Improve Marketing Maturity Using These Six Steps

martin_mighty citizen gps September 19, 2023 By: Brianna Martin

A recent benchmarking report reveals associations are doing just “OK” with their marketing efforts. Prioritizing user research, content strategy, and goal setting are effective strategies to help associations boost their marketing maturity.

This spring, Mighty Citizen released the “2023 Marketing Benchmarks for Mission-Driven Organizations,” based on responses from The Mighty GPS, a self-assessment for measuring marketing maturity for mission-driven organizations and includes an overall score and a maturity score across six key marketing categories.

The marketing maturity stages and scores measured were the Crawling stage (score 0-39), Walking stage (score 40-59), Running stage (score 60-80), and Soaring stage (score 81-100). Associations averaged 58.1, placing them in the “Walking” stage for marketing maturity—an OK performance.

While this is a good sign, it’s important not to get stuck in this stage. Successful marketing is about building momentum. “Fine” might work for now, but fine isn’t permanent or inspiring.

Boosting strategic marketing is key to accomplishing your 2024 goals. If you’re unsure where to begin, here are six recommendations drawn from the benchmark report’s top opportunities for associations.

1. Prioritize User Research

Associations scored lowest in the Research & Analytics category, earning a 40.8 (i.e., a slow Walking stage). Though focusing on research can be hard as day-to-day tasks take over, getting it right makes marketing and design decisions clearer and far more successful. We found that organizations conducting audience surveys or interviews to inform marketing decisions saw an average 14-point higher marketing maturity score.

User research must be prioritized before you strategize any marketing. If resources are constrained, dig into existing data from your AMS, LMS, online community, and past surveys.

2. Set Measurable Goals

We found that associations also struggled with the Marketing & SEO category, averaging 55.2. This category involves goal setting, keyword research, and campaign development. Though 28 percent of mission-driven folks said they never set measurable goals, those that did boosted their maturity scores by an average of 30 points.

Remember that clear goals provide unbiased data to track effectiveness and demonstrate ROI to leadership while also revealing unproductive paths and enabling course corrections.

3. Optimize MarTech

Associations overall scored in the Walking stage for Technology at 58.4. Groups looking to increase their marketing maturity in Technology should examine how to optimize and integrate the technology that is best suited for them: Mission-driven organizations that use the full potential of their marketing automation platform (MAP) see a 19-point difference in their overall marketing effectiveness.

To succeed in this area, make one team member the point person for finding training, certifications, and new ways to use your MAP effectively. In addition, audit your tech stack annually and identify ways to maximize integrations. Ensure your various platforms are humming along nicely with one another, and take advantage of every opportunity to provide a seamless, customized experience for members.

4. Refine Your Content Strategy

With a score of 60.2, associations are in the Running stage for UX Design & Content. Though positive, associations could improve regarding overall content strategy and structure. Surprisingly, 37 percent of respondents report they never hire experienced writers.

Having experienced writers pays off in the long run. Associations can enhance marketing maturity by an average of 19 points with a solid content strategy, which may include a style guide, editorial calendar, and content governance plan.

5. Follow Documented Messaging and Communications Plans

The Branding & Strategy category was the second-strongest marketing category for associations, scoring 61.9 (Running stage). Associations recognize the power that following brand guidelines can have on their reputation and recognition. Opportunities lie in using a written messaging platform and having a documented communications plan.

In fact, organizations that leverage messaging platforms and written communications plans boosted their maturity scores by 19 points on average. Messaging platforms organize your brand’s messaging ecosystem, offering staff a clear guide for brand positioning. Documented communications plans with clear goals, activities, tasks, and metrics ensure accountability and demonstrate marketing’s impact on strategic goals throughout the year.

6. Ensure Leadership Understands the Power of Marketing

Team Dynamics shines across mission-driven groups, with associations at a solid 72—Running stage. Your teams have diverse skills, trusted partners, and know how to execute large projects.

Despite leaders recognizing marketing’s importance, 32 percent of respondents face budget constraints. Results showed us that higher maturity scores correlate with leadership valuing marketing (23 points) and adequate budgets (21 points).

If budget is a hurdle, review your communications plan and reprioritize critical initiatives. If you need to convince leadership of what well-funded marketing teams can do, follow these steps:

  • Understand what leaders define as value.
  • Have a written plan.
  • Track metrics for every marketing campaign.
  • Communicate the plan and results in a way that resonates with them (usually in bite-size chunks).

Although associations are doing fine with their marketing effectiveness, there are many areas for improvement. Just being "fine" won't cut it. If you want to move the needle (and we hope you do), we recommend you assess where your marketing stands today and what you need to do to gain some serious marketing traction and set yourself up for success in 2024 and beyond.

Brianna Martin

Brianna Martin is director of brand marketing at Mighty Citizen.