reading widely and making connections. These folks are proactive thinkers who thrive off of being challenged, day in and day out. As Zhang says, “Be hungry.”
6. Statistical and technical expertise
Of course, it’s impossible to be a stand-out data analyst without strong technical skills. Data interpretation at this level requires critical analysis without bias or expectation, as well as a deep understanding of tools, formulas and models that comes from hands-on experience.
As marketers continue to explore how to best use data to inform strategy and measure effectiveness, data analysts will play a larger role in proving the value of marketing dollars.
“Marketing has always been seen as an expense to [clients],” says Webster. “The marketing team wants to be viewed [as an investment] and have a seat at the table with the C-suite. If the CMO wants that seat, they have to manage against numbers the same way the CFO is doing it.”
Robert Murphy is a Managing Partner at Movéo. For 27+ years Movéo has partnered with category leading brands to craft strategies and build tactics that engage audiences and drive business growth. At Movéo, Murphy manages the Data & Insights group, as well as the Strategy & Planning team. He has been named to BtoB Magazine’s list of “Who’s Who, Key Thought Leaders, Movers & Shakers” and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Japan America Society of Chicago.