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5 Key Competencies Every Marketer Needs to Succeed

There’s no doubt this year has been filled with monumental change. And whenever such a change occurs on a grand scale, it means there’s an opportunity to revisit how we think, act, and behave – in both our personal and professional lives.

And that’s especially true for marketers.

Over the years, I’ve heard the same complaints from marketers – across all industries:

“My CEO doesn’t understand marketing.”

“I can’t remember the last time we did any customer research.”

“How do I communicate the value of marketing to the rest of my organization?”

“My sales team doesn’t even use any of the content we create.”

But marketers are now getting the chance to elevate their roles and demonstrate the power of really good marketing! In fact, according to The CMO Survey, 62% of marketers said that marketing has become more important since the pandemic.

Suddenly, the executive team is relying more heavily on their marketing team to help inform and drive the company’s strategy. This means bigger expectations from marketing leaders and individuals, but also a lot more freedom to experiment and try new things. As one CMO told me, “we’ve finally gotten approval to invest in the marketing areas we want to — more people, better technology and customer research.”

As the C-suite looks to marketing to provide answers, customer insights, and guidance on how to move forward and fuel the growth engine, how should marketers rise to the challenge?

It’s not just about skills. It’s about competencies too.

First, let’s briefly cover what the difference between a skill and a competency is.

A skill is WHAT you need to learn to be successful at your job. For marketers, this includes things like competitive analysis, customer research, creating a marketing plan, copywriting, LinkedIn ads, SEO, etc.

A competency is HOW you do your job. These include behaviors, abilities, and knowledge. For marketers, these are things like listening to customers, analyzing data, and managing complex projects.

The problem is that most marketing ‘training’ tends to focus on skills. For example, there is a long and growing list of technologies that marketers are expected to learn. For proof, just look at the latest marketing technology stack, which has evolved to include more than 8,000 technologies.

While technical skills are important in marketing, they are not the answer to help your organization achieve higher revenue targets and more market share.

In preparation for our upcoming book, Stand Out Marketing, we talked to dozens of business, marketing, and sales leaders across the globe to understand what it takes for companies to stand out from the competition and provide greater value to their customers.

What we found is that while company culture, leadership, and attitudes are critical to igniting innovative thinking, the competencies of individuals on the team are what brings the most value to the organization and to its customers.

Introducing the V-A-L-U-E Competency™ Framework

The good news is that like skills, competencies can be learned. As a marketer, if you want to continue to get internal recognition, higher marketing budgets, and better results from your marketing programs, developing the following 5 key competencies will help take you there.


V = Visionary

When we think of a visionary, we think of someone who can paint a picture of a future world. In the marketing context, being a visionary requires imagination, creativity, business savviness, and being able to see the forest through the trees.

Too often organizations are inwardly focused and they ignore the signals that the market, their customers, and what their competitors are doing. We provide a framework in the book with lots of examples and ideas to improve upon your visionary abilities.

One thing you can implement now – seek perspectives from different points of view. For example, if you are only relying on the sales team to tell you what’s going on with your customer base, it’s time to set aside some budget to conduct 1:1 customer research and interviews.

A= Activator

If visionaries set the strategy, activators make it happen. As a marketer, this means first and foremost, the ability to get buy-in for your ideas and mobilizing the rest of your organization towards executing the plan. Yet, many initiatives fail because the various departments that are needed for successful execution aren’t bought into the plan.

One of the common pitfalls we see here is that many marketers don’t understand how their programs fit into business goals and priorities. For example, the marketing team may be working on developing marketing content to promote a product that neither the sales team nor customers want to buy.

The action here — learn the business. How does your company make money? Which customer segments are the most important? Which products are the most profitable?

L = Learner

You’ve probably heard of a learning mindset, which is the ongoing commitment to learning new things and being open-minded and curious. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s shown us that being a learner is not optional!

For marketers especially, there’s a need to constantly have your pulse on what your customers are experiencing and thinking. So if you’ve conducted customer research once, your job isn’t done. This is an ongoing process.

A simple action you can take — dig deeper and ask WHY? For example, do you know why your customers choose to buy your product or solution over your competitor’s?

U = Useful

Being useful is about differentiating in a way that is relevant, practical, and resonates with customers.

Think of the swiss army knife. It’s a highly practical tool that can be used in a lot of different scenarios from opening a bottle of beer to cutting open a package. You want your marketing content/ programs to be like the swiss army knife! This means you have to understand how to translate what your product does into how it will help your buyers.

Especially important here is to understand how your customer consumes information, as I’ve seen way too many examples of marketers chasing tactics (podcasts, blogs, TikTok) without first doing the research to see if it’s a relevant way to reach their target audience.

E = Evaluator

Finally, the evaluator can assess whether or not something is working and how to interpret the data they’ve collected. Collecting data only leads to descriptions and classifications, it never leads to insight and understanding.

Can you effectively balance what’s good for the customer with the ROI for the business? Can you evaluate the success of your marketing programs and determine what’s working best to produce results?

Putting it all together.

There is a widespread acknowledgment from marketing and business leaders that companies who ignore their customers, create surface-level value propositions, and focus only on their own profits will suffer.

B2B Buyers are already demonstrating that they have no tolerance for working with companies that don’t add value when interacting with their marketing and sales teams. Naturally, heads are turning toward the marketing department as the source of deep customer understanding.

If you weren’t investing in enhancing your marketing competencies and skills before, the time to do it is now—as the gap will continue to widen between those that ‘get it’ and those that don’t.