When B2B marketing leaders are asked to build an integrated plan to support digital transformation and growth initiatives, it’s natural to consider how their teams will get there. Most organizations have grown digital capabilities organically as challenges or opportunities arise.

Marketing leaders should use the Marketing Capabilities Framework (client-only access) to identify the comprehensive set of capabilities required for marketing to successfully achieve its goals and deliver value to the business. Taking a strategic approach to digital allows broader consideration of teams, processes, skills, and technologies to determine the most effective plan.

By “digital,” we mean the application of technology to enable business strategy. If marketing capabilities are the solid foundation we must build upon, then digital is the scaffolding around the building as we move our competencies up to build to the next level. There are three important steps to enable marketers to accelerate digital within their organization:

Assess the business objectives of digital transformation or change

The first step is to define the objective of the initiative and how marketing can support the achievement of desired business goals. Identifying the correct level of digital transformation is required. No matter how advanced our technology gets, it’s still a manual job to prepare for the foundation. There are three types of transformation to consider:

  1. How we interact and present the company to the market, including engaging with our buyers, customers, and partner journeys. This type of transformation alters the interactions and information exchange to these audiences. A common example is adding digital or inbound marketing approaches by attracting, capturing, and directing our target audience through content syndication, paid advertising, social media, and blogs. This does not significantly impact the company’s brand, products, business model, or changes to the organization. It is feasible with the existing operational capabilities but may require new marketing capabilities.
  2. How we work as a company — i.e., how the company runs, including workflows, internal routines, systems, processes, and/or infrastructure. This type of digital transformation supports business change internally and is usually not apparent to external buyers and customers. Examples include streamlining how product is delivered or supports increases in efficiency and margin. This modifies how offerings are delivered and timing varies depending on the nature and scope of operational changes involved. Often the company will be selling the same offerings but using a different means to achieve that goal.
  3. Who we are as a company. This is the largest type of transformation and impacts the core attributes of the company — how revenue is generated, the markets the company focuses on, and/or the way it positions itself to the market. It requires change across the entire organization, such as changes to the company’s brand, business model, or offerings. An example is adding a new software-as-a-service offering to an on-premise solution. This addition of a subscription revenue model changes your current business model, and may impact the company’s responsibility for data security, compliance, and how data is stored. A new sales and marketing strategy may be needed to support service benefits, new pricing models, and messaging to address buyer needs and concerns, as well as new customer success training, onboarding, and education of the new service. If changing who we are as a company is needed, supporting how the company interacts and how the company works will also be required.

Identify required marketing capabilities

After assessing the digital objectives, leaders can then begin to identify the digital capabilities that are required for marketing to successfully achieve its goals and devise a solid foundation to deliver value to the business. This review will help to establish current capabilities and identify ones that need to be built or further developed. In the example of changing how the company interacts with buyers and customers by adding digital approaches, marketing capabilities to be added or enhanced would include: demand marketing, customer cross-selling and upselling, and gaining audience insights to apply new marketing techniques.

Define marketing competencies

Forrester defines marketing competencies as the knowledge, skills, processes, and/or tools required. Competencies can be shared across the marketing organization, such as core B2B principles, processes, models, and best practices to create a consistent approach to marketing. Competencies are the scaffolding that holds you up, allowing you to build to the next level, and continue to reach higher.

There can also be role-specific competencies that can range from basic and fundamental knowledge, skills, and processes, to intermediate (best practices to enable marketers to quickly achieve the desired productivity level), or advanced and specialized developed when specific circumstances arise. In the example of adding new digital marketing approaches, skills would start with a baseline understanding of the inbound and outbound marketing mix. This would increase adding new digital delivery channels, develop tools and technology to optimize digital program performance, and grow demand program treatment to interpret signals triggering the next best action based on behaviors. The scaffolding builds advanced competencies to deliver and achieve new outcomes.