How to benchmark digital marketing maturity
Digital marketing maturity is one of those phrases that is often used by marketers, especially about discussions around ‘digital transformation’. But what does it mean, why is it important, and how do you measure it?
In this guide, we answer all those questions and highlight how you act to improve your maturity. And we also introduce you to our new-and-improved tool – the Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment.
Keep reading and information on the following:
Measuring the maturity of digital marketing is a really useful way of quickly understanding your strengths and weaknesses, however typically you just get a score and no direction on what to do next.
We’ve created something that not only scores you on the core areas related to digital marketing, but importantly gives you a specific ‘to do’ list of what to do in order to improve your maturity.
David Somerville, Strategy Director
What is digital maturity?
Simply put, digital maturity is a marker in the sand for how mature or sophisticated your digital operations are. A digital marketing maturity assessment does the same for digital marketing.
It can also be defined as your ability to respond quickly and effectively to changes that happen, whether in your market or from broader external factors (such as when a global pandemic occurs). Organisations that are more digitally mature, with more robust processes, governance, data and highly skilled people, are, in theory, better equipped to deal with change and can react accordingly.
Generally, businesses want to move along a maturity curve, but not every business needs to be as mature as others. It could be that your organisation will never score top marks, especially as things can change so fast that even the leading businesses can’t possibly mature in every innovation.
It is also worth considering that it is not a marker for how effective your digital is – you can have a relatively immature digital capability that is very effective. Conversely, some organisations with complex digital systems don’t always hit their required goals and objectives.
While digital maturity is the more significant, broader measure, digital marketing maturity focuses more on having all the correct elements in place that will allow you to be running excellent digital marketing operations – activity that directly engages with your customers (and potential customers).
For the rest of the guide, we focus on digital marketing maturity.
Why benchmark or measure your digital marketing maturity?
Benchmarking or measuring your digital marketing maturity can be an involved process. Depending on the size of your organisation, you might need to involve numerous stakeholders and therefore need to find the time to conduct the assessment. Also, you might need some negotiation skills to reach a consensus around the answers to questions – as you are likely to know all too well that everyone's views regarding something like this are not always aligned.
Despite this, there are clear benefits of measuring your maturity, including:
- It will provide you with a holistic view as to how you approach and deliver digital marketing – this is a valuable exercise to complete, especially when it comes to forward planning of activity and budgets for the forthcoming year
- It can be used as a starting position from which to progress – by benchmarking, you can then look to measure again after an agreed period and understand whether what you have implemented has increased your maturity.
- Measuring your maturity will identify areas that require progress – sometimes, these areas are known in isolation, but often the whole picture of these is captured in one place.
- Prioritisation of team and channel development – you can use the outputs to ensure you focus on improving the things that will not only enhance your maturity but will also have the most significant impacts in other ways (such as improving staff retention or getting a better return from your channel spend)
- Measure the impact of some of the tangential work your team does – not everything that needs doing can be directly attributed to the bottom line, but it will directly impact it – unhappy, unmotivated staff, internal ways of working that are holding channels back, etc.
- It brings together stakeholders from across the business – measuring your maturity can help improve key stakeholders' engagement and relations or communication between teams.
How to measure it
Measuring digital marketing maturity works on a base level of trying to understand (with some logic and honesty) where your organisation (or team) sits on a broad scale of immature to mature.
The scale is sliding, so you can be at a varying point of maturity and be looking to increase this to become more mature over time.
Against the scale, there are usually some categories or dimensions that you rate your digital maturity. For digital marketing, this would typically include things like tools, data, reporting or channel mix.
Often your level of maturity is named (e.g. “beginning” or “leading”) to allow you (and others) to understand where you are at in the overall scheme of things.
This approach has variations, ranging from very simple to more complex and involved models. Let’s explore some of these now…
The most basic assessment involves looking at relevant categories and estimating where you think you sit on a sliding maturity scale.
This is quick to do but ultimately not very useful as it gives you no real depth or detail about where you are particularly immature (or mature) and what you need to focus on improving.
And there’s a lack of knowing how to scientifically measure it the next time to see if you have become more mature.
