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March 9, 2020  //       //  Opinion

You’ve invested in data-driven marketing… but is the team using it truly equipped for success?

By Lizzy Chesters 

As the sheer volume of data creation reaches unmanageable levels, the need for data skills has never been more crucial for businesses. Forrester calculates that between 60 to 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. In its ‘Dynamics of data science skills’ report, The Royal Society revealed demand for UK workers with specialist data skills has more than tripled over the last five years.

And marketing departments are not immune to this problem. In fact, our latest piece of research found one of the largest obstacles for marketing departments to become more data-driven was the lack of in-house talent with the correct skill set. But with marketing teams’ spending on data and analytics topping the list of investment priorities, according to the Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020, how can these departments be sure they have the right people in place to actually use this technology to its full potential? Companies must match any investment in technology and data tools with people who have the necessary skills to get the most value from it.

Since marketers often traditionally do not come from a data science background, this can be tricky. But a combination of in-house training and external support can set them on the path to success.

Training the entire team

When investing in any data analytics tool, thorough and ongoing training on its capabilities is imperative. But using and understanding the role of data cannot be left up to one single individual: the entire team must train to get up to speed on the tools the organisation has invested in. The power of data analytics shines through in collaboration. Everyone needs to have at least a basic level of data literacy so they can understand the data they encounter day to day and how it ladders up to the bigger story.

If budget is an issue, one way around it is to identify an individual who is truly enthusiastic about data, effectively an evangelist, who can lead and educate the rest of the team. They can act as the point of call for any questions or difficulties their peers may encounter when getting to grips with new tools. Of course, it is important to reward this person for their contribution, whether that be financially or through company-wide recognition.

That said, companies cannot neglect the soft skills. Setting aside time to educate creatives on the data being collected and what it means will pay dividends when they need to interpret the data to come up with first-rate campaigns driven by insight rather than gut feel.

Attracting the right talent

When seeking the right skills from outside the organisation, many companies fail to hire the right talent because they don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the mix of technical skills and data expertise they need. As a result, they do not use analytics professionals and data scientists to their full potential, wasting their time on activities they are overqualified for.

To avoid this problem, companies need to take more effort when hiring new employees and give additional thought to exactly what skills the role requires. This step is critical and should not be rushed. A company needs to be clear about where and how it can benefit from analytics professionals and data scientists and then be explicit about how it defines success with potential candidates. The first step is to include required data skills in every job description. Secondly, during the interview process, they must thoroughly question candidates about their ability to use data directly linked to the company’s data objectives. This way, every new hire will serve to help cultivate a cohort of data experts, whose knowledge can percolate throughout the organisation and help boost their peers’ skills.  

Leverage your partners

Unfortunately, it can take hefty investment in training new talent and acquiring tools to make any impact on improving data and analytics utilisation. When in a pinch, seeking a third party with the right experience can act as a quick and easy source of expertise to get your data analytics function off the ground. Laying the foundations for great insight and analytics is something our dedicated research and measurement teams do day in, day out.

Ultimately, unused data is a valuable untapped resource that organisations cannot fail to take advantage of. Yet without the right individuals in their midst to make sense of this information, businesses are at risk of pouring money down the drain when investing in cutting-edge data analytics technology. As the volume of data worth analysing multiplies every day, companies simply don’t have time to sit back and wait for a solution. Technology must work hand in hand with talent to ensure the best return on investment, whether it be in-house or through great agency-client collaboration.

To understand other ways your marketing team can get the most value from their data, check out our Turning Data into Marketing Gold research report or drop us an email at

Lizzy Chesters is an Account Director in Allison+Partners' London Office. 

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