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Analytics Candidates (and all Pros!) Must Be Ready to Sell Their Insights!


Post Date: February 14, 2014
By: Stephanie Miller

insightsWhile the jobs report shows that employment is up, it’s still hard to find that perfect analytics candidate – or job for yourself.  Plus, all marketing analytics professionals have to be trained and ready to step up and sell the value of their insights to business owners.  So the essential skill set for everyone in marketing analytics is shifting, at the same time that there is a dearth of experienced talent.

These are some of the conclusions from the DMA Analytics Council Town Hall conversation today, led by Jacque Paige, Senior Partner at the Smith Hanley recruiting firm and hiring consultancy and including DMA members from Acxiom, Chubb, Claritas, IBM, Epsilon, iKnowtion, and Ogilvy One.  It was great to hear how things are going in hiring and training in marketing analytics from so many perspectives.

“Our serious market activity in the analytics space adheres to how strong the job report is,” Jacque said.  In 2013 when we had really good jobs report – lots of job creation – businesses got really active in making good offers, and candidates accepted them.  More lately in December we saw a tightening up, but it’s starting  to pick up again, she said.

The unemployment rate has gone down from 7.9% in Jan 2013 to 6.7% today, she said. This is getting in the realm of “almost normal, as 4% is considered full employment.”   However, it’s not possible to make general conclusions.  “They never talk about the fact that college grad unemployment is at 3% and high school graduates are at 6.9% unemployment, and so the overall softness in the market is due to the fact that the US is undereducated, and only 1/3rd of the workforce has a college degree,” she said.  This puts pressure even at the professional level, placing a “damper on the marketing analytics marketplace in keeping salary offers lower, and not as aggressive as they need to be for many experienced professionals.”

Marty Rose of Acxiom noted that an important consideration is flexibility on the part of the employer to allow telecommuting.  “A lot of people who are mid-level or advanced are unwilling to move, and they want to live where they live.    They want to telecommute and travel to meetings once or twice a month.  Our company is accommodating this need. You need people who are highly communicative, team players.

“I find that when I telecommute, I work really long hours since the office is so close – it’s just down the hall.  All the mid to senior level people that I work with, it’s not that different than being in the office, you just have to be professional about it,” he said.

The types of marketing analytics jobs are sometimes hard to fill.  “We aren’t looking for plain vanilla candidates – it seems like we are looking for very specific skill sets in analytics which has accelerated in practice because of big data,” Marty said.  “Yes, but those specialties haven’t been around that long, and so they require a deeper level of experience – it’s hard to recruit for them,” Jacque added.

Marty pointed to good statistical learning courses and training coming out of universities like Stanford, Oxford and Berkeley  being particularly  impressive and relevant to marketing applications of analytics.  “Universities can’t churn out these kids fast enough,” added Peter Zajonc of Epsilon.

“These challenge are real, and you are looking for people with a certain core competency,” added Sandy Karcher of iKnowtion.  “We’ve been lucky in that people we’ve been able to hire have not only the hardcore stats and analytics background but can also consult with clients about business needs and really connect the findings with business KPIs.

“It’s hard to find a person who is both analytically competent and also be versed and fluent in the business insights,” she said.

Jacque noted that it’s often hard to find Americans to do the analytics. “We are starting to see some enthusiasm at the high school and college level for statistics careers and learning.  People are buying into the need for studying this, however, including at promoters of marketing excellency like the DMA educational foundation, Marketing EDGE.”

Now you have quantitative techniques begin taught in a wider variety of departments, a wider set of disciplines in the stats/math community.  There are more programs in applied statistics and applied mathematics, Marty added.  “It’s different then when I was a kid when I had to connect the dots myself to find interesting applications for all that math and stats.”

Even if you find the right candidate – and hopefully you all have teams of great and happy employees in this area – then every one of them has to be sure to close the loop on value to the business.  “Analytics is not always valued or promoted inside of companies, and it doesn’t have the sexiness that marketing and sales has,” said Alexander Faure of Ogilvy One.  “Even IT has been more valued, more celebrated.”

Another recruiting hazard is that the software and modeling tools used in  analytics are so powerful, that candidates may believe that all you do is push a button, Alex added.   “Of course we know that is not true and the real value and the beauty of these roles is in the intelligence to tease out insights of import,” he said. 

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The DMA Analytics Council “Town Hall” meetings are informal conference calls on a cool topic and led by Council members. Following a few brief introductory comments meant to stimulate thought and comment on the topic, the leader(s) will open the conversation up for inputs and debate. We’ve had Town Halls on everything from the efficacy of new analytics methods to how to sell your ideas to the C-suite to our latest on the 2014 Hiring Outlook.

To be invited to the Town Hall series just email Stephanie Miller.

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