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The Shared Competencies of High-Performance Marketing Functions

September 27, 2018

To achieve high performance, best-in-class marketing functions must possess competencies across seven core disciplines

B2B marketing functions must bring together teams with diverse competencies and responsibilities to drive marketing’s contribution to business objectives. To be fully effective, marketing must leverage a set of shared competencies that include knowledge of core B2B principles, processes, models and best practices that have been developed or adapted by the organization to create a consistent marketing approach. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we define shared competencies of best-in-class marketing functions across seven core disciplines.

One: Audience-Centricity

The first discipline that is pursued by best-in-class, high-performing marketing functions is audience-centricity. Audience-centricity is rooted in a deep understanding of market dynamics, buyer audiences’ needs and purchasing decision processes, customer engagement requirements throughout the customer lifecycle, and opportunities for leveraging influencers. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Market knowledge. Marketers are able to identify the organization’s market segments, primary audiences, general market opportunity and market sizing. This includes a rich understanding of market trends and general competitive insights as well as insights about individual competitors. For global organizations, regional market differences must be comprehended.
  • Buyer knowledge. Audience-centric competencies include knowledge of buyer needs, the buyer’s journey, the customer lifecycle and audience preferences. Marketers with strong buyer knowledge understand the customer mindset and can address problems that buyer personas don’t realize they have. These marketers work with propensity-to-buy modeling and leverage external monitoring and business intelligence tools for greater insight.
  • Offering knowledge. Marketers fully understand the company offering portfolio, demand types and primary competitors’ offerings.
  • Creativity and innovation. Marketers proactively recognize and act on market and competitive trends, and understand the circumstances of and reasons for the organization’s wins and losses. Marketers feel empowered to use their insights to provide improved buyer and customer experiences.


Two: Alignment

Marketing efforts must be clearly aligned to corporate business objectives and stay focused on measurable activities that drive business contribution. This focus must be verified or established during the annual planning process and supported through ongoing functional and business review cycles. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Stakeholder knowledge. Marketers have thorough knowledge of the organizational structure and are able to identify key stakeholders across other marketing teams, business units, sales and partners. Marketers can identify key stakeholder interdependencies, priorities, goals and measures. Best-in-class marketers have a deep understanding of stakeholder strategy and drivers behind business goals and KPIs.
  • Collaboration and prioritization. Marketers are well versed in marketing and stakeholder planning processes and can take multiple perspectives and synthesize them into a single plan. They can prioritize requests from multiple stakeholders that are based on business goals and have built strong networks within marketing. They understand sales methodology and sales processes, as well as how marketing plans and planning milestones support sales. They can translate collaborative working techniques and models into action and drive the development and agreement of joint goals. They recognize different communication styles and adapt accordingly.
  • Stakeholder communications. Marketers can tell marketing’s story in the language and context of key stakeholders and have built a strong internal network outside the marketing function.


Three: Process-Driven

It is critical for marketing to employ established, straightforward and repeatable processes across the function and within specific teams. Complex processes such as content development, lead management, and campaign planning and execution require defined roles and responsibilities, interlocks and deliverables to succeed. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Workflow knowledge. Best-in-class marketers understand workflow at three levels. First, they are aware of the key workflows that impact their specific team roles; they understand how work is completed on specific marketing teams and comply with key marketing function policies (e.g. data handling, brand/trademark usage, social media usage). They also understand stakeholder needs in immediate marketing process hand-offs. Secondly, these marketers understand how work is handled across the marketing function; they comply with key regional/country policies (e.g. data privacy, opt-in/opt-out rules), and understand stakeholder workflow hand-offs. Lastly, there is an understanding of how work is performed across the organization, compliance with key specialty policies (e.g. country rules for running promotions, legal trademark requests) and an understanding of stakeholder needs in cross-functional process hand-offs.
  • Workflow improvement. Marketers drive improvements in established processes and look at work from an end-to-end process viewpoint to recognize inputs, outputs and bottlenecks.
  • Project and process management. Marketers have strong project and time management skills. They have working knowledge of process management approaches employed by their organization (e.g. Lean, Six Sigma) and understand best practice applications for marketing.


