Marketers and data scientists: a burgeoning love story
by Lisa Arthur.
3 Oct 2012: While it may never light up the big screen, there is a burgeoning romance between smart marketers and data scientists – and without a doubt, this relationship has the potential to become ‘something serious’.
Big Data is growing bigger by the day, and along with this digital deluge comes a super-steep learning curve for marketers who need to make sense of it all. What is the data telling us? What should we do about it? How do we use it to gauge opportunities and challenges?
Who can see the wood for all these trees?
That’s where data scientists come in. Data scientists bring a unique – and exceptionally valuable – set of skills to the table. First of all, they have the ability to wrap their minds around statistics and algorithms and programming languages. Plus, they have the expertise to interpret that information, and then communicate what can be learned – in a way others can understand. In short, data scientists can blend both art and science.
Of course, marketers have always had data to draw on to make their plans, discover their results and pivot as needed, but the depth and detail of what they have to wade through in 2012 means that traditional measures and insights simply won’t cut it anymore.
Once they equip themselves with the right tools and team up with the right data scientists, marketers soon discover that what has been overwhelming can actually be incredibly useful – when it’s processed and interpreted effectively.
Be aware, though. The demand for data pros is growing at the same rate as the wealth of big data is… and this short supply of expertise means that most companies still aren’t taking advantage of all the information they’ve got on hand.
On top of that, some marketers are so bewildered by the role data scientists play that they’re unwilling to place value on their efforts.
If you’re one of those who has been ambivalent, take my advice. This is definitely one of those times when you don’t want to be one of the few without a date to the dance. Need a little more convincing? Here are the top three reasons marketers should let themselves fall in love with data scientists:
- Drowning in data = bad time management. You’re a marketer. You’ve got marketing skills that have important applications in your company. Your time belongs in marketing … not stuck in a spreadsheet with numbers you can’t begin to understand. When you put people in the roles that suit them best, work gets done better and faster.
- The board craves structure around new marketing methods. The debate around measuring social media, marketing ROI – and creating real metrics that map to real plans – rages on, but you can bet the powers-that-be won’t put up with the excuses for much longer. Now, more than ever before, the board demands accountability, and data scientists are your best hope for understanding big data, interpreting results and providing solid insights to act on… and report.
- They’re not just machines – they’re part-magician! Data scientists aren’t robots or computers (though their ability to process information may outstrip your laptop some days). Data scientists know how to deal with facts and ideas, with ‘definitely’ and ‘maybe.’ They pull the big picture from the big data mosaic, and make it make sense.
If you’re a marketer trying to dig your way out of big data, it’s time to admit that you can’t do it alone. Let a data scientist sweep you – and your marketing goals – off your feet. n
Lisa Arthur is CMO of Aprimo.
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