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Digital Marketing

6 Must-Have Skills for Marketing Analysts

September 6, 2022
December 14, 2021
Kelsey Donk

Marketing analysts know numbers, but they don’t do the same work as a statistician or a growth marketer. We asked the experts what skills set marketing analyst pros apart from the pack.

Table of Contents

Who among us hasn’t done a “quick search” for internal data, only to find that it’s less clean and far less clear than we hoped?

It’s a common problem. One cause: the privacy-first web. 

It’s dragging marketing teams back to the 19th century, when retail mogul John Wanamaker supposedly said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” 

Today, it’s hard to distinguish waste from impactful spending, too, despite the rise of digital advertising and its various dashboards. 

As privacy-focused iOS updates reach more customers’ phones and the sun finally sets on third-party cookies, monitoring your Google Analytics and Facebook Ads accounts is no longer enough. 

You likely need custom dashboards to track your marketing efforts across channels, spot correlations between spend and sales, and decide what’s worth ramping up. 

Not every marketer is ready to build out dashboards to outsmart 2021’s iOS updates. To do that, marketers need skills in “data analysis that [are] a bit more sophisticated than a marketing manager might be trained to do,” according to MarketerHire’s VP of growth, Aaron Christensen.

In other words, it takes a specific type of professional: a marketing analyst.

It’s a new role some companies aren’t aware they should fill, Christensen said. The closest role the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks is that of “market research analysts,” and they track market conditions, not marketing channel performance. 

But marketing analysts are becoming more and more popular. In November 2021, there were 75,000+ marketing analyst jobs advertised on LinkedIn.

So… what is this role, exactly? Here’s how we think of marketing analysts at MarketerHire: 

A marketing analyst collects and studies marketing performance data, translating it into actionable reports and dashboards that can be understood at a glance.

This is a data- and reporting-heavy role, and it takes a specific skill set to do it right. We asked Christensen and two other experts in the field about the role’s core competencies.

Meet the experts:

What do marketing analysts actually do

Let’s start with what marketing analysts don’t do: marketing execution. 

While they know the ins and outs of marketing and the important KPIs to measure for each tactic, marketing analysts behave more like data scientists. 

Generally speaking, “the marketing analyst’s responsibility is to find opportunities to increase the scale of the marketing program, or increase the efficiency of the marketing program,” Christensen said.

“The marketing analyst’s responsibility is to find opportunities to increase the scale... [or] the efficiency of the marketing program.”

In day-to-day life, that often looks like:

  • Building out custom measurement strategies for performance marketing
  • Managing reporting across multiple channels
  • Designing A/B tests that go beyond martech’s built-in capabilities
  • Analyzing test results
  • Measuring customer acquisition cost (CAC) and tracking how it fluctuates with time of day, channel and type of creative

Marketing organizations tend to hire marketing analysts when they realize their marketing managers don’t have the bandwidth or statistical know-how to tackle the analytics problems they’re facing — or, lately, if they spend anything at all on performance marketing. 

Marketing analysts vs. growth marketers

If you’ve worked with growth marketers before, the responsibilities of a marketing analyst might sound familiar. Growth marketing managers are responsible for running tests, building data-driven full-funnel strategies, and increasing revenue. In fact, some marketing analysts start out as growth marketers. 

The responsibilities of growth marketers and marketing analysts are pretty distinct, though. 

Here’s how their responsibilities break down when it comes to their most collaborative responsibility, testing, when they first start working together:

  1. Growth marketers develop a hypothesis to test. They might have a theory that lifestyle photography is outperforming product photography in paid ads, and propose an A/B test to evaluate. 
  2. Marketing analysts design the test. They’re experts in crafting custom tests with appropriate controls. They also make recommendations about how long a test should run, what metrics to track and what p-values to target.
  3. Growth marketers run the test. Growth marketers — alongside content marketers, designers, social media marketers, and media buyers — execute complex tests using the processes and dashboards marketing analysts design. 
  4. Marketing analysts evaluate the test results and suggest changes. Marketing analysts tend to have more statistical know-how than growth marketers. They can do more complex modeling and translate key findings for stakeholders. 

