If you've ever tried to solve a Rubix Cube, you've put your analytical skills to the test. Making the colors match up requires problem-solving, logical reasoning, and pattern recognition.
While the majority of marketers will never make it to the next speedcubing competition, the skills you learn with puzzles like this are essential to a successful marketing career.
In today's workforce, nearly one in four workers have a job in which analytical skills are considered the most important factor. Companies want to hire for these skills because it shows a candidate's ability to think logically and use data to inform decision-making. In fact, Indeed found the most in-demand skills for employers — and several analytical skills top the list.
That's why it's important to know how analytical skills apply to your career and what you can do to develop these skills over time.
What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills refer to the ability to collect information, analyze it, and draw conclusions in order to solve problems and make effective decisions. Often divided into categories like critical thinking, data analysis, and research, these skills make it possible to recognize patterns and creatively solve complex problems.
As a marketer, being able to understand problems and provide solutions is essential to a long, successful career. It means you can take a critical lens to the details of a problem to fully understand it. This helps you notice trends, understand the steps needed to take action, and offer novel solutions. But that doesn't mean you have to throw creativity out the door. Using analytical skills to problem solve can look like a structured, methodical approach or a more creative one.
We'll explore the various types of analytical skills later on, but first, let's look at how analytical skills differ from critical thinking skills.
Analytical Skills vs. Critical Thinking
A person who uses logic to find patterns, brainstorm, analyze data, and make decisions based on that information has analytical skills. One of the skills required to do that is critical thinking.
In other words, critical thinking is just one of many skills you need to be an analytical thinker.
You probably use critical thinking more often than you imagine, like when you:
- Question whether a piece of information is a fact or an opinion.
- Break problems down to understand the reasoning behind them.
- Draw conclusions from data, rather than a gut feeling.
- Make intentional, rational, and goal-oriented decisions.
Marketers who have strong critical thinking skills make reasonable, logical judgments and think through every decision. They provide facts and logical arguments to back their choices, which leads to smart decisions and improves company success.
While each role has its own analytical skill requirements, there are several that will benefit any marketer throughout their career.
Example of Analytical Skills
If you're looking for a marketing role that leans towards analytics, such as a market research analyst position, it's best to develop analytical skills specific to that position and your desired industry. Analytical skills are soft skills, so you'll also want to develop hard role-specific technical skills.
For an analyst, that means mastering technical skills like Google Analytics and statistical software, while also having analytical skills such as creating data collection methods and presenting findings to senior leadership.
But across the board, all marketers can benefit from developing these in-demand analytical skills.
1. Critical Thinking
Any position across all levels of a company can benefit from critical thinking skills. It's the ability to question an idea or examine why a problem exists. This can lead you to tackle issues others thought impossible and understand whether resolving a problem is worth the time, money, and effort. Critical thinking can take many forms in marketing, such as:
- Content and brand auditing
- Case analysis
- Data interpretation
- Market research analysis
2. Data Analysis
Neil Hoyne, Chief Measurement Strategist at Google, once said, "The companies that are going to win are the ones who are using data, not guessing."
Interpreting data is more than collecting and reading information — it's making sense of what's before you by connecting patterns and recognizing trends. Strong data analysis skills allow you to pull insights from a large volume of data, which you can share with key decision-makers. This skill can show up in marketing role requirements in a few common ways.
- ROI analysis
- SWOT analysis
- Data visualization
- Pattern recognition
- Process analysis
- Industry and market research
- Presentation skills
- Measuring customer satisfaction
- Marketing analytics
- Customer segmentation strategies
- Predictive analysis
3. Creative Thinking
I once had a manager who was known for saying, "The first answer isn't the answer." She knew the role creativity played in problem-solving and pushed our team to view a possible solution from all angles. Marketers with this analytical skill work to find out-of-the-box solutions and patterns that others brush past. And if you need any more convincing, 'creativity' ranks on Indeed’s top 20 list of most in-demand skills for today's workforce. At work, creative skills involve:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Strategic planning
- Organizational restructuring
- Predictive modeling
- Campaign development
Employers consistently rank communication as a must-have skill — and for good reason. Being able to explain your idea for a project or give feedback is essential as a marketing professional.
