Assessing B2B Marketing Talent Using the Nine Box Talent Grid

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The Nine Box Talent Grid is an excellent tool to help ensure that the right B2B marketing talent is available to meet current and future business objectives.

Most B2B marketing organizations do not effectively assess internal talent and this is unfortunate. Assessing and managing marketing talent is critical since the most valuable asset any company has is its people. Many marketing managers will say they do not have time to adequately manage their teams, there are no processes or systems in place or that those systems are too rigid and difficult to use. One outlier approach is to develop a system or bring in a talent assessment/management practice that worked at a prior company. The problem with this approach is while it may work for one marketing department or group it is not institutionalized so the company cannot fully benefit.

In addition, many approaches to solving this problem die because of the complexity of the program, i.e. too much process, complex systems, extensive training, inconsistent application and analysis.

Best-in-class companies keep it simple and use a simple Nine Box Talent Grid that helps managers and companies:

  • Identify and proactively manage talent based on performance and potential
  • Customize to their specific needs
  • Incorporate with reviews and compensation administration
  • Support professional development plans

Why Use the Nine Box Talent Grid

Using the Nine Box Talent Grid enables organizations to effectively evaluate, review and, develop B2B marketing talent.

It’s a fact that 50% of organizations do not assess their high performers. However the other 50% that do assess and proactively manage high potential employees perform at the 75th percentile or higher for total shareholder return.

In contrast, organizations that attempt to assess their talent but do it ineffectively experience significant costs:

  • The cost of the programs plus the number of hours marketers are in classes or traveling to and from training multiplied by their fully loaded hourly cost
  • Turnover costs for employees that leave can be estimated at 1.5 times the fully loaded cost of the employee, i.e. the cost to attract, hire and onboard (Source – SHRM)
  • Employee frustration and disengagement costs can be estimated at 30% or $3,400 for every $10,000 of employee salary

The Nine-Box Talent Grid Helps Manage the B2B Marketing Talent Pipeline

Simply put, the Nine Box method identifies those B2B marketing employees that should move up, move laterally or move out.

Even though the Nine Box Talent Grid is a subjective evaluation, it forces the quantification of an subjective assessment. This is a much better approach than relying on intuition or gut feel as those often change throughout the week, month, quarter or year as well as varying from manager to manager.

The Nine Box methodology is preferred over other assessment models because it:

  • Provides a common method of assessment for B2B marketers
  • Offers a range of classifications that fit the vast majority of labor pools
  • Includes recommendations and next steps based on each specific placement
  • Utilizes a quick, clean and informative visual to communicate a great deal of information in an intelligent manner
  • Helps identify top talent, core talent and under achievers by reducing gut feel and bias based on clear criteria and robust assessment levels
  • Enables managers to understand bench strength and how to leverage all talent to better manage their teams

Why it’s an Efficient Process

The Nine Box B2B Marketing Talent Grid is all about a Marketer’s Potential – aspiration, learning agility, ability, values and engagement – as well as a Marketer’s Performance – business results and behaviors.

A B2B Marketer’s Potential

Aspiration – a B2B marketer’s desire to grow into more challenging roles and take on more work. The frequency that the marketer takes on new challenges and assignments and the marketers willingness to be more mobile across the organization.

Learning Agility – the pace at which a marketer can learn, study, analyze and understand a situation or business problem. It’s their desire and passion for learning as well as their ability to apply that learning when faced with a new or challenging situation.

Ability – a marketer’s knowledge, skills and attitudes used to carry out their work. This includes technical, functional and emotional/interpersonal skills. It is their track record for delivering results, how they handle more difficult or challenging jobs, and how they reads a situation and make judgments.

Values – the way a marketer conducts themselves in alignment with the organization’s values. It is how they role model the company’s culture and the degree to which others view them as a natural leader. It is also about how well they build and maintain relationships both internally and externally.

Engagement – the degree to which a marketer is emotionally engaged, connected and committed to their organization and their role. Engaged employees are 1.5 times more likely to accomplish more than what is expected of them. They are also four times more likely state their contributions are directly correlated to the success of the organization. Finally, they are 3.5 times more likely to put in extra hours to improve results.

A B2B Marketer’s Performance

Performance reflects the results and achievements of employees..

Business Results

Business results are the B2B marketer’s achievements. This is a pretty straight forward historical assessment of what the marketer has achieved and should be both tangible and quantifiable.


Behaviors are the marketer’s actions on the job in their efforts to deliver on business results. These are typically observed via competencies which are measurable patterns of knowledge, skills, attributes, and behaviors that specify how a marketer should successfully perform their work

The Importance of Multiple Assessments

Performance reviews and ratings, while useful, should not be the only indicators of performance. Best-in-class organizations use multiple assessments to measure performance including:

  • Competency assessments
  • 360 reviews
  • Performance calibration or ranking sessions
  • Interviews

Each combination of potential and performance represents a talent profile and sub group of the B2B Marketers Nine Box Talent Grid. There are three main categories: Top Talent, Core Talent and Underachievers. Within each main group are three sub groups:

Top Talent

  • High Performance, High Potential
  • High Performance, Medium Potential
  • Medium Performance, High Potential

Core Talent

  • Medium Performance, Medium Potential
  • Medium Performance, Low Potential
  • High Performance, Low Potential


  • Low Performance, Low Potential
  • Low Performance, High Potential
  • Low Performance, Medium Potential

Summing Up B2B Marketing Talent

Use the Nine Box Talent Grid and proactively manage your B2B marketing talent to effectively and efficiently execute go-to-market strategies and tactics.

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