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  • Writer's pictureGeoff Linton

How to Define the Stages of the MarTech Maturity Curve

Many modern marketers struggle to determine their future strategy and the roadmap required to support it. From a practitioner’s perspective, it is difficult to assess your MarTech maturity when the technology ecosystem plus your stack is much more complex than 5 years ago. This article outlines a model and maturity curve to help you clarify your MarTech capabilities.

Hard to Define and Constantly Changing

Marketing is a dynamic and constantly evolving industry because markets, business and customers are constantly changing. The continual evolution in data and technology over the last 20 years has transformed the day-to-day operations of marketing and expanded the reach of what is possible. Today’s marketers operate 24/7 in multiple channels.

MarTech is rapidly expanding and the rate of tech change is faster than marketers can keep up (Scott Brinker calls this Martec’s Law). MarTech today encapsulates the technology ecosystems but also all the processes. The CMA MarTech Council believes “Marketing Technology (MarTech) increasingly enables companies to run effective marketing operations at scale. MarTech is a powerful business and brand-building tool… and organizations that leverage the power of MarTech grow faster and improve their revenue. Whether it takes the form of engaging content, mobile, websites, apps, tech-builds, digital messaging, or organization-wide technology stacks”.

A Look at the Modern Marketing Process

Over the last few years, Tekside fine-tuned a master marketing model that outlines 15 capability “pillars”. The inside core involves aligning 8 planning principles, starting with strategy. Then marketers execute and get the job done by leveraging the 7 key marketing functions, starting with customer intelligence and decisioning. As you can see below, the 7 functions are interconnected and allow for seamless autonomous execution.

Figure 1: Tekside’s modern marketing model

Two Key Dimensions for Defining MarTech Maturity

Pinpointing your maturity and capabilities is important because “it’s hard to go somewhere unless you know where you are”! Lots of information has been published on MarTech tactics but there are limited frameworks outlining how a holistic marketing system works end-to-end.

From our experience working with a cross-section of data-driven marketing teams in the financial, retail, telecom and B2B sectors, we observed that many marketing teams are primarily focused on the tech with less discipline on the operational aspects of execution. In our view, MarTech starts with defining operational functionality required and then depends on the “completeness of the technology solution”. Technology is enabler, and when configured properly it allows companies to activate a greater breadth of marketing programs and initiatives.

Below is an axis graph that illustrates the continuum of increasing MarTech sophistication, from basic to advanced. The x-axis represents marketing operations, which uses a suggested maturity scale used in business (according to Wikipedia). The y-axis assesses the completeness and sophistication of the technology stack.

Figure 2: Two Dimensions of MarTech maturity

Defining the Maturity Evolution

The maturity framework starts in the bottom left corner and the sophistication rises as companies enhance their capabilities. Most business maturity models outline 5 evolving phases. The average level of maturity in an industry often depends on how long companies in a sector have been tackling this area.

MarTech is relatively young and is a dynamic industry being driven by innovation. After examining marketers across North America, we categorized them into the five maturity and capability buckets below. The stages range from Ad-Hoc (Stage 1) to Leading (Stage 5). Most marketers are currently in stage 2 or 3.

Figure 3: The Stages of MarTech Maturity

Stay tuned for a future article where we further define the stages and list what typically happens at each level. There are certain capabilities and skills to move up the maturity curve. Can you pinpoint where on the continuum you currently are?

Bio: Geoff Linton is digital marketing executive and Co-Chair of the CMA MarTech Council. Through his work with his agencies and teaching as a Marketing Professor, he created a number of practical marketing frameworks. In 2022 he launched a MarTech Scorecard and Assessment Survey which benchmarks companies.

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