Marketing Capabilities? What’s That all About?


“What is it you do?” was the polite enquiry from a fellow member at my local sports club. “Marketing transformation” I replied and knowing this is never enough information, followed up with “specifically, marketing capability building”. A blank look was followed by a grin and “what does that mean?”, which to be fair is a pretty reasonable question.

In my way of thinking there are two meanings for marketing capabilities, one broad and one narrow and, if you’re in the business of transforming marketing teams for the better, both of equal validity and significance.

The Broad Definition of Marketing Capabilities

The tangible attributes (mostly) a marketing team needs, in order to bring out the best from its people and deliver against the business strategy.

This centres on process (never a favourite word for marketers) and encompasses organisation design, technology & data (‘Martech’), agency partners and KPIs, not forgetting a dash of culture.

You can have the best people in the world, with all the right skills but if you don’t have these capabilities in place they’re going to struggle to deliver their best work. And if you make a change in one of these areas, you’d better make sure the others are aligned to it. For example, it’s never a good idea to appoint a new agency if you can’t be crystal clear about where they fit into your ways of working (a more marketing-friendly ways of saying ‘processes’).

The Narrow Definition of Marketing Capabilities

The individual and collective skills of marketing team members required to fulfil the specialist requirements of their role, and to contribute effectively to team deliverables.

The ‘individual skills’ part of this narrow definition of marketing capabilities is about the abilities (competencies) that are specific to a role. For example, if you’re in a Communications role you’d need skills in storytelling and brief writing, whilst a Media Specialist would need to be expert in programmatic planning and buying, AdTech and media evaluation. Typically, each marketer has 2-3 technical competency areas that are critical to and define their role.

The ‘collective skills’ part is about the competencies marketers need as they work together on marketing deliverables. The competency areas this covers include Championing the Customer, Digital Integration and Integrated Marketing Communications. Everyone in a marketing role needs to have skills in these areas, albeit the levels of skill will vary from ‘able’ to ‘expert’

Assessing Marketing Capabilities

At Flock, we’ve put this thinking into action in our Marketing Capability Assessment Tool. The online tool uses questions about the abilities of marketers to ‘know’, ‘do’ and ‘teach’ to assess their skill levels for a range of technical and team competencies. Employees assess themselves and are also assessed by their manager, with results compared to benchmarks to identify gaps and opportunities for development.  You can find out more here.

Marketing teams who use this tool are able to realise a range of important benefits, including:

So there it is, a long answer to a short question. For more information and to start or continue your capability building journey, do get in touch (contact details are below). And next time I’m asked “what do you do?” my first answer will be “how long have you got?”.

Paul Duxbury is the Practice Lead for Marketing Capability at Flock Associates, the marketing transformation company. He can be contacted at

Flock Associates have a tool and benchmarks for assessing marketing capabilities, identifying gaps and planning how to fill them. For more information go to

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