Communicating clearly helps you keep everyone on the same page when rolling out a campaign or diffuse a problem with a deadline when it (inevitably) arises. Strong communication skills needed in marketing include:
- Written and verbal communication
- Body language
- Interpersonal skills
- Active listening
- Conducting presentations
- Confidence and clarity of expression
- Sharing feedback
- Delegating responsibilities
- Respect and empathy
Deciding how to respond to a harsh customer comment on social media. Distributing an advertising budget. Prioritizing which roles to hire for as a growing team.
All of these situations require analytical problem-solving skills, and all will pop up through a marketing career. Here are the problem-solving skills every marketer can benefit from developing:
- Data collection
- Checking for accuracy
- Attention to detail
- Logic and reasoning
- Crisis management
Good collaboration skills can improve your working relationships, help you accomplish tasks on time, and reach your short- and long-term goals.
And nearly every marketing team has to collaborate with sales, product, business development, and creative teams to get anything done, knowing how to create synergy with your colleagues will make work smoother and more enjoyable.
The most common collaboration skills for marketers today are:
- Time management
- Giving and receiving feedback
- Emotional intelligence
- Process improvement
- Adapting to change
How to Improve Analytical Skills
Developing analytical skills takes time and effort. Unlike technical skills that have a structured approach to follow, analytical skills are more difficult to define and develop. There's a process to learn how to use Google Analytics for SEO, but the steps to become an effective communicator are more fuzzy and undefined.
Fortunately, analytical skills can be honed. Here how you can go about boosting your skills and contributing to your company's productivity and success.
Take courses, certifications, or on the job training.
Infinite resources exist both in-person and online that can help you improve your analytical skills. Universities and online companies like Coursera offer online schooling, HubSpot Academy offers free certification courses, and many companies provide stipends for continuing education.
Start by identifying which skills you want to improve and do research to find the resources that are right for your skill set and budget.
Find a mentor.
You likely know someone who is an excellent negotiator or always crafts the perfect email. Noticing how these people approach a situation and problem solve can help you hone your skills. Take notes, save examples, and apply their process to your work.
To take it a step further, ask them to chat over coffee or a phone call to discuss how they developed their skill. They can likely point you in the right direction or provide guidance on what you need to do to excel at the skill.
Try practice problems.
Role-playing is incredibly effective when working to improve analytical skills. Instead of simply reading a case study about an innovative digital media campaign, find a tool to help you develop your brainstorming skills.
Depending on the skill, you can find a practice book or an online resource to walk you through various mental models and scenarios. Work on an idea, and then present it to a trusted colleague or mentor to get feedback.
Play games to improve your analytical skills.
Spending hours on your phone playing Sudoku has more benefits than the personal satisfaction of beating your top score. Games that test your mental agility and memorization can improve your ability to think logically and challenge norms. While game trends are constantly changing, there are several classics that have withstood the test of time.
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Board games (i.e. Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, Splendor, Pictionary, and Bananagrams)
- Computer or mobile games (i.e. Lumosity, Elevate, and Peak)
- Crossword puzzles
Analytical Skills for Your Resume
Once you gain or improve your analytical skills, make sure to update your resume to reflect those strengths. Your resume should include a list of 10 to 20 skills, with a mix of both hard and soft skills. Note at least five to 10 analytical skills so potential employers know you have the knowledge to get your job done.
When choosing which skills to highlight, look to the job requirements section. A role may involve managing the company's social media accounts, but this typically includes collaborating with multiple teams to get the content and analytics you need to do that successfully. Showcasing a blend of technical and analytical skills is what makes you a competitive candidate.
As your career develops, you'll likely need to keep your analytical skills sharp. Be proactive by practicing and paying attention to people who have the skills you want to acquire, and you'll be on your way to solving complex problems with ease.