Email Marketing Maturity Model

It’s very difficult to write thoughtful posts to appeal to all types of marketers: My ideas are either too complex to be applicable outside of very large enterprise organizations, or too general to be anything but tactical.  I’ve lived on the brand side, direct marketing side, the digital agency side, and been a channel service and technology provider. That perspective brings an interesting way of looking at things.  

The concept of a business maturity model is helpful in a few ways. For one, it allows you to assess your present business circumstances in very particular ways, at the channel level.  Second, it allows you to balance this view in a normative manner across an industry or like business circumstances in which you compete.  It also allows you to expose potential gaps in what you think you are doing today, versus what you’d like to do in the future. Approaching this typically means applying a strategic framework.

For the sake of this article, let’s keep this to purely email marketing.  The five categories of maturity are:



-        Email marketing mission:  How is email used in the business lifecycle: as a direct revenue driver, an engagement tool, a complement to loyalty programs?  Is there any concept of lifetime value of an email customer? Is there a method of mapping email programs back to organizational objectives both qualitatively and financially?  How is this applied through the entire organization (one marketing department vs. multiple business units that operate autonomously)?

-        Strategy and service model:  Coordination of email with other digital channels, and other business units within the same company.  The relative service model in place is applied to email  strategy, thought leadership and production email (self service, hybrid service model or fully managed service).

-        Interaction strategy:  How is email used to blend engagement and response?   Degrees of use for social, mobile, and company web site.  Uses of email in “front of the funnel” activities (lead generation, lead management, lead nurturing vs. retail driven email programs).  Degrees of use for triggered email, automated email and blend of marketing/transactional email.  Sophistication of online personalization and recommendations.

-        Measurement and optimization:  How email is measured as a single channel, versus applied to broader marketing optimization. How measurement is used to inform practices, testing, automation, triggers and technologies.  Degrees of sophistication of web analytics and email. 

-        Technology:   How many email service provider (ESPs) or platforms are used to deliver email?  Degree of sophistication of inbox placement, deliverability provisions. Use of personalization engine, targeting, data warehouses and workflow management.  The database setup and relational setup for cross channel programs (mobile, social, email).  Degree of investment in technology to support this operation/

These maturity models have five levels (0-5) depending on the degree of sophistication of your business. 

The million-dollar question is, if you tried to use this approach, would the awareness help you change your business? Change your approach? Help you in making business decisions for change?

Remember:    The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” -- Lao Tzu

2 comments about "Email Marketing Maturity Model".
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  1. Peter Duffy from Blue Circle, October 2, 2012 at 9:03 a.m.

    Hi David,

    Thank you very much for this excellent article :) Your approach provides a useful independent framework for brands to self-evaluate their marketing maturity. Of course many brands treat email as a purely tactical channel, so this strategic approach is very timely.

    My only observation is the parameter "technology" above could perhaps be renamed "data and technology" because (of course) all good direct marketing is underpinned by data. The ability to access and use that data is critical.

    My two cents :-)

    Again, thank you very much for this helpful article.



  2. David Baker from Cordial, October 2, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.

    @ Peter.. thanks for your comments. coming from Acxiom, Data Management is obviously a critical part of everything we do. Being limited to 700 words , it's hard to express depth to this framework, but more will be published on this topic soon. Our Maturity model extends far past this channel view of a maturity model. We take a very methodical view of data, data quality, data hygiene, data sourcing, data supply chain and data management practices in tandem with the channel views (email, social, web, mobile, online advertising, search etc..)

    Glad to know other email technology vendors have an eye on this as well, outside of how to get email addresses inside and out of their platforms.

    Thanks again, and more to come on this topic!!

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