Careers advice and planning

What graduates need to know about data-driven marketing

25 Jan 2023, 13:36

’Data-driven marketing is one of the fastest moving and most exciting areas of marketing,’ says Caroline Worboys, COO at Outra and deputy chair at DMA (Data & Marketing Association). Find out how you can be a part of this.

Close-up of hands using a tablet with overlay of data analytics and graphs indicating data-driven marketing concepts.

Data isn’t just about numbers; it’s about spotting patterns, trends; you can work with technology or on creative content.

Marketing is constantly evolving to adapt to the needs and behaviours of people. One of the ways in which the industry is changing is in how it uses data to tailor marketing to customers – called data-driven marketing or data marketing. Caroline Worboys has more than 30 years of experience in the data and marketing industry and has played an active part in DMA Talent’s Creative Data programme for 15 years, which makes her the ideal person to speak to about data-driven marketing.

What is data-driven marketing?

There is a huge variety in the types of data that can be collected about a person. Nearly everything that you do online, and even some of the things you do offline, creates data that can be used by marketers. In turn, there is a huge variety of ways that this data can be used to create marketing that is tailored to you. Caroline explains: ‘Data-driven marketing is when a business uses the data sources it has to create a personalised customer experience.’

For example, your browsing activity and preferences on certain websites are stored in the form of a small piece of data called a ‘cookie’. A simple example of data-driven marketing would be using these cookies to show you pages or adverts that are similar to what you have previously indicated an interest in. Caroline provides a more complex example: ‘A very clever use of data in marketing is that, if you’ve enabled Google to track your location, you may receive pop-ups with discounts for cafés, restaurants or shops somewhere close to your location.’

What are the benefits of data-driven marketing?

‘Data marketing is used because it means businesses can reduce the wastage and irritation factor of communicating with the wrong people at the wrong time,’ explains Caroline. ‘People are much more likely to invest in your products if they feel you’ve taken the time to get to know them and their needs.’

Most marketing focuses on selling the general benefits of a product or service, whereas data-driven marketing is able to focus on directly promoting the benefits of the product or service to a specific consumer – you.

Where can I find a graduate job in data marketing?

Data-driven marketing conceivably has applications in every industry and is not limited to business in certain industries. ‘Place yourself in the shoes of the consumer; no matter if they’re looking at tyres, shampoo or insurance, they’re much more likely invest in a brand if they feel the time has been taken to understand their needs,’ says Caroline.

You may be able to work in data-driven marketing in technology companies, digital and online businesses, app developers or data marketing organisations and marketing agencies.

‘There’s a real scope of entry-level roles available; you could enter into an account executive role at a data agency, become an in-house data-analyst at a larger organisation or work on the customer relationship management (CRM) side of things,’ advises Caroline. ‘There are roles for engineers , scientists , analysts and planners – people who create products and services using data and plan strategically based on the data.’

TOP TIP: search outside the box for opportunities

If you are interested in finding a graduate job or work experience opportunities in data-driven marketing, it may be possible to find opportunities by applying speculatively to employers. Caroline advises: ‘Research companies you’re interested in and either search online to see if they have any vacancies or give their HR department a call – people love initiative!’

What skills do graduate data marketers need?

If you want to work on finding ways to collect and implement consumer data, technical skills are crucial. ‘Data isn’t just about numbers; it’s about spotting patterns, trends; you can work with technology or on creative content,’ says Caroline.

Roles which are heavily focused on the data itself require an extremely high attention to detail . This is useful for when looking through and organising large amounts of data. For example, a responsibility for an entry-level data marketer may be sorting a selection of data into a number of groups based on different parameters.

Other roles are more creative and require commercial awareness and pattern recognition – an aspect of problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills . These roles will involve looking at the available data and coming up with creative solutions that best utilise this information.

Caroline stresses: ‘Above all, curiosity and an interest in the future helps a great deal. Marketing is not about just managing the status quo – data is changing how we live our lives.’

What qualifications do I need?

Beyond a business- or marketing-related degree, many different degree disciplines are relevant to data-driven marketing:

  • a technology degree will allow you to look at the technical side of collecting and finding uses for data
  • a mathematics background is useful for handling data and pattern recognition
  • a geography degree can work with location data and geo-demographic planning
  • a psychology degree may stand you in good stead for understanding how consumers are likely to behave

TOP TIP: attend training courses and events

Employers will not expect graduates to have any specific digital or data marketing qualifications. However, a training programme run by a professional body will give you a more in-depth introduction to marketing and show employers your commitment to this career path. You may be able to do a degree course accredited by a professional body, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) or the Institute of Data and Marketing (IDM), or attend a specialised training programme, such as the IDM and DMA Talent’s three-day creative data academy or one-day creative data laboratory. These courses can also provide you with a chance to network with marketing professionals.

What should students and graduates interested in data marketing be doing?

As with all disciplines and specialisms of marketing, staying up-to-date with the trends and news of the industry is crucial. However, this is especially true for the ever-changing world of data marketing. For instance, the law around data-driven marketing is still being decided. Caroline elaborates: ‘There are new laws (General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the Data Protection Bill (DPB) in the UK) coming into play in 2018 that will give consumers more rights over their data. This is really interesting as many marketers will have to rethink how they utilise the consumer’s data.’

Caroline highlights a number of developments that she is particularly interested in and that students and graduates may want to keep their eye on:

  • applications of AI and machine learning in marketing
  • the internet of things (internet-enabled and networked appliances and devices)
  • voice data (for example, using your voice to search the internet via Alexa or Siri)

Research is especially important to help you understand the many applications of data in marketing and the large variety of employers that you could work for. ‘The more knowledge that you can build, the better your chances of finding a role that suits your skills and, importantly, that you enjoy,’ says Caroline.

TOP TIP: go that extra step with your research

‘Attending industry talks and workshops is a great way to not only hear first-hand the developments in the industry, but also to network and make connections,’ advises Caroline. Develop your knowledge of the industry by learning from experts and gain examples that you can point to prove your interest in data-driven marketing. Through networking you may be able to gain advice for your job hunt and potentially even find employment and internship opportunities.

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