The Marketing Technology Maturity Model

This week the folks at Beachhead Marketing pointed out an interesting article from Chiefmartec describing the Ascend2 report that 9% of firms are fully using their marketing tech stack. This is the first confirmation I have seen of a trend I noticed as a consultant and marketing technologist at various firms: very few people are using their marketing automation platform to the fullest, let alone their whole stack.

Yes, the survey talks about “marketing technology,” so this could be the entire range of tools. But think for a moment – most marketers think of their email platform and MAP (marketing automation platform) as their primary tool or the center of their martech stack. If 91% of marketers are not using the entire system, then it stands to reason that roughly that number are not even making the most of their MAP’s capabilities.

The question those marketers have is probably not, “How can I use more of my stack?” the question is, “How can I generate more revenue? Or more SQLs?” In fact, Ascend2’s next chart says that 52% of marketers want more sales revenue and 50% want more leads. Surprisingly, less than half are interested in personalization, targeting, or efficiency, which are strongly correlated with increased responses. And the big vision “Predictability” is dead last at 13%. To me, that should be a concern for companies like Marketo and Lattice Engines because the big vision goal of predictable revenue and predictive scoring is likely not high on most firms’ lists – except that 9% leading edge group.

What is on most marketers’ minds is getting the most out of their marketing automation tool with things like nurturing and funnel visibility. If they cannot reach those goals, those marketers are going to be increasingly dissatisfied with their stack.

This data continues to confirm what I often tell people: Marketing Automation is a journey and it will take two to three years to fully realize the vision. Most marketers are not ready at all to even track the Lead Lifecycle in their first year with a MAP, let alone have the data, experience, and sales alignment to successfully use predictive scoring or other match tools.

As a consultant, I often came across situations where the MAP had been purchased, implemented, but never fully used. The company knew this and was willing to restart the process because they still believed it was possible to reap efficiency gains or even achieve the Vision of revenue performance management in the future. Rarely does a consultant get called in to help a high performing marketing organization, of course! But with 57% of marketers rating their match program “Somewhat Successful” and 27% less happy than that, there are a lot of opportunities for both vendors and agencies to help companies achieve so much more with relatively little investment.

The good news is most marketers seem to believe that technology can change marketing performance positively, with the survey saying this is at 87%. However, I often heard the CMO or Director of Marketing say that a MAP was only helping marginally, or not at all. According to the Survey, at least 55% of marketers are in that camp today. To me, marketers who say this are likely using their MAP as a glorified email tool. They did not take the time to go through the evolution of marketing or the training needed to fully use the MAP to achieve the Vision. Naturally, their view of performance is that not much changed.

According to the survey, 50% of firms find the complexity challenging and 39% find the lack of budget slowing down their implementation. I would say that the critical piece is the budget or resources to achieve success. If you cannot find the budget and/or right people to help you implement a martech project, then that alone will stop your plans regardless of “complexity” or “inefficient processes.” A new tool will be complex to the uninitiated and inefficiency will abound until someone helps you create the right plan and sets up the tools correctly for your business. Thus, this again supports my advice to CMOs: understand your marketing strategy and firm first, then hire the right team (or agency) to help implement the technical side well. Is it better to spend $50,000 this year to set up success for the next three years, or to spend $15,000 today for a poor implementation that means $70,000 is software fees are flushed away? Going for a cheap option now usually means more expense later when the new consultants have to spend twice as long ripping out what the last agency tried.

Now, let’s discuss how a firm can implement a marketing technology plan successfully and a firm can implement a turnaround to move into that 9% over the next 12 to 24 months.

Getting to the 9% of “martech nirvana” as Scott Brinker puts it does not inherently require a lot of martech vendor solutions. In fact, you may only need a MAP, CRM, Website, and Social Media tool. (I talk about the minimum stack here). What you do need is a clear plan for your marketing strategy, tactical mix, matched against available martech vendors. By plan, I also mean what you plan to do over time.

Here is a framework I have been developing to help guide your marketing technology plans. The Marketing Automation Maturity Model is not quite like Marketo’s Maturity Model or The Pedowitz Group’s RM6™ assessment. The model here is focused on the use and implementation of marketing technology and when each piece should begin.


Each Stage has a set of pain points that emerge as you make the marketing automation journey. Each Stage has a corresponding Solution involving people and technology that is used to help create leverage for ROI. And each Stage takes time.

