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Marketers Now Need to Think Data First

Marketers Now Need to Think Data First
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Marketing veterans -- remember what life used to be like? We spent our days brainstorming new campaigns, creating advertising slogans and, at the end of the day, creativity was what mattered. We were “ideas men” -- or women -- and if we wanted to succeed, we had to find a way to bring those ideas to life.

But, it’s time to face facts: marketing as we once knew it is undergoing some serious changes. The industry has gone from an era of trial-and-error practices to a careful science, leaning heavily on the balance between big ideas and hard facts.

Related: Marketing, Meet Tech. 4 Tips for Hiring a Data-Obsessed Team.

According to Jobvite data, digital agencies grew on an average of 290 percent over last year, while traditional agencies shrunk their hiring on an average of 70 percent. The digital market is booming, thanks in large part to data. Now, the agencies embracing digital have a distinct advantage. Already, we’re seeing media companies radically abandon traditional metrics in favor a new way of thinking: the Financial Times has dropped the “click” and replaced it with user data to understand what moves the needle.

But with great data comes great responsibility. As marketers are now discovering, understanding data -- and what to do with it -- takes a specific skill set. While the data opportunity has the potential to catapult marketers to new heights (C-suite, anyone?), it’s time for agencies everywhere to rethink the data and marketing equation -- starting with hiring.

Building a data-driven team

For years, marketing has been grounded in qualitative results. Now, however, companies are looking to bridge the gap between qualitative insight and quantitative results. According to MarketShare, the growth rate in marketing-related analytics hires is up 67 percent over the past year, and a massive 136 percent over the past three years.

Leveraging marketing data starts with building the perfect team -- one that can move past simply understanding the funnel to changing its overall performance. In a field where subjectivity has ruled for years, data adds a new layer of assuredness.

Until recently, hiring marketers meant vetting for creativity, design and writing skills and out-of-the-box thinking. Any marketing department should seek out creative types, but to allow your team to take advantage of the data opportunity, they also need an understanding of metrics.

Related: To Win at Marketing, Scrap Your Marketing Department and Hire a Data Geek (Infographic)

Ask candidates how they measure success individually and as a team. If their answer isn’t tied to numbers, they’re simply not the right fit. To really find value in your consumer data, your team should know how to produce against success metrics, such as leads, click-throughs and even page views.

I’ve even asked candidates to “draw the funnel” on a whiteboard -- their level of detail tells me everything I need to know. However your company chooses to evaluate candidates, a data-first attitude when hiring is paramount to marketing success.

The executive payoff

As marketing becomes more inextricably linked to data, marketers are finding themselves welcomed to the executive table with open arms. Now, chief marketing officers -- and their teams -- have direct influence on the bottom line of the company. Using data to tie marketing back to return on investment has helped marketers reach new levels of influence, removing the traditional “fluff” of marketing and replacing it with objective measurement. Having a team of metrics-minded marketers at the bottom supports the success of the CMO at the top, carving an essential place for marketing in any company.

Not only does data help companies reach consumers more effectively, but it also helps you build the case internally for your department. Think about it: your first investment in data involves hiring your first data expert. This enables your team to leverage data insights to engage more consumers, and essentially drive revenue for your company -- earning you a coveted seat at the executive table. Now, you’ve got the credibility and budget to expand your team, helping further your creative agenda and success.

At every step of the process, leveraging the power of data helps build a healthy, successful marketing department, from the CMO to entry-level.