How to Boost Your Marketing Analytics Skills
Want to advance your career? Or maybe you just want to get started in one. Either way, you’ll need experience and some marketing analytics skills to get there.
Plenty of skills, in fact. Marketers are multi-taskers now, both in terms of their responsibilities and in terms of how many different types of tasks they do. They use a blend of skillsets.
Just look at the skills other marketers say are most important for their work:
“Soft skills” (communication, management skills, emotional intelligence, and similar capacities) come first, following by writing and content marketing skills. But near the top of the list ― even above email marketing or search engine optimization ― is data analysis.
If you work in marketing, this is no surprise. While marketers might not immediately think of themselves as data wonks, our jobs are suffused with data from start to finish.
Data informs every decision we make. It decides whether a campaign was successful or not; it’s what we use to prove our points, ask for budgets and raises, and even to justify our jobs.
We communicate via data, which is all but the lingua franca of marketing now.
So if you want to get better at doing your job, you want to get better at managing data. Analyzing it. Communicating with it. Sharing it. Keeping it clean.
But unfortunately, it seems like a lot of us have a long way to go. About half of marketers say data management is a significant challenge.
If you want to be ready for the job you’ll have three years from now (to be “skating where the puck is going to be,” as Wayne Gretzky would say) you need to beef up your marketing analytics skills now.
And if you’re among the 48% of marketers who are already struggling with data management, you need those skills to do marketing automation … yesterday.
So here’s how to get them:
There are a slew of blogs about marketing analytics. We publish quite a bit about the topic ourselves. But if you really want to sound smart in meetings, add these sites to your reading list:
Think with Google: This blog publishes some super-smart, heavily researched content on analytics and AI. Those are only a few of the subjects they cover, but it’s all worth reading. Great for any marketer at any level.
The Google Analytics blog: It doesn’t get much more authoritative than this. Ideal for anybody who has to look at Google Analytics reports.
Occam’s Razor: Avinash Kaushik may have the most prominent profile as a marketing analyst expert.
Orbit Media’s blog: Andy Crestodina and the Orbiteers regularly publish excellent, assessable, actionable blog posts about how to use analytics to make your marketing work better. Ideal for content marketers.
The Harvard Business Review: Wouldn’t have expected this one, right? But HBR publishes superb content on analytics ― and they do it in the context of business and marketing. Ideal for managers and executives. You get four free articles a month before registration and eight free ones if you’re registered. Heavy users should splurge on the $99 annual subscription.
There are hundreds of books about analytics. That may, actually, be part of the problem: You can get information overload from trying to understand your information overload.
Here are some good reads. They’re just a start, and there’s no point in getting overwhelmed. So if you could only read four books on this subject, I’d recommend these:
Data Science for Business: What You Need to Know about Data Mining and Data-Analytic Thinking by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett. A good, broad introduction to all the major ideas in business analytics.
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don’ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures by Dona M. Wong. A slim volume that will dramatically improve how your data visualizations look and how well they communicate information. It’s an excellent companion to our new Engagement Insights tool, which will automatically extract what’s in your database to Excel or Google Sheets so you can see it, share it, and act on it.
Predictive Marketing: Easy Ways Every Marketer Can Use Customer Analytics and Big Data by Omer Artun, Ph.D. and Dominique Levin. Want to really do personalized marketing? This is the book to get you from raw data to personalization 2.0.
The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization by Adele Sweetwood. As the title suggests, this is as much about changing culture as it is about working with data to polish your marketing analytics skills. But as you know, without everybody on board, your fantastic, cutting-edge ideas don’t have a snowball’s chance in … your next status meeting.
These two curated newsletters gather up a slew of great articles and resources about applied analytics, especially applied marketing analytics.
The Full Monty: This is a curated newsletter and/or a podcast. There are plenty of analytics-related articles mentioned here and a ton of other stuff of interest to marketers.
Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View: This Sunday newsletter leans heavy on AI and machine learning, but has irresistible, useful reading for marketers and SAAS people.
Follow experts on Twitter.
Need to get your analytics insights but the spoonful ― or maybe by the tweet? No problem. Follow anyone mentioned in this article, plus at least these three accounts (listed in no particular order):
Feras Alhlou @ferasa: Co-author of “Google Analytics Breakthrough: From Zero to Business Impact.”
Join marketing analytics groups on LinkedIn.
Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Marketing and Retail (63,580 members). How they describe their group: “This group provides a platform for experts to discuss analytics, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) as relevant to marketing, media, and retail.”
