Market Insights - The skills gaps in data-driven marketing

13 Mar 2018

  • Digital Marketing
  • Data-driven Marketing

By: Richard Harris, Managing Director, IQ

Addressing the ever-evolving skills challenges today is key if we want to keep up with the pace of the market now and in the future.

At IQ, we’ve developed a skills assessment framework that helps organisations map out the skills they already have within their teams and the ones they lack against the skills they need to succeed.

What this framework also offers is a glimpse inside the current status of the market.
Using our skills framework, we have assessed over 500 marketing professionals across 15 companies. Teams have ranged in size from as little as 10 to teams of over 120 people. This initial round of assessments is already producing some interesting insights.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing insights for each of our industry capabilities, starting with data-driven marketing, then digital marketing, content marketing, creative and analytics.

Data-Driven Marketing

Using the aggregated results of the assessments carried out so far, we observe the following;

  1. Overall the skills mix is behind industry requirements. This is expected given the focus on digital marketing over recent years.
  2. However understanding data-driven strategies remains important and is an area we should be focused on as data continues to be vital to managing an effective business.
  3. The gaps become wider the more senior the role. Again, this would seem to indicate that we are seeing people attain higher roles from digital backgrounds but lacking a foundational knowledge of how to use data insights.
  4. Key capabilities such as the ability to develop data models, data strategies, or enterprise wide planning show the most significant gaps.
  5. These skills are important for several key roles including Digital Managers, Marketing Managers, and Group Account Directors.

Market insights Data Driven marketing 1
Figure 1 Top 5 Industry Skills Gaps in Data-Driven Marketing

Explanatory Note: The above chart shows the top 5 skills gaps for data-driven marketing in our industry. The gap is calculated as being the difference between the Industry Target Proficiency (TP) for the capability, and the average rating employees received for the capability.
For example, Data Model Development – “Develops, tests, and reviews data models and solutions.” – the industry TP is 3.48 whereas the average employee rating was 1.97, resulting in a gap if 1.51.

It is important to note that the gaps represent differences in behaviours, rather than a subjective scale of how well someone rates their skill level. Assessees are required to select a behaviour that best describes what they do today. The Target Proficiency is what the industry feels is the ideal behaviour for an individual for that job role.

Market Insights: Data driven marketing 2
Figure 2 Industry gaps by level for data-driven marketing

When we look at Data-driven capability by level (1 being Entry level skills through to 5 for senior roles) we can see that the average for Entry Level skills is slightly higher than industry requirements. However, we need to keep in mind that this is an average across the industry so while we have many skilled people at this level, there is a large percentage who are till behind industry requirements.

Of interest is that the gaps become higher for skills at level 3 and 4. These align with roles for people who are leading teams and who manage the execution of campaigns and provide strategic thinking. While it is difficult to speculate, we can assume that these managers;

  1. Rely on people within their team to possess the required skills and knowledge;
  2. Do not invest enough time in developing skills in the data-driven space.

This may be due to people assuming management roles from digital backgrounds where we know there has been less focus on data-driven marketing.

Market insights: Data driven marketing 3
Figure 3 Gaps for data insight roles


When we look at gaps for role titles that include data insights (i.e. data analyst) we see that the skills set are close to market requirements. Even where we see areas behind industry requirements, the gaps are small – interestingly they highlight areas that are considered “softer” skills. This points to a need to help those who have strong technical skills develop in the areas that allow them to better engage with the other stakeholders and contribute to strategic planning.

Market insights; data driven marketing 4
Figure 4 Top 5 roles with industry gaps

When we rank the industry roles that have been assessed, we see the roles with the largest average gap are relatively senior roles. While some are understandable (i.e. Group Account Director and Creative Services Manager), roles such as digital manager and CMO are more concerning given the prevalence of data use for these roles. 

Market insights: data driven marketing 5
Figure 5 Top 5 roles that exceed industry requirements

Conversely, the data shows that on average we have some roles where the average skills gap exceed current industry requirements, although the gaps are not high.

We see many examples in our work where there are opportunities for peer-to-peer coaching but few companies so far have pursued this opportunity, preferring to pursue training through our IQ range of courses.

Market Insights: Data driven marketing 6
Figure 6 Opportunities for peer to peer coaching

In the example above, taken from a large service provider, we can see that where we have people with negative gaps for Entry Level capabilities, there are people whose capabilities exceed industry requirements. The chart shows for example that for those working with Data in Marketing, there are 20 people with capabilities below industry requirements and 17 with positive capabilities. These individuals could provide coaching in skills to their peers.

Here is an overview of the skills that the industry has defined as important for the role Marketing Manager. The level of capability sought varies but the capabilities that are defined as critical for this role in our framework are:

  • Business case development - Builds a commercially compelling business case for marketing campaigns.
  • Campaign development - Builds campaigns to support the planned marketing strategy.
  • Commercial Management - Reviews campaign performance and commercial success to develop insights that advance improvement.
  • Data Model Development - Develops, tests, and reviews data models and solutions.
  • Data Models - Analyses and synthesises data using analytical models to inform the choice of channels and the design of a marketing activity.
  • Market Research - Uses platforms and systems to gather relevant data on current and anticipated trends.
  • Market Review - Monitors market trends and digital disruption to anticipate product, solution, and partnership opportunities.
  • New solutions - Drives the development of new solutions and models based on data measurement and business performance.
  • Solution development - Identifies data solutions and models to measure campaign success, end-to-end customer experience, and business performance.
  • Strategic level measurement - Leads the development of data collection and metrics by which marketing strategies are measured.

As you can see, the data-driven skills required range from tactical (building campaigns) and strategic (strategic measurement) and include both broad industry knowledge and specific abilities. The fact that we are seeing gaps in this area, albeit relatively small, is still something we as an industry should be concerned about.

If skills management is an area of focus for your business or if you are worried there's a risk to your business plan due to lack of skills, then our assessment process provides a fast, easy and low-impact way of determining where those risks are and what training will yield the greatest benefit.


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