Four: Data-Driven

Effective marketing decisionmaking requires a solid foundation of data and analytics to support instincts and experience-based insights. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Ability to access and understand data. Marketers understand market, program, campaign and customer data, including Demand Waterfall® and sales pipeline data. They are aware of prior tactic, program and campaign plans, as well as performance outcomes, and they know how to access available reports and benchmarks. At the advanced level, marketers have deep knowledge of the data that describes market, strategy and execution trends, persona buying preferences and sales/partner adoption preferences.
  • Insights. Marketers have knowledge of program and campaign plans, business goals and objectives. They can associate historical report data and trend data to current plan outcomes and impacts, determine cause-and-effect relationships and recommend actions.
  • Analysis. Marketers understand data analysis approaches and best practices. They understand exploratory, predictive and propensity analysis approaches and can leverage internal resources for analysis. They ask relevant business questions (e.g. “Why is this outcome happening?”), propose “what if” scenarios for business outcomes and use analysis findings to suggest alternative strategies to drive business outcomes.


Five: Measurable

Marketing’s contribution must be agreed upon and understood within the business, and clear metrics must be used to holistically evaluate marketing’s success. In high-performing marketing organizations, clarity permeates marketing, promoting the tracking of progress, identifying areas that are not advancing as expected, and enabling appropriate course corrections. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Goals. Marketers understand marketing and company-level core metrics and KPIs. As competencies evolve, marketers understand how core metrics and KPIs are constructed, as well as their influencing factors and reporting mechanisms. Marketers have a strong understanding of stakeholder goals to ensure program, campaign and annual KPI alignment. They understand where and how marketing can make a significant impact on business goals. They can drive alignment with stakeholders that leads to joint goal and KPI setting.
  • Reporting. Marketers create and share reports on key measures and draw conclusions from relevant dashboards. They can validate and roll up manual reporting from multiple sources and draw conclusions for future action. Marketers at advanced levels are often skilled with business intelligence tools.


Six: Agile

To demonstrate marketing’s ability to drive experimentation and improve performance, high-performing marketing functions embrace agile principles and apply them effectively. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Understanding agile methods. Marketers understand agile principles (e.g. scrum, sprints, retrospectives) and if/how they are applied at their organization. They know when marketing can benefit from agile principles (i.e. tactic optimization) and where agile is inappropriate (i.e. annual strategic, campaign planning).
  • Application of agile methods. Marketing can apply agile methods to marketing tactic planning and execution and participate in agile team development projects and/or reviews. In advanced companies, or those with an agile culture, marketing can embrace an agile-first mentality and seek opportunities to apply it across the function.


Seven: Enablement

The final discipline is enablement. This means that marketing possesses or invests in developing the right individual and team competencies, as well as the necessary technical infrastructure to support the work of the marketing function. The competencies for this discipline include:

  • Marketing acumen. Marketers take advantage of the available role- and team-specific enablement materials. They participate in training courses to improve competencies in their current roles and are certified in key competency areas. They attend training for advanced role-based competencies or ongoing professional development.
  • Technology and tools. All marketers must understand the internal technologies available to support their role and team tasks and comply with system policies. More advanced marketers understand the technologies that support cross-functional marketing tasks, comply with corporate system policies, and are expert or power users in their team systems. Additionally, they can navigate the organization to access required information from non-marketing systems.


The Sirius Decision

When assessing the current state of the marketing function, mapping the required shared competencies is a crucial first step. Competency mapping enables marketing leaders to evaluate the presence, consistency and development of required knowledge, skills and process capabilities, and creates a strong foundation for planning a strategic development roadmap. Competency development alternatives must be prioritized according to their importance in relation to a CMO’s objectives for the marketing organization, as well as the company’s strategic business goals.



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