The single biggest impediment I see in achieving the Vision is thinking that the change will happen in one year or less, “because the vendor told me so.” And when that naturally does not happen? The vendor is fired and you have to start all over again. Far too many CMOs have said as much to me during evaluations. This is surprisingly short-term thinking from strategic executives. If you are a CMO, set better expectations with your team and with the C-suite colleagues. If you are a demand gen or marketing operations manager, explain this model to your CMO to avoid the uncomfortable calls to cancel your MAP contract, or to “go with a cheaper solution.”

Stage 0: Marketing Transformation

  • Pain Points: batch and blast emails not bringing in sales; marketing ideas are stagnant; list purchases and rentals are primary lead source; lack of content strategy; website is brochure-ware; Roadshow events are product and sales based. Yes, these firms still do exist.
  • Solution: New inbound marketing strategy. Website improvements to facilitate inbound content and lead collection. Begin sales-marketing alignment discussions for lead ranking and improved routing.
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: Do not feel the need to invest beyond the website or CRM. Stay on plan, as doing too much now will create the perception of failure very quickly.
  • ROI Potential: strategy change invigorates team and sales sees action is happening. Increase in leads and lead quality, decrease in CPL.
  • Timeframe: 6 to 24 months.

Stage 1: Begin Automation

  • Pain Points: lead volume is too much to rank easily; not all leads are ready to speak with Sales; content plan needs more coordination; demand generation requires more structure around the buying process. Marketing needs faster turnaround on landing pages and website control.
  • Solution: CRM+MAP implementation with intense Sales-Marketing Alignment framework.
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: larger firms may want to go with a robust MAP for future work. Smaller firms can consider a 1 year smaller MAP tool to get started and plan to switch once everyone is comfortable with Marketing Tech.
  • ROI Potential: marketing saves time for investment in demand gen and content planning. Data quality costs decrease, sales cycle is faster.
  • Timeframe: 6 to 12 months with MAP implementation.

Stage 2: Lead Quality Management

  • Pain Points: sales is complaining that you send too many leads over the wall, so you need to hold more back, but content and nurturing aren’t quite ready.
  • Solution: additional sales-marketing alignment and workflow adjustments. Time is now to start building drip nurturing if possible or hire more campaign managers.
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: growing firms may need to prepare to switch MAPs to handle the lake of leads and to nurture them in Stage 3. Workflows will need adjustment and new campaigns developed.
  • ROI Potential: marketing saves time for investment in demand gen and content planning. Data quality improves.
  • Timeframe: about 3-6 months in most organizations.

Stage 3: Nurturing and Sales Context

  • Pain Points: Sales is asking for more context of why a lead is MQL; requesting more “sales ready leads”; batch and blast still not working and campaigns require more coordination.
  • Solution: install behavioral data tools in CRM to give Sales visibility into scoring and lead actions; train Sales on using the tools; content shifts to storytelling framework which is then operationalized as “lead nurturing.”
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: sales context tools may already be in the CRM at this point, so careful training and improved timing of alerts may be what you need here. Use the Nurturing Operations framework [link] to take your content into a serialized novel format to keep leads engaged; automate this in your MAP. If you need to upgrade your MAP, do so. I am 100% sure that less than 30% of firms are remotely doing anything like this on a consistent basis.
  • ROI Potential: lead quality improves, sales cycle reduction, time saved for Marketing after initial investment.
  • Timeframe: about 6 months if it is a focus.

Stage 4: Funnel Visibility

  • Pain Points: difficult to answer questions about impact of marketing programs and sales efforts on funnel metrics like conversion percent and days to next stage.
  • Solution: Build and improve the lead funnel and lead lifecycle systems.
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: this requires a serious plan with the CRM and MAP teams working closely to ensure the right data collection and the right workflows are setup to achieve the desired Reporting. Jeff Coveney and I talk more about this process.
  • ROI Potential: you will be able to confidently discuss the impact of programs on moving leads through the funnel. Reduce funnel conversion times to reach revenue faster.
  • Timeframe: 3-12 months depending on the size of firm and database complexity. Some reports may take longer to show data.

