The deluge of data that marketers now gather on consumers is driving organizations to rethink how they hire, recruit, and grow talent going forward. It’s about reshaping the marketing discipline so that it’s not just the analytics people focusing on data.
Data assessment skills need to be present throughout the entire marketing team. Christopher Frank, VP in the Global Marketplace Insights team at American Express, told CMO.com editor in chief Tim Moran that the first step is to rewrite job descriptions to include three emerging skills: quantitative intuition, problem definition/problem framing, and precision questioning.
Multidisciplinary folks are the marketers of the future, as companies begin to hire for a different skill set, reward a different skill set, and then really help grow that skill set.
CMO.com: What is it that the CMOs and the marketing leaders of the world have to do to deal with data?
Frank: CMOs get it. I think we should talk around the marketing discipline in general. There are so many people in marketing with access to data and information. CMOs, they're just the top of the spear. The question is, how do we radically shape the marketing discipline so that it’s not just folks in measurement and analytics that are focusing on the information and data? How do we get the broad cross-section of people to focus on it? The answer is you need to think and look at all the data you have across the enterprise and how you spend your money.
Data bifurcates between two things: data that informs vs. measure. All data can be classified into that, and I think a lot of times marketers focus too much on the measurement aspect. They look at post-campaign measurement. How did that ad do? How did that campaign do? What was the impact of that? What was the awareness? Step one is looking at where a company is currently spending its time, energy, money, and resources. We have to rebalance that first, before even getting to the measurement part.
CMO.com: What changes have to happen internally to get everyone to embrace data?
Frank: Organizational changes are a science unto itself. I would actually start with the job description. Start small. And like any changed management effort, this is going to take time. If you start by trying to change the organization, you’re going to get frustrated, and it's going to be a much slower burn.
You want to start to incorporate the skills that people need. Those three skills that marketing leaders should start to incorporate into job descriptions are: one, quantitative intuition; two, problem definition or problem framing; and then the third skill is precision questioning. These competencies are a layer on top of what I call “the foundation.” So if you're hiring a great communications person in marketing, they need to have great communication skills without a doubt. Or an advertising person, they need to have the creative, media background, and the like. If you are looking to bridge the gap between data and decisions, then these three skills are where you need to start. You could move people all you want on an org chart. That is not going to fundamentally change how they really approach the data deluge.
CMO.com: Is there a cultural issue to this, as well? Does the culture of the company have to change in any way for this to be recognized as a reasonable path to take because it's not completely obvious?
Frank: It's a marketing discipline issue. This is not unique to large corporations such as American Express. Small, medium, and large organization sall have their own challenges. I've done startups. I've worked in other large iconic brands. They all had very different cultures. It's not a cultural issue. People have to make a conscious effort to say they need a different skill set because marketing has transformed. Companies need to hire for different skills, reward a different skill set, and then grow that skill set. That’s where marketing leaders have to focus. You truly need those multidisciplinary folks going forward if you want to make smarter decisions using data
CMO.com: So that puts the head of marketing in a very important place. If it's not cultural and it really comes out of the marketing discipline, the head of marketing has to understand this to be able to act on it.
Frank: Right, marketing leadership has to understand this. But my hypothesis is he or she already gets it. It is the individual folks leading the different marketing disciplines that need to recruit and build their teams in this new model. The person running advertising, media, or the analytics group has to change their mindset around talent acquisition and development. It is the CMO’s responsibility to initiate these conversations with their leadership regarding how they will hire, recruit, and grow talent going forward.
CMO.com: You’ve spoken before at events about the intersection of data acquisition analytics and decision making. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Frank: People who excel in their careers have the ability to pivot. These individuals are going to quickly be able to bring those different roads together around analytics, strategic planning, resources, and media investment. Right now, too much is done in a serial fashion. The marketing function is going to start to move in this direction, such as a rapid iteration model, where you get the data, analyze it, and make a decision. They need to get comfortable with a test-to-learn approach. Social, especially with digital media and measurement, really enables that today.
CMO.com: One of the other things that you talked about on stage is that every organization needs to go through a pivot. What does that mean?
Frank: To pivot means having the courage and conviction to say we’re going to completely scrap what we’ve done and make a left turn. Pivot means you have the ability to model and connect the dots several steps out and be the catalyst of change. This is different than being agile. Agility means you are comfortable reacting to a change in direction. The ability to pivot in the marketing function means having an inclusive learning environment where marketers have the freedom and are encouraged to think completely differently, whether it may be about the go-to market plan, product line strategy, messaging house, or how you will create demand with the customers.
CMO.com: How do CMOs begin this kind of change? As you said, it isn’t about data and analytics at all. It's about way of thinking.
Frank: They need to start with figuring out what is the essential question that needs to be answered? What is that indispensable piece of information that, if you had today, would enable you to move forward? The senior leaders in marketing are looking for a bridge between data, analytics, information, and strategy. And that bridge is the business question because it is the link to the strategy. You have folks on the other end of the camp that have the information, and they're talking around one another. It's not a Magic 8 ball. It is not looking at the 4Ps of marketing and saying, “start here.” A quick test a CMO can do to evaluate team alignment is to ask the project team to articulate in seven words or less the problem or business question they are going to solve.
CMO.com: What keeps you up at night?
Frank: For me, like for many businesses, this hypercompetitive industry and how things quickly are moving. How do you grow? How do you continue to take a great brand and continue to do the right thing for the customers with new products, with new innovations? All the information, if we’re saying it’s out there, how do I take that and use it and analyze it in a way deliver more value to customers? I think the biggest challenge we face is not turning off this fire hose of information, but how do you regulate it?