How to Build Marketing Competence, Competently


In our Summer 2017 survey of global marketers, we discovered that CMOs and marketers in Capability, Procurement and Strategy & Operations roles are united in listing capabilities as one of the top two most important issues for them to address, in order to change the effectiveness of their marketing (alongside process and strategy).

This echoes the work of Bruce Rogers, the Chief Insights Officer of Forbes magazine, who in a 2015 article introduced a concept called “the 4 Cs of CMO Concerns: Content, Culture, Capabilities And Commerce”. He argues that the increased responsibilities for marketing departments in a digital world requires more than team restructuring, with a focus on recruitment, retention and technology, all critical elements of capabilities and competence.

In addition, our survey findings are consistent with a 2015 article by McKinsey who said “our research is increasingly clear: companies with better marketing and sales capabilities grow faster”.

Yet despite recognising the importance and urgency of building marketing competencies and capabilities, organisations struggle to do it. Here are the most frequently encountered challenges and how we have helped organisations overcome them.

How do I clearly define what I want, when the language can be so confusing?

  • Be clear about whether you are developing team or individual competencies. The best organisations do both and they share similar characteristics and development steps, but team competencies are more complex to develop.
  • For inspiration, use an existing competency framework that you like the look of even if it’s not specific to marketing. Your business may already have a non-functionally specific competency framework and good examples are easy to find on the web e.g. CIM, IOD, CIMA.
  • Don’t get hung up on the difference between capability and competence as to all intents and purposes they are the same thing. So, if you’re building competence you are also building capability.

How do I ensure employees embrace competency building and are not suspicious of it?

  • Use the building of a competency framework to engage with team members, get them to help define the competencies in a way that is relevant to them and their role.
  • When it comes to assessing the competency of team members, encourage self-assessment and review these assessments to ensure they are fair and consistent.
  • If this is a particularly sensitive issue, start by creating and assessing team competencies, which is less personal and therefore less threatening.

How do I get resource to do this when it is hard to prove the business benefits?

  • Make your case using the evidence that is available (e.g. the McKinsey report).
  • Change the language you use to talk about the benefits from “training” (perceived as a ‘nice to have to’) to “competency and capability building” which is more obviously pivotal to the achievement of business objectives.

How do I ensure I get high quality, actionable outcomes?

  • Ensure you follow a clear set of steps to build your competencies. These are the common-sense steps we find work well when building individual competencies (similar steps apply when building team competencies).

How do I find time for all the work required to build competencies?

  • Using an experienced and expert consultancy like Flock Associates will enable you to get over the ‘change hump’.
  • We have templates and tools that will enable you to short-cut parts of the competency development process, and consultants who will manage the work for you, leaving you and your team-members to focus on the key decisions and inputs.

Building competencies and capabilities is clearly critical to the delivery of high performance from your marketing team and ultimately the business as a whole. Adopting a structured and pragmatic approach whilst working with an experienced and expert partner will make the business of building competencies manageable and ultimately, rewarding too.


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