Stage 5: Attribution and Allocation Visibility

  • Pain Points: All those ROI questions have built up and the dam is going to explode unless you can show the data: How do we know marketing’s efforts are paying off? How do we know which sources and offers are working for us? Is marketing even contributing to revenue?
  • Solution: Proper data collection across all channels, tied together by the MAP and special reporting technology.
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: Ideally you should have already set First Touch and Last Touch Attribution from Stage 1 or 2. Now you have to ensure Multitouch record keeping is collecting data on every touch and can report on it in relation to the Funnel you setup in Stage 5.
  • ROI Potential: your promotion comes through. Everyone now sees just how much that massive Tradeshow costs and how little it brings in; you now see how Whitepaper Series 1 tanked, but Whitepaper Series 2 resonated with Audience 3 and you re-allocate resources there. Legendary Marketing Ops Manager status; full ROI visibility.
  • Timeframe: depends on how much groundwork occurred previously. Could be 3 to 12 months.

Stage 6: Reliable, Automated Predictability

  • Pain Points: can you help us predict pipeline and revenue based on marketing spend?
  • Solution: add in predictive scoring and modeling tools with Finance and Sales help. (The Prediction Vendors won’t like me putting this last!).
  • Marketing Ops/Tech Considerations: in theory, you may be able to add Predictive Scoring in during Stages 2 and 3. Be sure you are comfortable with the collection of data (behaviors, opportunities, and revenue) to support such a model and that Sales and Marketing are trained properly. I do not believe most firms are ready for this until Stage 5 or 6.
  • ROI Potential: instead of making up lead scoring (and we are all doing this), and using Pipeline waterfall reports, now you can rely on a real data model, which will do a much better job of statistical analysis. This becomes a real Revenue Table discussion that helps you allocate marketing spend for impacts 9-12 months out. If these are accurate, you keep your job!
  • Timeframe: vendors say this is doable within days. I would expect about 3 months to be comfortable with the tools.

This maturity model is a bit linear the way I wrote it out here today. In reality each of the Solutions in each Stage could happen concurrently with enough resources and people. Stages 0 and 1, however, should never be done concurrently for the plan to be truly successful. Marketing strategy transformation and sales alignment could impact your technology choices, so take the time to communicate these plans and work them into your team’s culture.

where marketers really are on the model


The way to use this Model is to focus on Stage 0, then 1. Your plan should then have sprints where Stages 2, 3, 4, and 5 have a focus at different times. For instance, I would not promise full attribution reports during Stage 1, but I could build in parts of the data collection during the implementation, even if I could not use them fully yet.

First time marketing automation implementers should focus on one Stage at a time and not expect the Visionary reports and predictions the vendors sell us. More experienced marketing ops managers and consultants can use the Model to build in components of later Stages earlier in the process, but this requires careful client expectations management.

In the past, I have said that Marketing Automation is a catalyst for a marketing strategy change and a way to force Sales-Marketing Alignment to occur faster. Yes, this is still true, but unless this is managed well alongside the Marketing Tech plan, there is a high likelihood of adding in the wrong workflows and even the wrong martech vendors.

[updated on Aug 26 to correct Stage 2 typo]

Expanding Marketing Automation to New Verticals

Alex PolameroToday I had the privilege to speak with Alex Polamero, Director of Marketing Automation at The Lewis Group of Companies. Alex is a Marketo Certified Expert as well as a demand generation expert. Currently, Alex leverages marketing automation, social media, and digital advertising to generate new sales leads, recycle leads, and acquire top talent for a large real estate developer in the U.S.

Alex brought marketing automation to the real estate industry and is one of leading marketing ops people outside of Technology and Publishing.

JH: How did you get involved with marketing automation?

Alex: I had about 10 years experience in traditional marketing. I took an opportunity to develop enterprise social media for a real estate developer, which turned into a project improving email marketing. Ultimately, I was looking to improve lead generation and sales nurture processes. In researching a software solution that would help me bolster our ROI for both social marketing and email campaigns I came across marketing automation and Marketo.

JH: That’s really interesting, I was led to Marketo because I had to improve email marketing and lead routing, so you took a different route. What else made you think Marketo was the right system?

Alex: One of our needs was to manage dynamic content and segmentation. We also needed better tracking to understand how a lead would engage with us on email, social, pay per click advertising, and on various owned web domains. We wanted to track behaviors to a specific sale.

We also wanted to nurture leads over time, especially once they leased. We saw an opportunity to influence apartment renewals, cross sell other products, and improve our overall brand recognition.

JH: Real Estate is a new industry for marketing automation, so we should explore that. What does the sales funnel look like to you in the MAP?