Better Marketing with Analytics (15,104 members). “Our mission is to provide a place for people who want to learn about and use analytics for marketing. Meet other marketing people involved with analytics to have discussions and make connections. Whether you are someone who wants to use Analytics to improve your marketing efforts or someone who is already an expert of how to create and use it, this is the place for you.”
Big Data, Analytics, Business Intelligence & Visualization Experts Community (210,797 members). “A premier community for both existing expert professionals and companies researching the convergence of big data analytics and discovery, Hadoop, data warehousing, cloud, unified data architectures, digital marketing, visualization, and business intelligence.”
Web Analytics Professionals (21,607 members). “Biggest analytics group in LinkedIn. Designed for analytics professionals. Lots of jobs, insights, benchmarks, industry leaders, tool providers, and many other user types. Your way to get in to the analytics industry.”
Google Analytics Qualification (for individuals). To become Google Analytics Qualified, you’ll have to pass the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) exam. To get access to the IQ Test, you’ll need to register with Google Partners. Joining Partners is free, and once you’re registered you’ll have access to a library of resources, including the Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics tracks. Finish those training programs, take the 90-minute exam, get at least 80% on it, and you’re in!
The Direct Marketing Association’s marketing analytics certificate. One of my old NYU Master’s Degree Professors, the super smart Perry Drake, teaches this DMA course. The class is just 8-9 hours long. Costs $479 for DMA members and $799 for non-members.
General Assembly’s Data Analysis online courses. I came within an eyelash of taking this course a few years ago. It’s still on my wish list. 11-week course. $1,250.
University of Washington’s Professional and Continuing Education’s Certificate in Digital Marketing Analytics. 8 month curriculum; $3,297.
PennState’s Graduate Certificate in Marketing Analytics. This is a hefty program, with hefty requirements (4 full courses) and a hefty price tag ($11,160). But you can spread the coursework out, and if you really want to master data like a pro, seriously consider this program.
Our own Nathan Isaacs has two recent podcasts about marketing analytics:
- Improve Sales, Marketing, SEO and more with Sales Call Analysis with Amit Bendov, CEO of Gong.
- The Modern Marketer’s New Executive Dashboard with Matt Heinz.
- Tying Your B2B Marketing to Revenue Attribution
Kaushik’s site also has a page of the podcasts/webinars he’s appeared on recently. And don’t forget Audible for all the analytics books you don’t have time to read.
TED Talks are a fantastic resource. And while the number of TED Talks expressly about marketing analytics is pretty small, there are a slew of talks about data.
Here are just a few of my favorites:
- Zeynep Tufekci’s Machine intelligence makes human morals more important
- Alan Smith’s Why you should love statistics
- Tricia Wang’s The human insights missing from big data
TED Talks are crazy good at one particular thing: Getting you to think about how analytics can be applied. This will add depth to your understanding of the more mundane parts of marketing analytics. It also helps you see your analytics work with fresh eyes.
How you present your data is almost as important as what you learn from it. Witness how hours of work can fall flat if you show a C-level executive a complex data visualization that doesn’t make sense to them. You standing there saying “but this, but that” won’t help if they don’t understand the chart you showed them.
So get smart. Clean up your charts by knowing how to present data in more elegant ways. Make your reports actionable and shareable.
Part of that is color and streamlining the data, but another part of it is learning all the weird and wonderful data visualization options we have to choose from. A is a good source for inspiration: the Data Viz Project.
Tell better stories.
True stories, of course. Data storytelling is an exciting way to make use of “boring” data (some people call it that … but I never do. I think data is riveting.). Being able to put your data in context, to give it meaning, and to incite action from it is the very acme of marketing. You’re basically marketing the ideas the data has shown you.
The website Storytelling With Data is pretty great. So’s the book by the same person. The agency Column Five Media also writes a lot about the overlap between content marketing, “data viz,” and data storytelling. They understand that data storytelling is the final evolution of data itself ― it fits into the “insight” part of this graph:
Join The Digital Analytics Association, an industry organization with ample resources for anyone who wants to build their data skills.
The Bigger Picture
Here’s the deal: Data is your friend. It doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to drive all creativity and humanity out of the room.
Being data-driven also doesn’t mean we’re handing over our jobs to the machines. It just means we’re empowered to make better decisions.
But data isn’t the answer to everything. In fact, we need to use data to shape the questions we ask as much as data shapes the answers we get. That’s why we need clear, straightforward reports everyone on our team can understand and use.
But please: Don’t get lazy just because you have a ton of data and you can shape it into great reports and insights and data storytelling. Don’t ever let all this access to data lead you to shut off your brain. The data is only as good as its inputs. It’s still up to us marketers to explain what it all means.