One sign it’s time to hire a marketing analyst: you aren’t sure if you’re sending the right offers to the right customers.
That’s the situation Guitar Center found itself in early in the 2010s, analytics specialist Mike Jay told MarketerHire.
Amazon was starting to undercut their instrument and musical electronics business, and their old playbook — sending out the same thick, all-purpose store catalog to all their customers — wasn’t performing like it once did.
Through a direct mail test, they discovered that smaller, targeted mailers — focused on the recipient's instrument of choice — hiked sales 29%, and reduced mail by 23%.
Jay's marketing analyst skill set played a key role in their success. Marketing analysts design experiments like this, define test and control groups, establish metrics to evaluate, and assess statistical significance once the test is complete.
When marketers develop a hypothesis about something that could be impacting channel performance, marketing analysts can step in to design an experiment, They can then make recommendations to the larger marketing organization — all while other team members keep working on what they got hired to do.
But how do you know when a marketing analyst can work across your teams and make a substantial, Guitar-Center-level impact? It’s hard, actually.
“A lot of marketing orgs don’t know they need it,” said Aaron Christensen, MarketerHire’s VP of growth.
“A lot of marketing orgs don’t know they need [a marketing analyst]."
We spoke to three marketing analytics experts about how to know it’s time to get a marketing analyst on the team. Let’s dive in.
Meet the experts:
- Peter Chen, a growth marketer and marketing analyst
- Aaron Christensen, MarketerHire’s VP of growth
- Mike Jay, an insights and analytics specialist
Why (and when) it’s worth investing in a marketing analyst
A marketing analyst shouldn’t be your startup’s first hire, Christensen said.
Marketing analysts don’t actually do any marketing. They aren’t involved in campaign ideation or creative, so you’ll need someone else to do those things before bringing in an analyst. They need something to analyze, after all.
Once your marketing team is running email campaigns, producing blog posts, and buying ads, though, you’ll start asking yourself how to get more “juice” out of their work, Christensen said.
The marketing analyst can help you figure out how to better align and optimize their efforts by asking:
- How much incremental value do marketing efforts on pillar channels actually drive?
- How many of the customers our ads convert would have converted anyway?
- Could our KPIs be better aligned with our goals?
Marketing analysts answer those questions by designing experiments for other teams to execute, and analyzing the results. For instance, if growth marketers and the advertising team notice that a video is performing particularly well on paid social, a marketing analyst could design an experiment to assess which video elements correlate most with strong ad performance.
The team can then include those elements in every ad moving forward, and increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of each ad as a result.
How to know you need a marketing analyst — ASAP
“For many companies, the leadership that is building out a marketing function probably isn’t aware that they need a marketing analyst,” Christensen said.
But the experts we spoke to said there are at least six red flags that your team needs a marketing analyst, pronto. Here they are.
You don’t know how customers interact with your ads.
When Chen is onboarding with a new client, he asks about what’s happened with their customers in the last week. Did they interact with more ads than usual? Did they convert at higher or lower rates?
“Basically, the question I’m asking them is, ‘Do you have clarity?’” he said.
“Basically, the question I’m asking them is, ‘Do you have clarity?’”
If the client doesn’t have a sense of week-over-week performance, that’s often a sign of a bandwidth problem that a marketing analyst can solve. They can take over and centralize everyone’s reporting across the marketing org, and provide more timely, actionable data.
You can’t understand your data.
Even after brands have reporting dashboards set up, Chen said that key stakeholders typically don’t have time to monitor the dashboards, or parse the implications of trends.
Ultimately, the job of a marketing analyst is to create a communication channel between the data and the people who use it to make marketing decisions.
“It’s their job to communicate numbers into pictures so that the C-Suite or the executive team that’s looking at them is like, ‘Oh, the pictures say things,’” Chen said. In other words, they help marketing executives present findings and trends to stakeholders.
You lean heavily on performance marketing.
In light of recent iOS updates, Facebook Ad Manager tracking is no longer sufficient on its own — according to Facebook itself. Facebook now recommends measuring Facebook Ad performance with additional in-house efforts, like marketing mix modeling (MMM) and brand lift tests, both of which marketing analysts help architect.
“If you heavily rely on performance marketing for growth, you should have a … marketing analyst regardless of the size of budget,” Christensen said. And the more you spend on it “the more opportunity you’re leaving on the table if you don’t have those quantitative insights.”
You don’t know why campaign performance changed.
Brands sometimes come to Chen to understand the root causes of traffic or ad performance changes.
Say the bounce rate on one of your landing pages doubled in the past month. Your advertising and growth teams probably noticed the change, and they might even have an idea why it happened — but you don’t want them to change the ad copy, alter the landing page, and adjust spend all at once, Chen said, or you could end up burning money to get murky results.
Marketing analysts can help your development team tackle problems like this methodically, using the scientific method to design precise tests.
Keep in mind, marketing analysts don't do any marketing work. If you are on the fence between a growth marketer and a marketing analyst, ask yourself, "Do I need someone to get marketing work over the line, or do I need someone who can set up attribution models, analyze data, and hand off ideas to a team to execute?"