Using a recognised assessment
There are numerous assessment tools available (which can easily be found online), including ones created by the likes of Google and Smart Insights or classic strategy consultancies such as Boston Consulting and Gartner.
Each of these are established and well used for several years now. There is some variation between them, however they all work on the basic premise of answering questions against a category to output a rating or score.
Here’s a summary of some of the more popular ones:
- Smart Insights - based on their RACE planning framework, the Smart Insights framework asks users to read a series of statements for the Plan, Reach, InterAct, Convert, Engage, Brand and Governance categories against five levels of marketing maturity. You then self-select which statements best apply to your organisation, indicating your maturity level for each area.
- Gartner - the Gartner Marketing Maturity Assessment Tool measures your maturity against the nine competencies of Resources, Customer Experience, Multichannel Marketing, Social, Mobile, Digital Commerce, Marketing Analytics, Operations and Innovation. Their scale runs from ‘nascent’ to ‘master’; their research team will assess you against these.
- Boston Consulting Group - BCG has developed their Digital Acceleration Index, which allows users to compare their results with other organisations (they claim to have 11,500 companies in their database to compare against). This is a wider-reaching assessment than just digital marketing and covers more of a broader ‘digital’ approach.
Google's Digital Maturity Benchmark - based mainly on paid media activity
- Google - the search behemoth has created a maturity assessment, which was created in partnership with Boston Consulting Group. It’s called the Digital Maturity Benchmark and takes around 30 minutes to complete. Your maturity levels go from Nascent, Emerging, and Connected to Multi-moment. And the dimensions that are measured are:
- Assets and Ads;
- Automation and Organisation.
As you would expect with Google, its benchmark is heavily related to the paid advertising channel. One thing we have found with some existing assessment tools, including some of the ones above, is that whilst many are helpful to tell you where you are in terms of your maturity, but do not always give clear direction on the often-asked question of “what do we need to do to move up to the next level of maturity?”. This is where our own Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment comes in.
The Fresh Egg Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment
We first developed a way of measuring digital marketing maturity several years ago, deploying this on everything from large-scale digital strategy projects to helping clients with their annual marketing planning. Over time we realised that the key thing we really wanted to use it for was to understand the exact opportunities that existed for improving the level of maturity.
This led us to develop a new version, called the Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment.
How it works
The Fresh Egg digital marketing maturity assessment differs from most in that it ties your maturity directly to a series of defined behaviours, practices and processes. Your maturity is not defined by something you feel on a sliding, arbitrary scale. We define it by what you do and what you don’t. Our questions are open enough for discussion but sufficient for your answers to represent your position accurately.
We assess maturity across seven digital marketing categories:
- Strategy – understanding more about the presence of a strategy, whether there are clear goals and objectives and how integrated all of this is
- People – looking at the people, structures and systems that are needed to create an exceptional digital culture
- Channels – understanding key channel usage and the presence of these
- Customers – exploring the level to which customers are researched and insights applied to digital marketing activities
- Measurement – exploring the presence and strength of the ability to measure and report comprehensively on activity
- Data – reviewing how digital marketing data is used and managed
- Tools – understanding the tools used for digital marketing and how well utilised these are.
We developed these dimensions based on our conversations with our clients, working with them to understand what areas are important to them regarding digital marketing.
There are 78 questions, each with a score behind it. The scores from every question within a category are added together to give the overall category score. Your maturity % is a ratio of the category score achieved to the total possible category score. “Not applicable” answers are removed from the scoring and do not impact the outcome, i.e., it is possible to score 100% with some “not applicable” answers in place.
Measuring the maturity of digital marketing is a really useful way of quickly understanding your strengths and weaknesses, however typically you just get a score and no direction on what to do next. We’ve created something that not only scores you on the core areas related to digital marketing, but importantly gives you a specific ‘to do’ list of what to do in order to improve your maturity.”
David Somerville, Strategy Director
Naturally, some questions indicate a higher level of maturity than others. Behind the flat scoring system is a weighting score for each question, increasing or decreasing its contribution to the total.
