Use our digital marketing maturity models to assess new opportunities for upskilling and digital transformation
Ever since I’ve been involved in working with businesses to improve their digital marketing, I’ve seen huge variations in digital capabilities. That's why at Smart Insights we have always championed using digital marketing maturity models as a simple technique to assess your digital marketing effectiveness. Smart Insights Members have a wealth of digital marketing auditing resources and training solutions for digital upskilling.
If you're new to the concept of reviewing or assessing digital marketing maturity, you might ask why it's considered necessary. The value in reviewing digital maturity is that it can quickly give you a ‘line in the sand’ benchmark for your organization's digital marketing activities to improve upon. In today's digital landscape, comparing your digital maturity to similar competitors is an important aspect of understanding your customer's experiences of your brand.
How to improve digital marketing maturity?
The process to review and improve maturity is:
- Define digital maturity in different categories using a framework with the right scope
- Identify opportunities or weaknesses across digital capabilities within the framework to prioritize improvements
- Demonstrate the business case and priorities for improvements to colleagues (or clients if an agency or consultant)
- Set objective targets for improving marketing maturity to review against in future
Of course, the appropriate level of maturity for any business will vary depending on the context.
In some industry sectors where digital channels have become a primary channel to market, such as retail, financial services and travel, it has become essential to increase digital marketing maturity to compete. In other sectors like some business-to-business industries and Pharma where traditional channels may still be the most important communications channels, digital capability/maturity may be lower.
In larger businesses in sectors where the case can be made for investment, there may be more resources to support the digital transformation needed than in smaller businesses that have other priorities for investment, so may have a relatively low maturity. On the other hand, small and medium businesses are often more agile to respond to marketplace forces than larger businesses, so if they see the opportunities of
In my experience of working with businesses from the very largest to the very smallest and across many different sectors, I’m a firm believer that digital marketing maturity assessment is beneficial for every type of business to. So, in this briefing, I’ll recommend a digital marketing maturity model that can be adapted to all business contexts. I’ll also showcase some recent new marketing maturity models that have prompted me to cover this topic.
… and your personal digital marketing maturity?
Before I look at digital marketing maturity assessment for businesses, I’d also say that it’s valuable for people working in marketing and business to assess their personal digital maturity. This relates to reviewing your own experience and skills for helping your business increase its digital capabilities.
Whether you are a manager directing improvements in digital marketing or a specialist marketer looking to develop your digital skills it’s useful to understand what your gaps are and what the priorities are to develop your skills.
If this sounds useful, we have developed a free interactive tool to assess your digital marketing skills. I’ve structured the assessment across our RACE Growth System and designed it to be efficient. You should be able to complete it within 5 to 10 minutes and you will receive a score out of 100.
What is digital maturity?
This is a good initial question to ask since the scope of digital maturity assessment will vary a lot depending on the focus. In larger digital transformation projects, it may have a broad scope covering digital business, with a focus on digital technology and digital data. Digital business includes using digital communications to support interactions with a range of partners from suppliers to channel partners and customers.
Often the scope of digital transformation will be narrower, offering the opportunity for a brand to transform customer value propositions, business/revenue models, and communications. This focus is valuable since it reviews opportunities for businesses to compete more effectively by changing the basis of competition through new marketplace offerings.
Finally, there is the narrower scope of digital maturity where the focus is auditing and improving marketing communications strategy and implementation through better-integrated marketing campaigns and always-on digital marketing. This is our main practical focus at Smart Insights.
The Smart Insights digital marketing maturity model
I first started creating frameworks to assess digital maturity in the early 2000s as part of consulting and training to help businesses improve their digital marketing. This was a natural evolution for me, since when I started working, pre-web, I was involved in managing teams of software developers creating what we now call marketing technology or ‘martech’.
We first created these tools to prompt change around 2010 and while we have made some updates to reference new technologies like AI and machine learning, the overall structure has remained sound and relevant. This campaign-related example from our free digital marketing maturity models is one of several similar 'one-pager' maturity assessments including overall digital maturity and for individual digital marketing channels and tactics.
As I explain in this article on benchmarking digital marketing, it was and still is common to review maturity of the processes for developing complex software in order to make it fit for purpose - and to limit errors. These concerns are also in common with digital communications which is often based on martech.
To help create the Smart Insights digital marketing maturity model I adapted the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity model (CMM) for software. While detailed assessments differed, it appealed since it has 5 clearly defined stages that correspond to improving maturity. I’ve used these on our digital marketing capability frameworks such as this one
Tools for digital marketing maturity assessment
- Digital marketing strategy audit/healthcheck - Smart Insights Business Members can audit their company's current digital marketing maturity, score their capabilities, and prioritize improvements in strategy, planning, and training.
- Downloadable visual frameworks - Free Members can download up to 12 digital marketing benchmarking templates. These are great for discussing current performance in workshops.
- Interactive digital capability grader tool - Our grader can be rapidly completed in 5 minutes or less. Available to all Free Members once, you can generate a score relative to your business needs
- Personalized learning plan - This tool helps Free Members create an action plan to improve your digital marketing skills with free and paid resources.
As we’ll see, marketing maturity models are often developed by large consultancies for large international brands. But I was keen that our offering would also be relevant for small and medium-sized businesses and cover both strategy and practical communications techniques.
The tools above do this, but to help simplify what a digital marketing strategy needs to address, more recently we have created this framework showing the six pillars of digital marketing which is available as a template in our free digital marketing plan template.
Our pillars show a grouping of different types of initiatives that may need to be prioritized and worked on to improve maturity. The six pillars of effective digital marketing form the basis of our 25 key RACE digital marketing techniques, covered in our popular digital marketing audit template.
Perhaps you need to improve your measurement and reporting or perhaps a content marketing strategy is needed, or marketing automation to support conversational messaging. It starts on the left with management or governance who need to enforce a strategic, planned approach based on data-driven marketing selecting and reporting on relevant KPIs. Note that this crucial aspect, ‘Strategy and Governance’ is missing from the Google framework, but is included in the Gartner framework.
In larger, especially international brands, there is the challenge of increasing maturity 'across the board', i.e. in teams working across different products and countries. To help here a Digital Marketing Centre of Excellence can help. Our members' guide to best practices for creating a Digital Marketing CoE explains how to review which digital marketing activities should be reviewed centrally and which locally.
Let’s now look at these two more recent digital maturity frameworks.
The Google - BCG Digital Maturity model
In August 2021, Google released the appealingly, but likely misleadingly titled Fast track to digital marketing in association with Boston Consulting Group who created the report.
This framework covers these 5 aspects of maturity. As would be expected from Google’s commercial interests these have a strong focus on customer acquisition via media using data-driven approach.
Unlike the model above there is less focus further down the funnel considering digital customer experiences and brand customer engagement.
However, if your focus is mainly media centred in a large business, it could be worth completing the 30 minute digital maturity assessment on Google to enable comparison with your peers.
The Fast Track report also has some benchmarks showing how maturity is improving within the businesses they survey.
The Gartner Digital Commerce model
More recently, Gartner have released a one-page digital commerce maturity framework focused more on e-commerce rather than digital communications, but it is similar in the governance issues it covers:
It’s a one-page summary similar to ours. It covers similar themes to the classic pre-digital business management framework, the McKinsey 7Ss.
We’ve seen that there is a wide range of digital marketing maturity models that can be powerful for evaluating your current and planned use of digital media. It’s important for you to select the right type of marketing maturity assessment for the scope of digital within your business and it should ideally relate to the maturity of others in your sector.