Alex: First, we drive people to our website or landing pages using hundreds of organic and paid sources. Our goal is to have a prospect call us directly or fill out a form so that the prospect can be segmented based on behavioral and demographic scoring criteria and either added to a nurture process or sent to the appropriate sales team member.

We track prospects part of the way using URL parameters, so that when a lead does fill out a form, we have a sense of the last click attribution. While Google Analytics helps, Marketo can store behavioral data longer, enabling our term to see trends and the impact of campaigns on revenue. We realize that last click attribution can be limited, so we are developing other attribution models to better suit our business needs.

Yes, we do lead scoring: we look at behavioral and demographic criteria to determine when a prospect is warm enough for the Leasing Team to pursue. Once we have their name and email, we begin the automated nurture process. Nurturing includes content on leasing vs. buying, localized offers, and information about communities they are interested in.

JH: Since you track all of this data, did you discover anything that helped you sell better?

Alex: Absolutely! Using Marketo, we were able to identify that over 30% of prospects became qualified leads outside of our standard sales cycle. We found that prospects were doing research longer and making decisions further from the initial point of contact. The data challenged long held assumptions by property managers, and proved extremely useful in redesigning our sales processes. Now we do not give up on leads so quickly, adapting nurture times by segment and product type as well as capitalizing on cross sell opportunities over time.

JH: Leasing sounds more complex than a typical SaaS software sell or business service. How do you manage the details with the other teams?

Alex: Marketo helped me create synergy between departments to drive more sales. I see my role as an internal consultant to every division of our company and can apply my understanding of marketing automation, digital lead generation, social marketing, and traditional marketing to each division. I identified unique challenges facing a variety of business units; then applied the software tools, industry best practices, and our own new strategies to improve lead generation and sales using marketing automation. Marketo has also helped us track the flow of prospects and customers across company products. For example, I can see that people are interested in apartments, retail specials, and often-new homes over the lifetime of the customer. This data has encouraged departmental teams to consider how to better communicate with one another and leverage leads that move between products.

JH: In our conversations, we discussed how Marketing Automation is now making the leap to new verticals. What other functions and verticals do you see gaining from taking on a demand gen approach to marketing and then automating it?

Alex: I see huge opportunity and rapid growth for marketing automation in verticals like education, ecommerce, financial services, and healthcare. I also see functional areas like human resources using MAPs for their talent funnels and retention. I spoke about this at the 2014 Marketo Summit.

JH: Does a rules engine like Marketo require special enhancements for real estate? Or can a marketplace like Launchpoint make the necessary extensions for verticals?

Alex: I see how Marketo and a CRM could be used as the core of any sales funnel workflow. Certainly some verticals can benefit from a platform app, but I’ve been able to do what I need through the basic system and my CRM. The key is to ensure the MAP you choose has an open API and budget for additional resources whether software partners or training to achieve your desired growth targets Another question during any implementation is, “How much time do I have and do I have the team necessary to reach our goals in the right time frame?” If not, you will have to adjust the team, time, or tools.

JH: What is the big gap right now in Real Estate marketing?

Alex: There are always areas for opportunity for any company to grow and improve. For example, we are considering how to better engage prospects that do not sign an apartment lease. We are thinking about how to communicate with apartment residents that move out but continue to live in our general geographic area. So I see the gap as more about what information can we provide to these people to help them make a good decision about their property and living options. Can we build enough trust where they seek us out first for their apartment, retail, new home, office, or industrial needs?

JH: Do you have any Marketo Launchpoint partners you think have been helpful?

Alex: Yes, in particular, consultants have been helpful in adding skills and teaching us best practices we would have struggled to discover on our own. For example, consultants like Grazitti Interactive and Perkuto have helped us with workflow concepts as well as API programming.

JH: What is one thing you wish you knew about MAPs three years ago?

Alex: I wish I knew to allocate more resources for training and third party support, especially for ongoing training of new software updates, consultant support, and integration of new tools. Also, I’ve found that building relationships within the Marketo community has been hugely beneficial for trouble shooting and brainstorming new ideas to grow revenue.

Perhaps three years ago I did not see MAPs as a competitive advantage. Now I do. If you are in business and do not have a MAP, you are already behind a competitor who does. My advice is that MAPs are being adopted by every business and you need to have one. Firms are investing more to add new technology, and marketing teams will be able to leverage MAP systems to improve marketing campaign effectiveness, reporting, and become more efficient with how they spend advertising dollars.

[updated Aug 17, 2015 for grammar]