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Five Steps to Shifting Marketing's Capabilities to Meet Today's Needs

by Larry Lucas, Hilary Fazzone  |  
March 19, 2012

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Four elements needed to shift your company's marketing capabilities
  • Five steps for capabilities development
  • Pitfalls to avoid when shifting capabilities

Many business leaders are making important strides in transforming their marketing strategies to address changing competitive environments, emerging product and service categories, and evolving customer needs. They're thinking in terms of solutions rather than products, stakeholders rather than customers, and redefining rather than upgrading.

But, unfortunately, leaders often expect new marketing strategies to be successfully executed with old marketing capabilities. The fact is that great strategic plans have failed in the absence of capability shifts.

With the right building blocks, however, business leaders can advance their companies' marketing capabilities to give promising strategies the support needed to succeed.

What's Required

The marketing capabilities required to support meaningful business shifts fall into four key categories:

  • The first category is competencies—the right functional, technical, teaming, and leadership skills to build and activate differentiating customer solutions. Such skills can be introduced in many ways, including in-house development and external talent acquisition, but they must directly align with emerging business strategies.
  • The second is processes. To ensure consistent execution as teams adapt, leadership must institute replicable approaches and frameworks for the range of value-creating activities that teams undertake to deliver customer solutions.
  • The third category is tools, encompassing the systems, information, assistance, resources, and metrics that teams need to work effectively. The success of tool-based capability enhancements depends largely on leadership's insight into the evolving needs of its teams, and its ability to identify the tools that address those needs.
  • The final category is organization. Without the structure, governance, roles and responsibilities, and mindset that enable accountability—as well as decisive action—a business shift will flounder.

How to Get There

Building out such capabilities on such a scale requires significant time, energy, focus, and resources on the part of leadership, as well as buy-in and dedication on the part of team members. Prophet, our company, has identified five foundational methods for capability development, each of which will contribute to an emerging business strategy's chances of success.

1. Launch pilots

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Larry Lucas is partner at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy that helps clients win by delivering inspired and actionable ideas. Lucas can be reached via Hilary Fazzone is senior associate at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy that helps clients win by delivering inspired and actionable ideas. Fazzone can be reached via

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  • by Michael O'Daniel Mon Mar 19, 2012 via web

    Excellent post, providing solid how-to advice on an aspect of marketing that is so often overlooked: the management aspect, and how that resonates across an entire organization. In a true market-driven company, marketing is involved in strategic decisions across the enterprise, not merely those involving marketing.

    What you have just described is a change management project. As an ancient marketer of many years experience who is now co-authoring a change management book and launching a new business in that area, I have long been convinced there are many parallels between the two disciplines. Whether they're internal or consultants, marketers who recognize this fact will become so much more valuable to their companies or their clients. Because change management is so dependent on getting buy-in from the people affected, who better to lead that initiative than marketers?

    Re: your third bullet point (buy-in), there is a definite change management process you can follow to engage both internal and external stakeholders. Obtaining their buy-in by trying to "sell" them on the change rarely works; soliciting and applying their feedback, encouraging their participation in the change, are much more effective approaches.

    Finally, the one element -- essential to making a change -- that I don't see mentioned here is Measurement. How do you know if your change actually succeeded, particularly in the area of training? If you're doing competency development, your training plan should include that component.

    Marketing and change management are natural allies in the transformation of organizations. It would be interesting to hear other points of view on that subject.

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