Society has sensationalized the idea that our children need to be gifted athletes with superstar careers in order to be truly successful. As a marketer with an affinity for analytics, I have a different hope. I hope my kid becomes an analytics superstar. And thanks to recent social trends, that’s actually a cool thing to be now.

Pursuing a career in analytics has never been more accessible. Traditional data tools are becoming easier to use, which allows non-programmer types to perform even complex analyses quickly. This allows agencies to build analytics departments with varying levels of technical expertise. With today’s tools, you don’t have to be in the analytics department to analyze data.

Within agencies, the move to fully staffed analytics departments is gaining momentum. According to the 4A’s “Survey on Analytics in Agencies” in May 2015, 93% of agencies reported having staff members who perform analytics functions. And half of agencies with more than 50 employees reported having a separate analytics department. As agencies look to increase their capabilities, the competition for talent to lead these new departments will grow.

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The need for data analytics talent has been a big discussion in recent years. A 2015 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review found that 43% of companies struggle with finding the analytics talent they need. And with all the competition out there for a limited pool, agencies may discover that the talent is not only hard to find, but also hard to retain.

Marketers need some analytics background to succeed 

Universities are responding to this new staffing demand. As a sitting board member of the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program, I’ve noticed that more and more universities are offering graduate programs designed to produce skilled analytics professionals with business acumen.

Undergraduate programs for analytics are also starting to take shape. These programs will likely range from concentration clusters to complete minors that can be easily added to a student’s business, marketing, or advertising curriculum. Students are starting to realize that even basic analytics skills will make them more employable.

This year, I was not only impressed by the number applications we received for our marketing analytics internship program, but also with why the students applied. They fully recognized that analytics would be an important part of their marketing career — even if they didn’t want analytics to be their full-time job.

Agencies need to seek candidates with a base of analytics knowledge — especially in the account management department

Analytics courses and graduate programs are providing agencies with a unique opportunity: What if your account department was filled with talented people who were predisposed to testing, optimizing, and using predictive behavioral algorithms?

Candidates with a background in analytics are perfect for account management roles, since they can easily translate a client’s business needs into behavioral data questions.

Such talent brings another benefit: Many clients have been strengthening their own analytics capabilities. An agency that has a solid analytics department — one that can support or augment a client’s analytics staff — will be a true business partner. In the future, agencies with strong analytics cultures will be a client requirement, not a request.

Senior staff needs to adapt to support this new wave of analytics talent

The rise in young analytics-minded talent will be the disruption that pushes senior staff to seek out resources to upgrade their own knowledge base.

Progressive and successful agencies need to offer internal programs that demystify analytics for agency leaders as part of formal training programs. This will help senior staff better understand what analytics can and can’t do. Basic knowledge makes — and will continue to make — a big difference when it comes time to sponsoring analytics initiatives and designing an appropriate organizational structure to support analytics activities.

It also helps executives ask the right questions when dealing with prospective analytics vendors. One way to provide this basic knowledge is through partnerships with local universities and industry organizations. Such collaboration will aid this process by allowing on-site classes, which should maximize attendance.

Analytic thinking will improve creative executions

With more agency staff thinking about how to test, learn, and optimize based on customer behavior, the integration of analytics with the creative staff will be a major factor in agency success.

The reality is that integration is simple. The new analytics mindset will improve creative evolution over time because it’s rooted in customer behavior. This ability to evolve a campaign quickly will help ensure an unfair advantage for any client. To do this quickly and effectively, the analytics team has to be well integrated into the creative culture of the agency.

The fact is that analytics isn’t just about dashboards, crazy math, or predictive algorithms. It’s about using data to understand human behavior.

The creative product is then commissioned to alter these human behaviors. An agency that has demystified and embraced analytics for its staff will have a natural flow of conceptual evolution on core creative ideas — one based on a feedback loop of customer behavior to the creative.

Agencies need to start planning today

Integrated analytics thinking will soon be the expectation in business, not the exception. Attracting and retaining the top talent will require an environment that fosters the skills of newly minted talent entering the workplace.

This analytics talent will thrive in agencies that have an interdepartmental group of analytics-minded individuals — especially in the account department — who can help communicate complex analytics in simple ways.

Start planning today how to improve your agency’s analytics practice, as well as your own personal knowledge. You’ll be glad you did.

How is your agency taking part in the analytics revolution?


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