You want to run new tests, but don’t have the skillset in-house.
Even marketing teams without dedicated marketing analysts tend to run experiments and do regular reporting on channel performance. But those tasks can take up a lot of time — especially if existing teams don’t have analytics or testing experience.
When managers own reporting, they can spend around 30% of their time on it, Christensen said. That time can typically be better spent on actual management.
Marketing analysts help free up that time by owning:
- Experimental design: When you want to run complex tests that aren’t baked into your tech stack, a marketing analyst can design an experiment, tell you how long you need to run it, and decide how to measure results, Christensen said.
- Reporting: Marketing analysts can build custom dashboards for your marketing org with their serious reporting chops, and give your team back any bandwidth they spent on manual performance tracking, Christensen said.
You worry you’re over- (or under-) spending on a channel.
When you’re in the weeds, it’s hard to make time to evaluate how you’ve allocated your budget across channels — or within channels.
They might notice that your Facebook CAC is lowest from 5-7pm on weeknights, and recommend reallocating a certain percentage of daytime and overnight budget to this prime time as a test.
Or they could recommend raising a budget cap if a specific audience is converting incredibly well across campaigns. Who knows — maybe hockey fans really love your SaaS product!
If you aren’t regularly evaluating spend and performance, “you’re leaving [an] opportunity on the table to acquire more customers,” Christensen said, “or you’re overspending.”
4 expert tips on hiring a marketing analyst
Once you decide you need a marketing analyst, it’s time to get hiring. Our panel of experts gave us four tips on evaluating candidates for the role.
Define what you need help with.
If you're hiring a marketing analyst to solve a problem, define that problem as clearly as you can before you write the job description.
Some companies still expect marketing analysts to execute, while their job is really to strategize and analyze. Setting clear expectations will help you attract qualified candidates.
So, what do you need them to do? To figure it out, you’ll need to answer questions like:
- When did you first notice the problem you hope they’ll solve? Do you have data on the same period last month or last year, or will you need an analyst’s help sourcing and cleaning that data?
- Do you need to refine your reporting process to get to the root of the problem?
- Do you expect the analyst to design experiments to help you solve the problem? Does your existing team have bandwidth to run those experiments?
You should be ready to share information about these needs with referrals, or post them online in the job description, Christensen said.
If you go through a platform like MarketerHire to find a marketing analyst, the consultative sales team can help you define your needs and select the best marketing expert to meet them.
Screen potential candidates.
Marketing analysts should have specialized skills — from performance measurement to experimental design and interpretation.
But some expert marketing analysts come from a data science background, and others begin as growth marketers and executors and transition into a more strategic, analytical role. How do you find the right fit for you?
Our experts recommend looking for confidence in designing experiments and building custom dashboards. Marketing analysts should also be familiar with the reporting dashboard tech you’re already using at your organization — like Google Analytics, Looker, or Tableau — to communicate across teams. They also suggested asking interview questions like:
- What are the main components of an A/B test? How do you know you’re measuring the right performance indicators?
- How do you approach designing experiments? Who tends to execute them?
- What kind of reporting dashboards have you built? For which marketing functions?
- How have you previously approached gathering and consolidating data collected by other teams?
Consider a take-home test.
The marketing analyst role is technical, and it’s not out of the question to ask a candidate to take a test.
When Chen has been asked to do tests for clients, they’ve involved evaluating giant sample datasets. Often, the data isn’t clean, or hasn’t been marked correctly — and it includes trendlines a rookie would miss.
The advantage of the take-home test is that “it really weeds people out,” Chen said.
The downside: It often takes a marketing analyst to know one. “You need a person in your organization that can already do analytics to design a case study,” Chen said.
At early-stage startups, that’s not a given — and that’s okay. Tests are optional, and in a competitive job market, they can drive qualified candidates away.
That’s why Christensen has been “cooling” on take-home tests lately. “It’s a big ask for people,” he said.
Christensen would definitely require a take-home test for a job that involves heavy coding, though. He’s found that you can teach simple SQL skills, but if you need complex data analysis and robust data engineering support, he might ask for a sample of SQL work or a Python walkthrough.
Or ask for a presentation on guiding insights.
Asking a candidate to do a presentation on an example dataset is another great way to get a sense of how they tell a story.
If you’re interviewing a candidate for a more senior marketing analytics role that involves presenting to executives, Christensen recommends giving candidates three years of scrubbed marketing performance data, and asking them to present on the top channels and the optimizations they’d recommend.
The goal is to check for analytics ability and see how well a candidate communicates.
“You really want to understand that they can take the data, break it down into the key components, [and] tell a story,” he said.
“You really want to understand that they can take the data, break it down into the key components, [and] tell a story."
Marketing analysts can uncover big, surprising wins
Without the help of seasoned analysts like Jay, Guitar Center may not have discovered that they could lift sales by cutting spend on direct mail — a rare double-win.
That’s just one of many ways marketing orgs can use marketing analysts to dig into performance-related hunches and separate fact from fiction.
MarketerHire has marketing analysts on hand who can help organizations free up bandwidth on their teams and uncover surprising wins. Hire a marketing analyst with MarketerHire.