Companies have adapted and leaned on digital strategies to connect internally and externally since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The most well-laid marketing plans have had to shift drastically, and we've all had to embrace digitization to connect—and survive—as businesses.
If you're lucky enough to be part of a company that already had digital practices and a digital infrastructure in place, perhaps the industry shift didn't feel as jarring. Maybe you were able to continue your strategy without missing a beat and kept engaging with your customers.
However, as the last year and a half has starkly highlighted, not all companies start from the same place of digital savviness and technology support.
That's where marketing maturity comes into play. By taking an honest look at that starting point, we can better understand and plan for fully optimized digital operations while creating internal alignment.
To thrive in a post-COVID marketing environment, each business must evaluate where it stands in the marketing maturity model, then take steps to improve its position.
Defining Marketing Maturity
In its simplest definition, marketing maturity is the move from a seller-centric to a buyer-centric approach. Marketers who are lower on the maturity spectrum tend to be more project-focused, whereas those at the higher end of the maturity spectrum are drivers of strategic growth.
Increasing levels of maturity correspond with increasing levels of digital marketing sophistication and expertise.
Marketing maturity frameworks look at the processes, tactics, technology, data, and outcomes of an organization to understand where the company falls on that spectrum. Marketing maturity is not based on company revenue size, employee count, company age, or how many emails are being sent.
The reasons an organization might choose to employ the marketing maturity model vary widely, but for many it's simple: It helps educate and align internal teams and management and inform the long-term budget, and it creates an expectation of growth.
Where Your Company Lands
The marketing maturity journey has four stages: emerging, aligned, unified, and optimized. In each of those, you will find varying degrees of sophistication in marketing strategy and tactics, as well as adoption of marketing technologies.
Although the marketing maturity journey is fluid, there are definitive indicators and pain points for each stage:
- Emerging. In this stage, a company has no digital strategy or tool integration. An example could be sending one-off email blasts for basic communications with name personalization and conducting one-off data reporting in the email send tool.
- Aligned. This stage takes advantage of additional marketing technology, such as automated campaigns to segmented lists and scheduling social posts. Some customer profile data is used for personalizing emails, but the data might not be integrated into a CRM. Data reporting is still siloed and typically done only by email campaign.
- Unified. In this stage, email marketing is integrated into a CRM with email analytics and other coordinated social content. Organizations in the unified stage often send targeted multistep email campaigns that lead to a specific action on their website, and they take advantage of real-time analytics—albeit still siloed by source.
- Optimized. Here, digital marketing efforts include targeted campaigns and personalized interactions (via chatbot, for example). Brand experience and messaging are consistent across all digital channels, including email, website, e-commerce, and social media. Data insights from all channels are pulled into one holistic view.
Moving Toward Optimization and Maturity
At this point in the article, you might have realized that your company and marketing strategy aren't where you want them to be. You might also be asking yourself what the next steps are in moving toward optimization.
Ultimately, optimized companies have made significant investments in digital marketing as a way to scale their go-to-market strategy with prospects and customers.
If you're not in the optimized stage of marketing maturity, but would like to be, consider the following to help inform your marketing strategy.
1. Focus on personalization
Personalization should be used to align marketing across personas and customer journey stages. Perhaps even more important in the COVID-19 environment, personalization ensures messages cut through all the other noise consumers are bombarded with.
People, including B2B decision-makers, spend more time on social media and email than ever before, so deep personalization is the key to meeting them where they are with impactful and engaging experiences.
2. Create consistent brand experiences
Companies that want to optimize their marketing processes should confirm consistent brand experiences and messaging across all digital channels, including email, website, e-commerce, and social media. That consistency boosts brand credibility and bolsters customer confidence.
3. Make data-informed decisions
Businesses with optimized marketing maturity regularly use data insights to inform strategy and tactics.
Organizations can do two things to use data effectively:
- Enrich and cleanse the data
- Pull it into one holistic view
Cleansing and enriching ensure the data is accurate and actionable, whereas compiling it into one holistic view shows the "big picture" of the marketing strategy, including things that are working well and things that could be improved.
The pandemic has forced organizations to be adaptable. As a result, many businesses have developed newfound responsiveness and resiliency. In today's landscape, that means evaluating marketing strategies to find areas that can be optimized for the benefit of the customer and the bottom line.
Because no business is the same and we're all starting at different points in the marketing maturity journey, marketers face a unique challenge. Rather than simply survive the pandemic environment, marketers who take active steps toward an optimized digital strategy will prove the most successful long after the pandemic wanes.
More Resources on Marketing Maturity
Determine Your Digital Marketing Maturity Stage, and Then Level-Up
Approaching Digital Transformation With a Marketing Mindset
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