Eventually, the responsibility for developing hypotheses (step one) won’t just fall to growth marketers. If a marketing organization is mature and working well, marketing analysts also suggest new tests based on what they see in regular data analysis and reporting, Christensen said. 

The types of tests marketing analysts design depend a bit on how your company operates. But because marketing analysts are data experts, not marketers, they can go most anywhere the numbers take them. 

Whether you want to test what type of attribution model works best for Facebook Ads or find out if content is actually sending customers through the funnel, marketing analysts can design the test and run the numbers. 

6 must-have marketing analyst skills

The best marketing analyst is a hybrid: part marketing manager, part data scientist, part programmer. So what skills does that take? We asked our panel of experts what sets the best marketing analysts apart from the amateurs. 

1. Advanced data analytics and statistics. 

“Analyst” is in this role’s name for a reason. An understanding of statistics — and an ability to use data for modeling, forecasting, predictive analytics and significance calculations — is central to this job, Christensen said.

Marketing analysts work with data from a variety of channels, and should know which metrics are most important to each one.

They often have a specialty, like:

  • Paid media analytics: This involves building proprietary in-house dashboards to get more accurate metrics than you can from Facebook Ads. 
  • Earned media analytics: This involves measuring how well your company’s PR efforts pay off. 
  • Owned media analytics: This is about measuring engagement with email campaigns, Christensen said, and how well your content serves your larger funnel. 

To measure the impact of most of these channels, marketing analysts design and assess experiments that explore the difference (or lack thereof) between the control and experimental groups. 

True experts move beyond the plug-and-play statistical significance calculators on Google to build formulas on their own that can account for multiple variables and guide decision-makers, Christensen said. 

“A good marketing analyst should be able to look at data sets and be like, ‘This fits the linear regression, this fits an exponential regression,’” Chen said.  

Marketing analysts’ work also involves evaluating test results. While your existing team might be able to design and run A/B tests and other marketing experiments in a pinch, they may not interpret the results the way a marketing analyst would. 

Inexperienced analysts tend to take results at face value, and assume bigger numbers are best — when really, it’s not that simple. 

 The value marketing analysts bring is their ability to ask (and answer) questions like:

  • Are we really measuring the variable we think we are? 
  • Did we collect enough data? 
  • Does this result justify making a change? 
  • Should we test something else for additional context? 

2. Attribution modeling.

Was that purchase spurred by a Facebook retargeting campaign? Or was it your automated abandoned cart email that got them to click “Buy”? 

Marketing analysts use attribution modeling to answer questions like this, and decide which marketing touchpoints should get credit for each purchase decision. 

There are various ways to calculate the value of a conversion and assign that value across different touch points to calculate ROI, Christensen said. Those include: 

  • Last-touch attribution: Used by Google Analytics, this model gives the last interaction between a customer and a brand credit for a conversion. This works particularly well for businesses with short consideration cycles.
  • First-touch attribution: The other side of last-touch attribution, this model counts the first interaction between a customer and a brand as the most important. 
  • Multi-touch attribution: This type of model counts every touchpoint between a brand and a customer and assigns fractional credit to for a conversion to at least two — if not all of them. 

A marketing analyst can help you find the model that best suits your business, and understand its limitations. 

“An attribution model inherently is establishing the correlation between your marketing activities, and finding value,” Christensen said. “It is not necessarily showing you what is causing the value, what is causing growth.” 

That’s especially true right now, because the data these models rely on is murkier than ever. 

“Advertisers have less access to user-level interactions with ads” today than they did five years ago, he explained, due to iOS privacy updates and social platform policy updates. Facebook, for example, stopped telling advertisers which ads users viewed a few years ago.

Still, the right attribution model for your business can help you estimate big-picture ROI on marketing efforts.

