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What is Marketing Maturity?

It isn’t just creation and promotion; it is a process as well. I think that’s what a lot of people forget.” - Neil Patel

Neil’s right. Marketing is not just a collection of projects, promotions, successes, and failures. It’s also a process, and one that gets easily forgotten.

Every organization that aims to improve the world should regularly take stock of its marketing process; it’s blind spots and opportunities. That is, every organization should ask two key questions:

  1. What could we be doing better?
  2. What is holding us back from that?

This is where marketing maturity comes in.

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But First, Marketing vs. Communications

Mighty Citizen works almost exclusively with mission-driven organizations—i.e., associations, government agencies, nonprofits, and colleges and universities.

Many of these groups prefer the term “communications” to “marketing.” We get that. But in this article, we use “marketing” as a stand-in for all efforts to communicate, at scale, with the world.

What is Marketing Maturity?

Marketing maturity is the degree to which an organization is achieving its goals via the entire suite of marketing channels, strategies, and technologies at its disposal.

At its essence, marketing maturity is the journey to your organization’s “best self.” When you are at the highest level of marketing maturity:

  • Every dollar you spend on marketing produces more than a dollar in return.

  • Your supporters admire and trust your brand. Your competitors envy it.

  • You get the most out of technology. It’s a tool for success, not frustration. Your software and tools and website hum along smoothly and seamlessly for both internal and external audiences.

  • Your entire staff knows precisely what you do, whom you serve, and how to communicate your value to the world.

But marketing and communications are a never-ending journey. These disciplines—so critical to your organization’s purpose and goals—are always changing, which means you must change too.

Marketing Maturity is an Ecosystem

Organizations often mistake a collection of marketing tactics for a marketing strategy. They believe that if they “do social media” and “send out a newsletter” and “get some good coverage in an industry magazine,” they’re executing on a strategy. They aren’t. Instead, they’re shooting darts in the dark and hoping to occasionally land a bullseye. A marketing strategy is much bigger than these one-off tactics.

Marketing is an ecosystem. Within the ecosystem exists everything an organization does to communicate itself to the world. All of these “everythings” influence—and are influenced by—one another. No tactic is an island.

As a result, how “mature” an organization’s marketing is requires exploring how mature each of its efforts are. For example, if you invest heavily in digital analytics but shortchange your website design, your overall maturity is going to take a hit. In this sense, marketing maturity demands striking a balance between the many ways in which you promote yourself.

“You can’t simply count the number of campaigns, channels, and KPIs you create to measure the sophistication of your marketing.”

Marketing Maturity is Not…

It’s natural to assume that if your marketing efforts are performing well, your marketing is mature.

But not so fast.

First, marketing maturity is not a measurement of how much marketing you do. If you throw every conceivable marketing channel at the wall in order to see what sticks—from emails to social to display ads to search ads to direct mail to website personalization, etc.—you aren’t necessarily mature. (In fact, a wide-but-shallow marketing strategy is often the sign of a lack of maturity.)

You can’t simply count the number of campaigns, channels, and KPIs you create to measure the sophistication of your marketing. Instead, you must dig into the nuance of your communications, one by one.

Second, marketing maturity isn’t merely digital. It goes deeper than that. In fact, at its most fundamental, how mature your marketing is depends on people and knowledge. Long before you craft a gorgeous landing page, reinvent your donation forms, or launch a highly targeted advertising campaign, you must first concern yourself with analog elements.

Do you have a keen understanding of your audiences (and how do you know)? Do you have a solid set of organizational goals to guide your marketing strategy (and how do you know)? Have you hired the right people to make it all sing (and how do you know)? Again, think of your communications as components of a larger, interdependent ecosystem.

Third, measuring your organization’s maturity is an ongoing endeavor. It’s not a “one and done” task because your organization, your constituents, and your resources are always in flux. We recommend doing a formal evaluation of your marketing efforts at least once per year—often in the weeks leading up to your planning for the upcoming year—in order to keep your focus on strategy in addition to tactics. Even if you determine that your marketing is returning incredible dividends—i.e., your maturity is high—there is still work to be done. (More on that below.)

Why Marketing Maturity Matters

While determining your marketing maturity isn’t a simple arithmetic problem, you can quantify how mature your marketing is.

Organizations who rate low on a “marketing maturity scale” are not taking advantage of the tools at their disposal. They’re either getting by without dedicated staff, making do with a limited budget, or ignoring levers of influence. As a result, they’re missing out on major opportunities for impact. As a result of that, they may find themselves unable to defend to their leadership why larger investments in marketing are worth it.

Meanwhile, mature marketing teams who know that they’re mature enjoy a number of advantages. First, they can easily make the case for more investment of financial and human capital; they’re producing results, after all. Second, with the fundamentals in place, they can grow more creative and bold in their marketing efforts. This is when marketing gets really fun. And most importantly, maturity means, ultimately, that marketing is doing what it intends to do: helping the organization fulfill its mission.

So How Do You Gauge Your Organization’s Marketing Maturity?

That’s a big question. We’re here to help you answer it! We’ve recently launched The Mighty GPS™, a self-assessment tool to measure your marketing maturity. The Mighty GPS gives you an overall marketing maturity score, a score for each of six marketing dimensions—Research, Branding, Marketing, UX/Content, Technology, and Team Dynamics—and a list of steps to take to increase your marketing effectiveness.

The Mighty GPS

A Self-Assessment to Measure Your Marketing Maturity

Getting Started

Want to Learn More About Marketing Maturity?

There’s so much to know! We’ve got a full suite of resources to help you better understand what marketing maturity is and how it can serve your organization:

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