A Pro’s Advice: 5 Excel Functions Every Marketer Should Learn

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5 excel functions every marketer should learn


It’s the most polarizing among all productivity apps. Some professionals either love its versatility or dread its complications.

One thing’s for sure—it’s important to learn Excel, for better or for worse. In fact, being a specialist might actually net you a job.

excel specialist jobs

Annie Cushing, Senior CEO of SEER Interactive in Philadelphia, listed down five must-have skills that are absolutely essential for marketers to know. (Presented below in order of importance)


I. Table Formatting

Table formatting is an Excel function that could probably save your life—that’s a bit of a stretch, we know. However, it will save you time. Lots and lots of it. And time is life’s currency, so just connect the dots, eh?
Every marketer needs to know how to use this. Perhaps every person who will ever operate a computer from now on because it just makes life faster and easier, especially when you’re trying to make sense of big data.

Also, table formatting is a gateway for many more Excel functions that will have you screaming “Eureka!” in public. Hopefully, fully clad.

See also: Resource on the Microsoft site for Excel 2010 for PC and 2011 for Mac.


II. Charting

Even the most highly-detailed mathematician will fall fast asleep if the numbers or data are presented in barebones tables, when they should be presented visually.

cluttered excel table

If you listen closely, you can almost hear Pythagoras snore.


Annie Cushing advises:
For large datasets that don’t chart easily, it is possible to use conditional formatting to at least add some visual cues to tabular data. But, if you’re not dealing with an unwieldy dataset, you should look for every opportunity possible to chart out your data.

The Microsoft site offers an introductory course in how to create basic charts in Excel 2010 for PC and 2011 for Mac. Once you have those basics under your belt, check out her 10 tips for making charts sexier.

We also highly-recommend any video you can find by Mike Girvin (AKA ExcelIsFun) or Bill Jelen (AKA MrExcel). Mike did a great overview video of all the different Excel chart types and how to create them.


III. Pivot Tables

Learning about pivot tables is the next step of formatting that will slingshot you to Excel mastery. If you want to be able to evaluate large datasets, you absolutely must learn to master pivot tables.

In the video below, Annie Cushing shares with us her walkthrough on creating and modifying pivot tables.

You can download the Excel file she used in the video here.

To learn more about pivot tables, check out her post where she provides more advanced details.


IV. Functions

Ok, this is where it goes all Einstein-y. Functions is the most difficult Excel skill to truly master, because you have to have a proficiency in making formulas—mathematic formulas.

math is hard

Truer words have never been spoken.


With that being said, you need to start somewhere basic. Distilled pulled together a great resource of essential functions for marketers. Microsoft also has a resource that breaks down Excel functions by categories.

Annie Cushing wrote a post on how to write complex Excel formulas for newbies.


V. Advanced Filters

If you think regular expressions, or regex, for filters is enough to sweep your arm off your chin, then prepare to be blown away.

Advanced filters are far better at filtering big data than mere regex. The reason for this is that you can actually filter your data using formulas in addition to text-based filters. And, they’re much easier to learn than regex.

What makes advanced filters even more amazing is it powers up pivot tables and formatted tables that only normally give very limited filtering ability. Now you can make new, smaller datasets with advanced filters applied and create pivot tables from the already-filtered data. Doing this makes doing pivot tables so much faster!

If you’re interested in treading these waters, check out her article on how to use advanced filters with tons of practical and marketing-oriented examples.

Kevin Joshua Ng
Kevin Joshua Ng
Kevin is Content Marketing’s humble scribe. He has no doubt in his mind that Content is still king and he will serve it ‘til the day of his demise. He’s known to lurk around the walls of social media, thinking and writing. So follow him on the BuiltbySF blog and on LinkedIn, Twitter.

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