3. Experiment design.

Designing tests is key in the marketing analyst role. At minimum, marketing analysts should have experience setting up a test group and a control group, running an experiment and comparing the results, Christensen said.

This can help them level up the simple A/B tests — like email subject line tests — that other marketing specialists run.

As Oracle Marketing Research’s Chad White told MarketerHire, automatic A/B tests based on open rates may become less useful as iOS 15’s impact spreads — and if Apple starts obfuscating clicks, running an accurate A/B test through an email service provider could grow even more complex. 

A marketing analyst may be able to help you identify new metrics to A/B test for within your ESP. They may even be able to code a custom A/B test for you. 

This is a common activity for a marketing analyst (and their coding experience makes it easier), but the experiments they design “can get infinitely complex,” Christensen said. 

If a client wants to know if they should start marketing through a new channel, it’s the analyst’s job to source and present the data they’ll need to make a decision. Marketing analysts should also be able to design tests — including multivariate ones — to evaluate spend on various channels and recommend reallocation of budget, 

Marketing analysts don’t execute on the tests, but they can help your teams design better tests, code custom ones and accurately measure results. 

That said: Don’t be too starstruck by a marketing analyst who played a small part in designing a complex test with multiple data scientists over a long period of time. 

“That’s not necessary for 80-90% of the problems that a general marketer would face,” Christensen said. 

4. Dashboard-building and reporting. 

Marketing analysts need to turn terabytes — even petabytes! — of data into actionable information. 

Even when data isn’t perfect, the ultimate goal is to “turn those [data] into charts that you can extract insights out of,” Christensen said. So how do they get there? By creating custom dashboards and reports for key stakeholders. 

Marketing analysts are typically responsible for…

  • Building dashboards for higher-ups to track marketing activities in real time
  • Reporting on key metrics to marketing managers
  • Picking out big-picture trends to present to executives 

To do all that, a marketing analyst will need to design dashboards using tools like Looker or Tableau, Christensen said. 

5. Forecasting and predictive modeling.

Marketing analysts don’t have crystal balls, but they can use predictive analytics and statistics skills to give marketing orgs some visibility into the future.

“The ability to forecast growth from marketing is incredibly important to setting … expectations,” Christensen said. 

“The ability to forecast growth from marketing is incredibly important to setting … expectations." 

With access to a business’ financial data, past performance, and current performance, marketing analysts can set expectations in two main ways: 

  • Forecasting, or anticipating large-scale trends over time — useful for estimating future revenue, for example, or how many leads marketing will generate in a given timeframe. 
  • Predictive modeling, or anticipating what one individual will do — useful for estimating a customer’s lifetime value (LTV), for example. 

While marketing analysts can help marketers adjust the levers on predictive models to make them more accurate, they really shine when it comes to forecasting larger trends for an organization. 

Forecasted marketing growth and expenses can help set expectations with:

  • Management: Leaders use growth projections to set budgets for different marketing channels.
  • Sales teams: Sales leads base hiring decisions and capacity planning on forecasts from marketing about the number of leads they expect to generate. 
  • Lenders: Banks typically require earnings and expense forecasts before granting a business loan — and marketing is included in those projections. 
  • Wall Street: Public companies are required to forecast quarterly earnings and expenses, and those forecasts can have a big impact on shareholders’ perceptions of a company. 

At a large company, Christensen would expect forecasting to be within the top 25% of a marketing analytics team’s priorities. At a smaller or less-mature company, forecasting is a slightly lower priority, as forecasts tend to be used for purely internal purposes.

But even internally, an inaccurate marketing forecast can have big implications for a company. If the person responsible for forecasting predicts marketing will bring in tons more leads than the team actually does, other departments could exceed their budgets or over-hire. 

6. SQL coding.

“Most organizations are going to have an expectation that a marketing analyst can extract the data they need from their data warehouse directly,” Christensen said. 

To do that, a marketing analyst should know some SQL, Jay said. 

