What Is Marketing Enablement and Why Do You Need It?

There’s a big hole in most B-to-B marketing organizations created by constant changes within the marketing profession. These changes include the transformation from marketing as a cost center to a revenue center, the rise and use of digital technology to enable that transformation and the pivot to customer-centricity. Marketers are scrambling to respond to these changes. The glue to make all of this work that’s missing is marketing enablement.

Why Now?

Marketing enablement is a not new idea. We’ve been tossing around this term for years. In the past, it never caught on as a buzzword for marketers, but now the need for a dedicated marketing enablement function is critical. Marketing will not successfully respond to current and future challenges without a dedicated marketing enablement effort. Just look at the results so far:

  • Less than one-third of B-to-B marketing organizations report credible financial results.
  • The average marketing team is juggling more than 20 different technologies.
  • Less than 25% of marketers feel they have an optimized martech stack.
  • And fewer than 50% of B-to-B marketing organizations have an actionable customer journey map.

One of my favorite ancient Chinese proverbs is:

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

This is certainly true as I look at the rise of the marketing enablement function. As marketing has struggled to keep up with massive market changes, we’ve never given a name to the idea that marketing must be enabled in a new way. The new way is one that is overarching, deliberate and orchestrated. The new way is to operationalize a marketing enablement capability.

The Marketing Enablement Charter

First, we need to recognize that marketing enablement is an organizational capability. This means if one person or several people leave the marketing team, this capability can successfully persist. An organizational capability is derived from a strategy and consists of a bundle of people, processes and technology that drives a business result.

The charter of a marketing enablement function is to enable the execution of strategy through:

  • A holistic training and knowledge acquisition structure
  • Identification and execution of cross-functional processes
  • And development of an optimized martech stack to drive stated business results.

Let’s break down each piece of the charter to clarify how marketing enablement should function.

Strategy

The strategy in question includes the marketing strategy and how it supports, enables and drives company strategy. For example, if the company strategy is fast growth through new account acquisition, this becomes the strategy for marketing. If the company strategy involves pivoting from being product-focused to customer-centric, this becomes the strategy for marketing.

Whatever the company strategy , marketing needs to create a parallel strategy that, once defined, must then be operationalized. Part of operationalizing the strategy includes marketing enablement.

Holistic Training and Knowledge Acquisition Structure

Companies spend millions of dollars on sales training and sales enablement programs, yet they spend practically nothing on formal and consistent training for marketing. Sales garners investment because it is a revenue- and growth-driver in the organization — a hard job. I see this in 99% of the companies I work with. I have yet to find one company with a holistic talent management and training program for the marketing organization that is similar to sales. What I do see is piecemeal training based on the last event someone attended.

However, as the role of marketing changes from being the creative department to a driver of revenue and growth, much more money needs to be invested into training marketing through marketing enablement. In this case, the role of marketing enablement is to determine the skills required and to develop and deliver consistent training on them. In addition, all training should exist within a holistic knowledge acquisition structure, not piecemeal. Just imagine the difference in marketing performance if training for marketing was as standardized and supported as training for sales.

Identification and Execution of Cross-Functional Processes

Marketing operations has been successful at identifying and execution of cross-functional processes. An example is the lead management process. I’ve seen MO teams have great success working with sales to implement a cohesive and cross-functional lead management process. Reasons include their data-driven approach, higher level view of core processes and the lack of negative history working with sales. Their work in cross-functional processes is certainly anchored in using technology to enable new processes, but operationalizing new processes is about more than just technology and data.

In today’s customer engagement economy, as marketing’s role continues to morph into a revenue growth-driver, working in a cross-functional environment is becoming the new norm for any B-to-B marketing team. Given the new norm is here to stay, the marketing enablement function should be looking at what is required in cross-functional processes and determine how to operationalize these processes. This might require working with the marketing operations function to determine the tech needs and with marketing to determine content, campaigns or SEO fit. Sales can reset expectations and the customer success team can inform customer needs.

Marketing Enablement Versus Marketing Operations

A key element to marketing enablement is the identification and use of technologies that enable marketing results. This is where the marketing enablement team works with the marketing operations team. The enablement team takes the role of gathering and explaining business requirements and the operations team takes the role of translating business requirements into technology solutions. The enablement team has a better understanding of marketing and customers, and operations has a better understanding of tools.

Any enablement team will work closely with operations, but the enablement team has a higher-level view of marketing needs and can orchestrate success across all of marketing, not just in one group.


Marketing enablement is critical for any marketing organization that wants to be more than the creative department. Take the time to consider how your marketing team could benefit from an enablement team. Transforming marketing from a cost center to a revenue center, optimizing technology for results and leading the pivot away from product-centricity and to customer-centricity will not happen by accident. B-to-B marketing organizations need a strong marketing enablement function that will carry them boldly into the future.

About the Author | Debbie Qaqish

Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.