For some questions, “don’t know” or “not sure” answers are a sign of immaturity and are scored accordingly and included in the scoring.
Category scores are combined to produce the overall maturity score. Categories can be weighted, depending on the nature of the business, where they can contribute more or less to the final combined maturity result.
Our maturity levels are defined as follows:
- Beginning (score of 0-20%)
- Building (21-40%)
- Accomplishing (41-60%)
- Maturing (61-80%)
- Leading (81-100%)
To complete the DMMA, our recommended approach is to complete it with a group of stakeholders in a workshop. This allows our client to be able to answer the questions fairly and honestly with the right people in the room. It also means that a healthy debate typically occurs and allows people to discuss the answers.
We then provide a summary of the scores for each dimension and the overall capability maturity score, so everyone can see immediately where their organisation sits.
Following the workshop, we analyse the results further, creating a summary report document that includes:
- A summary of the overall maturity score and level
- The answers per dimension area and the scores for each
- A list of the opportunities that exist to improve maturity for each dimension.
This list of opportunities is where the real value comes from. This gives an organisation a really clear summary of the specific areas that need to be addressed, which means that creating actions from this is much easier than guessing what might work.
Also, each of the opportunities has a % score that indicates how much it would increase the maturity score for that specific dimension by if it was actioned and re-scored in the future. This allows you to work on the actions that are going to improve your maturity better.
For example, if you answered “no” to the question “Do you have a documented digital marketing strategy?”, then completing this action could add around 10% improvement to your score for the Goals, Objectives & Strategy dimension.
We then work with our clients to support them in any aspects that require some external thinking or actioning.
Why it's different
As we have already mentioned, the one thing missing from many maturity audits is the direction of what needs to be done next to increase the organisation's maturity level.
This is where our DMMA is different. Because we have constructed it to be answered in a specific way, meaning we can output a list of opportunities that, when addressed, will increase maturity when scored again. Also, we indicate for each option the percentage increase in maturity that will be made if it is actioned.
This gives you (and your colleagues) a clear list of where to focus your efforts to improve the maturity of the weakest areas. And you can move the needle in areas where you are more robust, but acting will increase that maturity even more.
Acting on your results
Regardless of what you use to benchmark your digital marketing maturity, the key is to decide what you can do to improve your maturity. As we’ve just shown, this is easy to do with our DMMA, as you get given a clear set of opportunities.
Here’s some advice on how to then act on your results:
- Prioritise the opportunities and actions based on what you feel are the best to work on first
- Integrate these into your existing strategy and roadmap and assign owners
- Be realistic about what you can get done and set timeframes for it
- Decide on a date for when you next want to measure your maturity to see how you have progressed.
I found the Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment from Fresh Egg to be a great tool. It was straightforward to complete and covered the key areas that are important to us in with our digital marketing operations. The output of opportunity areas for us to improve on was useful, especially as this came at a time when we were working on our strategy for the next year. I could easily filter out which of these I wanted to include as focuses for the next 12 months. I’m looking forward to completing this again and seeing how we have matured, based on the recommendations..
Stacey Kirby, Marketing Director, KFH
What to do next
If you’re now considering looking to measure your digital marketing maturity, then here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of this:
- Gather the right people – you might feel you are best placed to complete a maturity assessment. However, typically you will want to involve other colleagues, especially if digital marketing is the responsibility of multiple teams within your organisation. Consider who is best placed to provide the answers, but don’t feel you must involve too many people. Otherwise, discussions, when you’re answering the questions, might end up as a distraction.
- Be honest – whilst it’s natural to want to score highly on these sorts of things, you need to be frank when answering to get a clear picture of where you are, where your strengths are, and where your weaknesses are.
- Prioritise the opportunities to improve – you might find that you’re faced with an extensive list of things to do to improve your maturity. Take a step back, look at the whole picture, and consider which areas need the most focus based on your current goals, objectives or business needs.
- Find the quick wins – your opportunities list may include some things you know are easy to do, with less effort, so consider getting some of these done first. That way, when remeasuring your maturity, you will already see progress.