In rare cases, at larger organizations, you might have a team that will pull data for a marketing analyst to analyze. But a good understanding of SQL coding means a marketing analyst can pull data on their own — and move faster. 

If there are some thin spots in a marketing analyst’s SQL knowledge, “Excel can be useful because it sort of fills gaps,” Jay said. 

3 sample engagements for a marketing analyst 

The marketing analyst’s varied skill set means they can take on engagements across an organization’s marketing and advertising programs. To help clarify the role’s capabilities, our experts shared three example projects marketing analysts can do.

1. Take on all of the marketing team’s existing reporting. 

This is the number one thing Chen gets hired to do. Clients are overwhelmed by the number of different data inputs they have, and they’re looking for someone to help them “find [their] source of truth,” he said. They have questions like:

  • Which database should we be looking at?
  • How can we find relevant data within that database? 
  • How do we set up useful reporting dashboards?
  • Which metrics are the most important to our team? 
  • How should we interpret the data we have? 

In many cases, the marketing director leads on data analytics and reporting until a marketing analyst comes along — and it can be a huge time suck.

“The first thing I would ask [a marketing analyst] to do is take on all of the reporting that the existing marketing team is doing — which inevitably is some, and probably too much,” Christensen said. 

“The first thing I would ask [a marketing analyst] to do is take on all of the reporting that the existing marketing team is doing — which inevitably is some, and probably too much."

Your data will probably become more relevant, and you’ll also save your marketing team a lot more time to focus on what they do best.

The goal of this engagement: to do the initial setup of marketing analysis and build out “the skeleton of all the reportings,” as Christensen put it. 

2. Figure out what your true KPIs should be. 

Chen said that this type of engagement often starts as something else: building a reporting dashboard. 

As they work, marketing analysts sometimes figure out that the KPIs an organization uses to assess performance aren’t the ones they should be using. 

For instance, when Chen faced when he first started working with a recent client, he realized that they were focusing more on traffic than they needed to. They were getting lots of traffic to their website, and it wasn’t delivering much value. 

“A really important skill [for] an analyst is that you need to tell [clients], ‘This is not the metric you’re looking for,’” he said. 

3. Analyze spending and recommend adjustments. 

This type of engagement might come after a marketing analyst has worked on the first two. They’re probably pretty up to speed on how your team is collecting data and the KPIs you’re using to track success. 

Now it’s time to run some tests and see if you should reallocate spend. 

To facilitate that, marketing analysts can:

  1. Stress-test existing attribution models. Is the last interaction really the touchpoint that drives conversions? What happens if you alter spend based on different attribution models? Marketing analysts can design tests that answer these questions. 
  2. Design experiments recommended by growth marketers. When you ramp up spend on a pillar channel, does the performance scale? Are marketers right that Twitter ads perform best overnight? Marketing analysts can figure out how to assess this. 
  3. Start a media mix modeling (MMM) program. If paid social or search advertisements make up a big part of your marketing budget, even Facebook recommends using MMM to measure ad performance and assess spend. 

Marketing analysts make data more accurate and actionable

The internet changed marketing. Radically. The privacy first web is changing it again. 

When the digital age started, marketers had access to a deluge of new information about their customers and the choices they made. Now, the privacy-first web means all that data marketers got used to is less and less dependable.

Email open rates are harder to trust; ROI calculations for paid social are more complicated.

 “The whole marketing world has flipped on its head,” Chen said. 

 “The whole marketing world has flipped on its head."

Marketing teams need marketing analysts to help them cut through — and quantify — the uncertainty around key marketing metrics, and figure out strategic next steps. This role is already gaining popularity. Find out why, and hire a marketing analyst with MarketerHire today. 

Kelsey Donk
about the author

Kelsey Donk is a writer at MarketerHire. Before joining MarketerHire full-time, Kelsey was a freelance writer and loved working with small businesses to level up their content. When she isn't writing, Kelsey can be found gardening or walking her dogs all around Minneapolis.

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