How good is your company at marketing online? Or, more broadly, at marketing through digital or interactive channels?
As a Web Analyst, you track, analyze, and report on a host of metrics that help answer the questions of how well your company did online, and how well it may do in the future.
But how GOOD is your firm at marketing online? Does your company do all the things it should be doing to market and sell online?
What marketers—and web analysts, in particular—need is a framework to assess their interactive marketing capabilities, and for creating a roadmap of investments they need to make in order to improve their interactive marketing ability.
Models that do this—often referred to as “maturity models”—are found in other disciplines and industries. For example, IT application developers have the Capability Maturity Model® (CMM). The CMM is the “application of process improvement in the development of products and services covering the entire product lifecycle from conceptualization through maintenance and disposal.” The CMM comprises collections of best practices to help firms improve their processes, especially for information technology projects, but not limited to them.
Generally, commonalities for each stage exist across maturity models. The first stages typically represent recognition of the current status and approach. Generally, to be considered in stage one, basic performance of the activity is required. The second stages involve the conscious application of a consistent approach, often applied consistently, and with coordination, across the enterprise. At the third stages, there is quantitative and applied measurement.
The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model
Marketers need an interactive marketing maturity model. Aite Group, a Boston, MA-based research and advisory firm has developed a model that encompasses three stages across three processes. The processes include:
- Demand generation: Activities in this process are designed to generate demand for a firm’s products and services among prospects and existing customers, and often include brand awareness and brand affinity approaches. Search engine marketing, banner ads, and Facebook pages are examples of demand-generation activities.
- Demand conversion: Activities in this process attempt to convert prospects and customers into completed sales. Landing pages, comparison charts, and product configurators are examples of demand-conversion tools.
- Sale creation: Activities in this process are designed to process a sales transaction or effectively open an account, and typically include identity verification, and up-sell and cross-sell offers.
For each process, firms fall into one of three stages of maturity:
- Performed: In this stage, activities related to the process are performed, but with limited to no strategic oversight, inaccurate measurement techniques, and informally designed business practices.
- Integrated: In this stage, activities related to the process are integrated across product lines, channels, and organizational lines of business.
- Optimized: In this stage, activities related to the process are guided by formal, strategic decision-making, sophisticated testing and measurement techniques, and well-defined organizational roles and responsibilities.
A firm’s maturity stage is specific to each process and is determined by its:
- Strategic direction. Interactive marketing maturity is determined, in part, by the extent to which a firm has developed a clearly defined strategy for the online and mobile channels. Effective strategic direction helps establish goals and objectives that: 1) establish priorities; 2) resolve tradeoffs between investment opportunities; and 3) evaluate the effectiveness of investments.
- Business practices. Sound business practices ensure that interactive marketing processes are implemented efficiently (i.e., at appropriate cost and time) and effectively (i.e., appropriate output for the level of input).
- Technologies deployed. Interactive marketing maturity is influenced by the extent to which a firm uses technology to support online marketing processes.
- Organizational roles and responsibilities defined. Regardless of whether online marketing is a centralized or decentralized function at a firm, clearly defined roles and responsibilities for managing and executing interactive marketing processes contribute to a firm’s maturity level.
- Measurement techniques deployed. Highly mature interactive marketers track a range of input, output, and impact metrics across the marketing processes.
- Data management capabilities. The extent to which a firm tracks and uses data captured throughout the online marketing processes influences its position along the maturity stages.
Financial Institutions’ Interactive Marketing Maturity
Aite Group recently evaluated the interactive marketing maturity of 25 financial institutions (FIs) to assess their interactive marketing capabilities, and to identify areas of improvement. Based on this assessment, the research firm found that:
- Few FIs have a strong competency in interactive marketing. Just two of the FIs evaluated in the study reached the Optimized stage across the three processes (Figure 1). This isn’t surprising: As a discipline, interactive marketing is barely 15 years old. With the level of management commitment and resources required to build an interactive marketing competency, many FIs are just beginning the journey.
- Marketing capabilities are unevenly distributed. Interactive marketing maturity scores were propped up by relatively strong scores for SEO and online advertising activities (Figure 2). But email marketing and CRM capabilities are generally under-developed in the FIs evaluated. This prevents FIs from effectively marketing to existing customers through online and mobile channels.
- Measurement techniques aren’t widely implemented. Many FIs don’t deploy testing and measurement techniques to isolate the impact of interactive channels on marketing results, nor do they evaluate the return on investment of their online and mobile investments to optimize spending. As marketing investment levels continue to shift from offline to online channels, this lack of measurement will hinder FIs’ ability to assess the effectiveness of their marketing investments.
What It Means For Web Analysts
Web Analysts hold a unique spot in their marketing organizations. Few roles in marketing have the broad purview of the online marketing spectrum that web analysts have. But Web Analysts’ efforts fall short of helping their companies improve their interactive marketing results if their focus is narrowly fixed on measuring site activity and not their firm’s online policies, procedures, and capabilities.
Adopting and measuring an Interactive Marketing Maturity model can give Web Analysts the ability to influence their firm’s marketing investments and provide a framework for having a strategic discussion of the online capabilities and direction of their companies.
It’s also a way for Web Analysts to demonstrate their own contribution to interactive marketing success. The ability to reach to top level of the maturity model—the Optimized stage—is dependent upon a company being able to measure their activities and results, and use those measurements to improve upon their capabilities.
Although Aite Group’s study was limited to a small sample of financial institutions, the firm did find that the more successful FIs—in terms of operating performance, return on assets, and other financial measures—were the ones at the higher end of the maturity stages.