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It’s the question on every CMO’s mind these days: Where am I going to find the right people to carry out my data-driven marketing strategy?

According to the “Big Data Executive Survey,” conducted in the summer of 2012 by NewVantage Partners, 70 percent of C-level executives surveyed said they plan to hire data scientists, but find the task from “challenging” to “extremely difficult.” And, the preface to the report noted, “there is no reliable source of new talent in this category.”

The complexity of such a fundamental quest for the right talent demands to be unpacked. It’s not simply a matter of finding a good traditional marketer, because the media landscape today demands someone who can think far beyond today’s popular and emerging platforms.

And it’s not a matter of simply finding a great “quant” — an expert in quantitative analysis — who might be able to make sense of the cascade of data, but falter in translating it into actionable business intelligence and then communicating it to stakeholders.

So where do you find great data-driven marketers?

In an August 2012 interview with, McKinsey & Company partner Homayoun Hatami suggested CMOs start fishing for PhDs with advanced training in experimental design, statistics, and machine learning. Start your search at tech startups, government agencies, defense contractors, aerospace, oil exploration and universities. Tim Barker, CMO of DataSift, the social data platform told to look toward Wall Street.

“The banking industry was one of the first industries to realize the benefits of Big Data and data science, [and became] a breeding ground for the skill set required for both the technology skills and the quantitative analysis skills needed to analyze and understand both data trends and business impact,” Barker said.’s Joe Mullich recently interviewed Greta Roberts, CEO of Talent Analytics, who suggested that efforts are best spent on attracting the right people via intriguing job postings.

Roberts said the most effective job ads for analytics professionals “engage the brain,” such as by posing an intriguing question or problem to solve like when Google, in search of engineers, put up subway banners that challenged passersby to solve a complicated math problem. It’s all about attracting those interested in solving interesting problems.

She suggested companies place one-paragraph case studies on the careers section of their websites showing the intriguing analytics projects they have done or planned. “Interesting work equals solving interesting problems,” Roberts said. “Saying you can’t recruit people because you’re in a [non-glamorous area] is a copout.”


Ultimately, finding the right talent will be different for every CMO. Some will need to look to specialist partners, like Cardinal Path, who can provide technology, business and strategic expertise to organizations at any level of data maturity. Others will have the best luck in nurturing it within their teams.

A great marketer with the potential to be a great data analyst — or a skilled numbers person who can see the bigger picture and intuit what questions to ask — could already be somewhere in your organization.

Look for those who can:

– Balance lots of input simultaneously — react and adjust to some, while ignoring other inputs in the moment — without getting overwhelmed.

– Come at something new from a different angle and use their curiosity to tease understanding out of what’s in front of them.

– Laugh at failure. Those who are comfortable with walking into the unknown and learn through trial and error have the greatest potential for success through their own creativity.

– Roll with the punches. Keep your eye out for people who happily make do with what they’ve got and never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

– Reuse, recycle and repurpose. Look for those who inherently understand that they don’t have to recreate the wheel every time as long as they’ve been diligent in their process and data validation.

The next wave of great data-driven marketers is poised to emerge. Until then, the hunt continues.

Have you had great success finding the right people with a particular university program, job board, headhunter or LinkedIn group? Please share your experiences in the comments below.


Barb Kittridge is Chief Marketing Officer of Cardinal Path, a dedicated team of passionate, award winning analysts, statisticians, academics, leading developers, and some of the top minds in the digital marketing space. Cardinal Path helps its clients unlock the value of their data across a wide digital footprint, sharing all that we know and empowering confident decision making that creates sustainable growth.