Want Better Digital Marketing? Know Your Maturity.

by Bert Stouffer Dec 14, 2017

Younger generations would be amazed to learn that at one point, there was no Siri to tell you when to turn right or left. In order to get where you needed to go, you pulled out your trusty map. Remember maps? Most people carried around a paper map in the glove box of their car for road trips.

There are a couple things that made reading a map tricky. First, it almost always required another person because it was literally impossible to read a map and drive at the same time. And you needed to make sure you had the right kind of map for where you’re going.

But most importantly, you needed to figure out where you were in relation to the map. Because if you couldn’t find your location on the map then the information was virtually useless.

I would argue that the same thing could be said today in terms of digital marketing transformation. We have access to more high-quality information than ever before. But if you don’t understand where your company is in terms of digital marketing maturity then the best map in the world won’t help you. 

What is Digital Marketing Maturity?

So what does the term "digital marketing maturity" even mean? First of all, let’s talk about what it’s not: digital maturity is not achieved with your company simply purchasing the latest and greatest marketing service or platform.

Strategy, Not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation

I’ve seen many companies invest in leading technology only to use it in an ineffective way, if at all. Obviously, this won’t deliver the kind of digital marketing transformation they are looking for.

A company that is digitally mature has fully embraced the practices that will allow them to be competitive in a digital society. Here are the three most important characteristics of companies with mature digital marketing:

  • Data-driven: Digitally mature companies rely on data -- not instincts -- to make decisions. They use advanced tools to gather analytics and they use professionals to organize and analyze the data. When they address a problem or pursue an opportunity, it is always with data driven marketing solutions.
  • Customer focused: Digitally mature companies create a consistent customer experience across all channels. They incorporate an omnichannel approach and no longer operate in silos. Their website, mobile apps, and social media accounts are fully optimized to meet the needs of their customers.

  • Digital DNA: For digitally mature companies, digital isn’t just a part of their culture -- it is their cultural DNA. It defines them and shapes everything they do. And they don’t see it as a “one and done” process; it’s constantly evolving in response to threats and challenges in the marketplace.
Comprehensive Digital Marketing Audit: Your Roadmap to Reach Your Digital Marketing Dreams

5 Stages of the Digital Marketing Maturity Model

If you want better digital marketing, you have to accept that digital transformation is a process that never truly ends. To illustrate that reality, I’ve adapted a model that a former colleague of mine, Len Devanna, used to assess the social marketing maturity of his clients. Companies fall somewhere on a continuum of five distinct stages of digital marketing maturity.

Let’s look at each of these five stages below.


One of the biggest indicators that a company is still in the traditional stage of digital maturity is that there is still a certain level of disconnect. Their digital channels are not yet developed, they don’t offer all of their products or services online, and there is no opt-in. They may have a website but it is often stylistically outdated, content is stagnant, and/or not very functional.

In the past, digital transformation has not been on management’s radar or they have been somewhat skeptical of its value. However, they are increasingly becoming interested in applying digital marketing tactics but aren’t sure where to start.

Traditional companies rely primarily on outbound marketing methods such as trade shows or trade pubs. Their marketing and customer service exists mostly through traditional channels and email is their primary method of communication. And while these practices may have worked well in the past, their demand generation is not keeping pace with their more digitally savvy competitors.


Experimental companies have an interest in achieving a multichannel experience for their customers. They may even be starting to understand some of the basics but the plan is not yet fully developed.

Experimental companies tend to dabble in several different channels. And while they have a greater awareness of digital engagement, they are still largely operating in silos.

They have made a lot of positive progress; they have an updated website, presence on multiple social platforms, and have usually hired someone to take charge of their digital marketing efforts. They could benefit by putting a greater emphasis aligning their digital marketing platforms for purpose and creating two-way conversations with their customers.


Operational companies have a team in place and have begun to implement a digital culture within their organization. All of their digital channels are set up and they have developed coordinated digital marketing initiatives.

One big shift that happens in operational companies is that they begin to focus on education and training for their staff. Over 75 percent of digitally maturing companies strive to provide their employees with the resources they need to develop their digital marketing skills.

The company has a fully integrated digital marketing plan in place with specific tactics being identified for each digital platform.

And their efforts are paying off; their website is fully optimized with over 1,000 monthly visitors driven to the site with coordinated messaging and tactics across the companies controlled digital properties.


Measurable companies have broken down the remaining silos. Their employees are now trained, engaged, and competent on digital channels. The company’s digital platforms have now been integrated with key workflows.

Digital marketing is now a key part of the company’s business strategy. And their efforts across all digital channels can be measured, evaluated, and optimized by an ongoing systematic process.

Fully Engaged

A company that is fully engaged has adopted digital marketing as part of their brand identity. It has efficient business operations that have completely integrated digital marketing data throughout their organization, both vertically and horizontally.

Not only can the company can measure the impact of their digital marketing efforts, but they use the data they are capturing real time, including personalization of information. Because of this, they are able to bring their products and services to market more quickly while serving their customers more efficiently. The result is increased revenue and greater customer loyalty.

Amazon and Marriott are good examples fully engaged digital marketers, the former being a digital native, the latter a traditional company that has evolved to that state.

Moving Forward

Digital marketing maturity is a process that will take time to develop within your company and it will never be complete. Understanding the different stages of digital marketing maturity will help you identify the next steps your organization can take.

This blog post is the first in a six-part series we are doing on the stages of digital marketing maturity. Here are the second, third, fourthfifth and sixth blog posts in the series.

Where do you think your company falls on the five stages of digital marketing maturity model? Let me know in the comments!

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