According to recent stats published, a third of marketers claim their business is suffering from a data and analytics skills gap.
This isn’t news — it’s been an issue for both brands and agencies since 2020. And the pandemic has only heightened focus on data-driven marketing, allowing businesses to connect with their customers on a personalised level. In the rush to do this, gaps in businesses’ skillsets have become glaringly clear.
The significance of data
Brands are now more aware than ever of the power of data to hone in on their commercial goals. Marketers and agencies have been scrambling to meet the demand for the past couple of years — without a huge amount of success. In the meantime, marketing trends are shifting thanks to two years of changed customer behaviour, and the need to deliver tailored products and services in real time has become profound.
There is enormous availability of marketing data. But how do marketers efficiently and effectively use it? Many aren’t sure. In fact, they’re not quite sure how to access and consume it altogether.
It’s about more than pulling out interesting insights from a huge data set. They need platform-specific technical know-how. The skills to read and understand data. The context to relate that information to key business decisions. And trust instilled in them to find value and direction in the data they have uncovered.
What are businesses doing to fill the data gap?
A third of businesses report data and analytics as the main talent issue, followed closely by copywriting ability, experience in social media and ecommerce skill.
Upskilling takes time. Time that businesses just don’t have as they pivot in an evolving market. They need resource that can take over and deliver results immediately. As a result, external hiring is taking precedence over upskilling existing marketing staff. While the market is currently a candidate’s one, as data specialists, data-driven digital marketers and social media managers are in high demand and relatively low supply, short-time hiring is not a long-term solution.
Yes, training and development outlays an upfront cost, but the impact of a lack of skills in this area will cost far more in the long term, as businesses aren’t able to guarantee effective execution on strategy from within. Upskilling existing staff is more likely to drive appetite and adoption. Further still, in a market where talent shortages continue to exist, staff are at risk of being poached — leaving marketing teams back at square one.
What’s the answer?
Students and junior marketers should be looking to include data and analytics skills in their arsenal from the beginning — for example, the basics of setting up and utilising tools like Google Analytics, Semrush and Facebook Ads Manager. Not just technical skills, but critical thinking skills too. How to interpret and leverage data to drive outcomes, with overarching business goals in mind. These will allow them to identify bold and compelling strategies to drive growth, using the data that they have at their fingertips, if only they know where to look.
Businesses should also prioritise investing in continued professional development for existing marketing staff, from a range of free and paid-for tools available from key channels. Undertaking skills and capability assessments can provide an objective view of where staff are at and enable your businesses to plan at both an individual and team level to ensure core skills are being developed to meet the need. Combine training, on-the-job learning and learning from peers and networks in order to build knowledge of both concepts and their practical application. Look for training that is facilitated by experts in the area, with direct experience in dealing with the data and analytics challenges you face to ensure your staff learn more than just technical best practice.
As a discipline, marketing is at a critical moment of growth. Don’t leave the very facts and figures that underpin its success to chance. Investing in bridging the gap now will pay later.