In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear a marketing team jokingly described as the “arts and crafts department,” or “the creatives.” Marketing used to have an almost mystical quality to it, an aura cleverly captured in John Wanamaker’s famous quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

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Times have changed. Technology is transforming the industry, and these days, marketing is rapidly becoming much more of a science than an art. In fact, the IDC recently predicted that starting in 2013 –once the CMO realizes that he/she does not have the skill sets in place for data analytics proficiency –50 percent of new marketing hires will have technical backgrounds.

50 percent? That’s quite a shift! Traditionally, marketers have had foundations in language, communications and/or business. What talents will these new hires need to bring to the table?

Without question, there’s a need for exceptional abilities in mathematics, statistics, predictive modeling, IT . . . But, in a broader sense, this new generation of marketers also must be able to:

  • Analyze data. I can’t stress this enough: analysis and reporting are two different skills. Today, it’s not enough for marketers to simply prepare year-end summaries or add up the columns on a spreadsheet. Effective marketing now requires more than data reporting. It requires data analysis, the interpretation of inputs to generate actionable insights. The most sought-after new hires will be true analytics professionals.
  • Collaborate. Corporate silos need to come down. Marketers can no longer squirrel themselves away in their own department. Neither can IT, or finance, or any others, for that matter. Cross-disciplinary communication and cooperation are key, and marketing teams need people who can bridge gaps throughout the enterprise.
  • Think for the business. Analyzing data is essential, but the analysis must be framed within the context of the business. In other words, those actionable insights are only valuable if they can be used to drive revenue and top-line growth.
  • Roll up their sleeves. This year’s new hires will hit the ground running in a new marketing landscape. They need to question any remnants of old-school thinking and work to better define processes, consolidate practices and improve performance.
  • Take a customer-centric approach. Marketers must elevate the customer experience so that it’s compelling, personalized and consistent across all touchpoints. Watch for data collection, automated analysis and targeted distribution to play even larger roles as customer insight and real-time analytics become increasingly important for competitive advantage.

Are there marketing professionals with these kinds of skills? Absolutely.

Are there enough marketing professionals with these kinds of skills? Probably not . . . or at least, not yet.

With demand increasing at such a rapid pace, McKinsey estimates that by 2018, the industry will be suffering a shortfall of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise . . . although some (present company included, of course) may simply see that as increasing demand for analytical marketing solutions and applications.