You've probably heard or read this stanza from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner": "Water, water, everywhere, / And all the boards did shrink; / Water, water, everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink."

Are you wondering what that quote has to do with marketing? Like the volume of water in the world's oceans, the volume of data available to marketers is simply overwhelming.

More new channels, competition, and distinct segments to manage, as well as shorter product lifecycles, greater price transparency, and higher customer experience expectations, are creating an exponential increase in the amount of available marketing data.

But unless all that data can be effectively collected, analyzed, and transformed into meaningful and actionable insights—and then used to tell a compelling, actionable story—it is as useless as salt water to someone who is parched and adrift on the ocean.

Data Skills Vital to Marketing

A recent study from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) revealed that business leaders rate creating a data strategy for marketing and predictive analytics as one of Marketing's most important priorities. Survey participants suggested that marketing pros often lack the data science and business analytics skills to extract valuable, actionable insights from both large and small data sets—and that many organizations lack an information, technology, and data science strategy.

That capability gap has created enormous opportunities for data scientists from other disciplines to join the ranks of marketers. The demand for data scientists has skyrocketed (Harvard Business Review termed it the "sexiest job of the 21st century").

For marketing executives who do not yet have this role on staff, here is a short job/skills description. Data scientists capture, manipulate, and transform data to create meaning. They need superb technical skills, such as the ability to devise algorithmic solutions to solve complex business problems. Ideally, data scientists employ both internal and external data and structured and unstructured data to help an organization make better decisions and gain competitive advantage.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM