Over the last 15 years working inside a large corporation, with a number of clients and conducting a significant amount of research in support of two books, I have seen research and analytics go from the first thing cut from a budget to significant investment being made in these capabilities. As an example, in Nielsen’s recently released CMO report, 79% of the senior marketers surveyed indicated that they plan to spend more on analytics in the coming 12 months. Nielsen’s study isn’t an isolated case. The annual CMO survey from the American Marketing Association, Deloitte and Duke University found that brands are expected to increase their spend on analytics by a factor of five. I don’t suspect this trend is going to stop any time soon, especially as the desire to determine return on investment (ROI) continues to grow.

What caused this explosion in research and analytics during this timeframe? I think there are at least three things at work. First, and likely the most obvious, digital media exploded. Everything from social media, to new forms of paid media, to the extremely rapid adoption of mobile devices contributed to the growth in research and analytics. Second, and related to the first, we’ve seen a growing number of available data sets to tap into that allow us to not only evaluate marketing success but understand who our audiences are at a much deeper level. Third, and I think an underrated part of the equation, is we’ve seen the research and analytics talent grow in both number and skills during that timeframe. Despite advances in machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence, humans are still what makes the insights engine go around and around.

With the growth in talent, data and desire to understand return on investment, has come a flood of questions from marketing and communications executives about how they staff and structure their research and analytics function. The answer, as you might have suspected, is more complex than hiring a bunch of data scientists and calling it a day (with all due respect to my friends who are data scientists). The real answer is it requires a diverse set of skills because of the growth in channels and data sources, but more importantly marketing has become the center of customer insights within large organizations. So how should you be thinking about structuring your research and analytics team to support your organization? What sorts of questions should you be prepared to answer?

  1. PESO Analysts. By now you likely know what PESO stands for, but for those of you who do not it stands for paid, earned, shared and owned. The analysts who inhabit these disciplines do everything from evaluating channel effectiveness, to helping with ongoing optimization, to informing marketing planning. There is a growing number of professionals who can play multiple roles within the PESO mix, but you should be identifying people who understand these channels at a very deep level.
  2. Market Researchers. As the growth of digital media and things like social listening really took off, so too did the dialogue of the death of market research. There were a number of brands who claimed to be reducing their investment in market research in favor of digital analytics. Fast forward about 10 years and we’re seeing a surge in the need to have strong market researchers on staff. Why? The reality is that as good as digital media is at understanding behaviors, there will always be an audience that we can’t understand fully through those channels. Similarly, there will always be value in validating the behaviors we see playing out online. At W2O, this is an increasingly important function, and one we’re integrating with our digital analytics capability to solve client questions.
  3. Marketing Technologists. What does it take to deliver great insights? People are one, but platforms are another. When Scott Brinker released his 2018 marketing technology landscape earlier this year there was a collective gasp at the growth in the number of tools, which now totals almost 7,000. That is an overwhelming number, and one of the reasons we’ve been investing in this critical skill set. The other reason, and significantly more important to developing insights, is that marketing technologists are essential in connecting the “data pipes” needed to understand the complete customer journey and fuel activation. Without them, we’re analyzing data in a silo.
  4. Data Scientists. You didn’t think I forgot about them, did you? Well, contrary to my comments above I do think data science is an essential function to support not only large marketing programs but also the business at-large. These individuals, among other things, are critical to developing the right data models to take wildly different data sets and turn them into something meaningful.
  5. Analytics Strategists. Before my strategy friends chase after me with pitchforks, let me explain what I mean by analytics strategists. Increasingly, we are seeing the need to identify a senior analytics professional who knows the various disciplines enough to guide them but then also deliver insights back to the business. At first glance this might feel a bit redundant, and it could be for your research and analytics use case. However, if the intention is to service the entire business and not just an individual channel, we think it’s essential. There needs to be an individual who can see what we’re learning about the audience and how it could apply to a number of use cases, not just media targeting. There needs to be someone who understands how messages are being received so that there can be a continual loop to the team developing content. There needs to be someone who understands the interplay between channels to drive more customers into and down the funnel, and who can speak the sales speak. You get the idea, I think.

How many of these individuals you have on your team is entirely dependent on your organization, but these skill sets should all be represented under one umbrella. Over the last several years we’ve invested in each of these skill sets, and because of that our clients are paying dividends. We think you will also if you follow this roadmap.