The field of marketing and advertising has historically attracted a wide range of people with a wide range of skill sets and interests. Communication, psychology, art, writing, and business are all part of the marketing stew — and increasingly, so is data science. While the Mad Men days of collaborative brainstorming and flashes of inspiration are not completely gone, data has transformed the profession into one that requires both creativity and science.
However, the talent pool has struggled to keep up with the evolving demands of marketing and advertising, with only 1.9 percent of marketing leads reporting they have the right talent to leverage marketing analytics.
Today, getting maximum ROI from marketing and advertising campaigns requires teams that have both marketing knowledge and data science skills, yet many companies are feeling the pressure of the talent gap. To close that gap, here are five things hiring managers and recruiters can start doing today:
1. Think Beyond Marketing Majors
Marketers and advertisers should no longer focus solely (or even mostly) on pure marketing majors during recruitment. The key is to gear your recruitment efforts toward data-savvy talent. You should be looking for students who have taken classes or minored in statistics, math, computer science, data science, and programming. Consider participating in a job fair at an engineering school or posting job ads on websites that target programmers to tap into these talent pools.
Similarly, psychology and sociology are also valuable majors, as the skills learned in these programs can be useful in customer research and related efforts.
2. Establish an Internship Program
Internship programs are an effective way to give data-savvy students who may not have considered marketing a chance to dip their toe into the industry. Conversely, an internship is an opportunity to emphasize to students with marketing backgrounds the importance of data science. A program that includes hands-on projects will give students real experience and drive home the importance of data science skills. When they go back to school, they may be inspired to round out their studies with other disciplines and classes, perhaps pivoting their elective curriculum to include SQL and statistics.
3. Work Alongside Local Universities
Academia tends to be a few years behind the market, and the lack of communication between the schools and the market is part of why the skills gap exists. However, schools want their graduates to find jobs, and they are usually appreciative of feedback about what employers are looking for.
Agencies and companies should invest in building relationships with collegiate marketing departments to develop well-rounded curricula that include technical data science skills. If a direct collaboration with a university isn’t feasible, getting involved with alumni networks is a great way to build relationships and open lines of communication. Take advantage of opportunities to speak on alumni panels and emphasize the importance of data-science skills. Don’t be shy about reaching out to math or engineering departments to let them know you’re interested in their students, too.
4. Seek Community Partnerships
Look for ways to get involved with nonprofits that teach young people in-demand skills. For example, Marketing EDGE helps students who want to break into marketing and advertising learn what they need to be competitive in the market. By getting involved with these types of organizations, you can help ensure the next generation has the skills you are looking for.
5. Search Outside the Box
When looking for the next generation of data-savvy talent, post job listings that cater to candidates of multiple backgrounds. An engineer, a mathematician, and a marketing person may all be interested in the same job, so employ language that attracts them all, and be sure emphasize that you are looking for a multitude of skills.
When it comes to advertising required skills, remember that soft skills are just as important as hard skills when filling data-savvy roles and bridging talent gaps. At Hawthorne, for example, we look for drive, self-sufficiency, and street smarts. We want people who are self-starters and willing to go above and beyond. We look for a “Swiss Army knife” quality, meaning people who are eager to step outside their comfort zones and experiment.
The marketing industry moves fast, and candidates have to be adaptable and eager to keep up. Marketing teams can avoid looming skills gaps by hiring people who are hungry and giving them plenty of opportunities for skill development, like mentorship programs or advanced courses.
It’s one thing to recognize the importance of data-savvy talent and another to have access to it. Marketing teams that want to stay ahead of the curve have to invest in the next generation of talent, both internally and externally. Marketers can’t only think about their current needs in the short term. They have to start preparing for the future.
Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is CEO of Hawthorne.