Marketing Maturity: Where do you rank?

Jennifer Beck

Jennifer Beck is a vice-president and Gartner fellow. She serves digital marketing leaders, specialising in multichannel marketing across digital and offline channels and offers advice to CMOs and CEOs on how to competitively position their companies, create and manage their brands, enter the digital arena and maximise marketing and sales investments.

We have this obsession with where we rank, rate and score in our world. It’s one of the reasons Cosmopolitan Magazine flies off the newsstands. It’s not just the alluring, over-the-top fashion model on the cover. It’s those addicting quizzes, like “Are you a good lover?” Who can’t take 5 minutes to check that one out?

So in the marketing world, we see everything from the Cosmo Quiz approach and free self-assessments, to the more sophisticated maturity models that peg where you are today and offer advice on how to get to the next level. But why measure marketing maturity? What’s the point of knowing if you’re clueless or mature? What aspects of marketing should you even consider? Here’s some current thinking.

First, if you want to get to a desired future state of marketing, it helps to know the nature of the current state so you can plot a course forward. And maturity in marketing means simply that the more advanced the function the more impact it can have on the business.

Take buyer affinity for example. There’s a big difference between being opportunistic or even a fast follower and having the predictive analytic chops to actually anticipate future requirements. Heck you can create new market categories and even create new customers with the right set of tools, intelligence and innovation.

What about the way marketing’s measured today? I just had a conversation with a client asking how to show an ROI on their marketing. I laughed and asked how they were proving an ROI on HR, legal and finance functions. Perhaps a little snarky, but the point is marketing should be measured on the overall business objectives. It takes a lot of coordinated mojo from many contributors to get to that final result. ROI on isolated marketing activities is madness. Who cares how many hits you have on websites or the traffic in social channels, if it’s not helping you make money?

More from Gartner on the successful CMO::

Let’s look at creativity. Most marketing organisations can claim they have the occasional brilliant idea, but most externally source that to their agencies. The mature organisation is managing an innovation pipeline of ideas, new storylines, product concepts, etc. And they’re open to creative juices from anywhere from informed conclusions based on their own intelligence to crowd-sourcing.

And then we have the digital deal. You’ve got the less mature still watching their screens for the bounce back on SEO and email campaigns to those sipping a dirty martini as they create trans-media buyer experiences that not just sell product, but industrialise the power of word-of-mouth.

Richard Fouts, my “clued-in” Gartner colleague and I sat around his dining room table in his flat in San Francisco and pondered this concept of marketing maturity. He took notes on his tablet. I had to draw it out with printer paper and crayons. The result is a new Marketing Maturity Model that attempts to hit all the relevant dimensions of the function.

After disciplining ourselves not to do the funny, irreverent version first because it was so compelling to label phase 1 as “clueless”, we landed on 17 dimensions of this marvellous thing called marketing in the digital age, which now features among Gartner's digital marketing research.

To illustrate just how we've gone about it, here are a few examples:

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