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Why nerds are the new marketers

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Samantha is a Sydney-based real estate and home improvement writer. She is currently Head of Marketing at OpenAgent.

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Move over jocks! These days, marketing nerds dominate the field with their ability to outrun the competition and score their touchdowns fastest.

They are the one’s finding out what’s cool the fastest. Yes, they are still stuck behind their computer screens. They may sometimes use words that many of us don’t understand and they aren’t the types that usually turn up to work in suits. But they sure know a lot about how to reach us.

So who are they?

Marketing nerds are in their element looking at data and calculating propensity models. “We are single minded experts in a technical field,” explains OpenAgent’s business analytics lead and digital marketing nerd Paul Nguyen.

“We capture vast amounts of data about our industry and users: who they are, what they like, who’s the best agents, what works and what does not. We have the ability to sift through all this data and produce some real insights.

“Without nerds like us, creatives and traditional marketers are flying solely on gut and experience. But we have the ability to measure, track and report on everything. We have an eye and mind for identifying and extracting trends in data. This is followed by a curiosity to try new things.”

Nguyen got into digital marketing after reading The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, who argues that start-ups can design products cost effectively to suit customers’ needs by getting their feedback right through the design process.

“I was in corporate software development, working as a business analyst,” he says. “I wanted to make real differences so I moved over to OpenAgent as a growth hacker.”

Nguyen says the older generation may not understand what he does – his father just knows he works with computers – and he’s very happy to be described as a marketing nerd.

These nerds, he says, are in huge demand these days because they help companies grow as fast as possible while spending the least the possible to get there. “The only way to do that is to take a scientific approach.”

“In addition, any business not tracking and measuring every marketing dollar has no idea how effective its spend is. This is now standard in marketing.”

To boost factors such as customer engagement, sales, customer experience and customer retention, digital marketing nerds track every single transaction from end to end, report on the major funnel metrics, data mine all pathways, identify opportunities and create new experiments. Then they from this and repeat it all again, says Nguyen.

He says some of the tools marketing nerds use include:

  • Growth hacking: a process of rapid experimentation across a range of marketing channels and product changes to identify the most effective ways to grow a business.
  • Predictive analytics: the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine-learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.
  • Data mining: the practice of examining large pre-existing databases in order to generate new information.
  • Data science: an interdisciplinary field about processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms, either structured or unstructured which is a continuation of some of the data analysis fields such as statistics, data mining, and predictive analytics.
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO): a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.

Not everyone has the skills or personality to be a digital marketer though. To succeed, Nguyen says you will need to have traits like curiosity, the ability to learn and an enjoyment of thinking out of the box and solving problems. You will also have to love patterns, structure and be fascinated by large complex data.

Those who don’t like change or prefer completely defined problems or are unable to work with large amounts of data need not apply!

Nguyen says digital marketing nerds come from a wide variety of backgrounds – including from traditional marketing, to finance, economics and IT. “It is more a mindset than a strict form of academic discipline,” he adds. “They need to learn the tools and techniques, and be generally tech savvy.”

And once entrenched, they can progress into jobs in data science, business analytics or product marketing. In fact, Nguyen believes that data science is one of the most interesting fields in digital marketing. And it’s fast rising to prominence. “Many companies have big data problems and need people to make sense of it,” he explains.

But the playing field is always changing and evolving. “The rate of change is more dependent on your team’s ability to experiment as quickly as possible,” says Nguyen.

But that is why he loves work. “It’s always challenging and rewarding. And we are creating and measuring experiments that make an evident difference, and we help fill the gaps in collecting and measuring data and metrics.”