Marketing Best Practices

What Does Content Marketing Maturity Look Like?

By Ashley Taylor Anderson May 18, 2016

As content marketers, we often hear about the industry as a whole “maturing” over time. The one-size-fits-all, sales-focused content of old no longer flies, and our approach has evolved on both the creative and technical side.

But within individual content marketing programs, there’s also a spectrum of maturity. As you build your market knowledge, content expertise, and team players, you’re able to take your marketing program from basic to epic.

There are a few key factors involved in the content marketing maturity equation:

  • Strategy: What guides your program and how you think about your content goals in the context of your larger organizational goals.
  • Execution: The quality, range, and consistency of your content program.
  • Channels & Distribution: Where you share your content and how you get the right pieces in front of the right people at the right time.
  • Lead Gen & Nurture: How you generate leads and nurture them down the funnel to sales readiness.

Defining what the content marketing maturity spectrum looks like is not an exact science by any means, but there are a few key stages that every program goes through on the journey to mastery. Here’s a rundown of how we view the content marketing maturity spectrum here at Ceros.

Stage 1: Novice

Content Marketing Maturity: Novice

Strategy

  • No editorial mission
  • No content marketing strategy
  • No marketing personas
  • No editorial calendar

Execution

  • No search optimization
  • Poor quality
  • No visuals
  • Sales-focused content
  • Sporadic publishing
  • Assets created without a funnel stage in mind

Channels & Distribution

  • Company blog
  • 1-2 gated assets
  • 1-2 social accounts
  • Focus on owned distribution

Lead Gen & Nurture

  • No subscriber tactics (or very spammy ones)
  • No nurturing-top of funnel leads go directly to sales
  • No CRM or MAP in place

Stage 2: Apprentice

Content Marketing Maturity: Apprentice

Strategy

  • No editorial mission
  • No content marketing strategy
  • No marketing personas
  • Simple editorial calendar

Execution

  • Some search optimization
  • Decent quality
  • Stock images or low-quality graphics
  • Content less focused on sales messaging
  • Consistent (if infrequent) publishing cadence
  • Assets created for a couple parts of the funnel

Channels & Distribution

  • Company blog
  • Several gated assets
  • Multiple social media accounts
  • Owned + some paid distribution

Lead Gen & Nurture

  • Aggressive subscriber tactics
  • Single lead nurture track
  • Low visibility between systems (CRM/MAP/CMS)

Stage 3: Journeyman

Content Marketing Maturity: Journeyman

Strategy

  • Guiding editorial mission
  • An undocumented content marketing strategy
  • 1-2 marketing personas
  • Editorial calendar

Execution

  • Some search optimization
  • Decent quality
  • Stock images or low-quality graphics
  • Content less focused on sales messaging
  • Consistent publishing cadence
  • Assets created for a couple parts of the funnel

Channels & Distribution

  • Company blog
  • Resource library of static assets
  • Multiple social media accounts
  • Consistent owned and paid distribution

Lead Gen & Nurture

  • Aggressive subscriber tactics
  • Single lead nurture track
  • Some transparency between systems (CRM, MAP, CMS)

Stage 4: Expert

Content Marketing Maturity: Expert

Strategy

  • Guiding editorial mission
  • Full set of marketing personas
  • Documented content marketing strategy
  • Strategic editorial calendar

Execution

  • Solid search optimization program
  • High quality
  • Some original graphics and high-quality stock
  • Content focused on providing value
  • Consistent, frequent publishing cadence
  • Some assets created for all funnel stages

Channels & Distribution

  • Company blog
  • Resource library of static assets
  • Video library
  • Multiple social media accounts
  • Consistent owned and paid distribution

Lead Gen & Nurture

  • Less aggressive subscriber tactics
  • Multiple lead nurture tracks by persona or industry
  • Tightly integrated CRM, MAP, and CMS data

Stage 5: Master

Content Marketing Maturity: Master

Strategy

  • Guiding editorial mission
  • Full set of marketing personas
  • Documented content marketing strategy
  • Strategic editorial calendar

Execution

  • Personalized content serving
  • Persona-based content creation
  • Robust search optimization program
  • High quality, story-driven content
  • Consistent publishing cadence
  • Multichannel thematic campaigns
  • Content created for all stages of the marketing and sales funnel

Channels & Distribution

  • Blog
  • Resource library with various content types
  • Interactive content (quizzes, microsites, games, eBooks)
  • Visual content (infographics, videos, photos, live-streaming)
  • Audio content (podcasts)
  • Fully integrated social media program
  • Distribution via paid, owned, and earned channels
  • Third-party guest authoring
  • Third-party syndication

Lead Gen & Nurture

  • Sophisticated lead gen tactics
  • Tightly integrated CRM, MAP, and CMS data
  • Progressive profiling
  • Multiple lead nurture tracks based on persona, industry, behavior, and funnel stage

The Bottom Line

Depending on your industry, team, department, and goals, your content marketing program’s maturity level will differ. Identifying where you are on the spectrum can help you pinpoint quick wins to focus on short-term and which longer-term goals you should be working towards to improve your team’s performance.

Before you go: Where would you place your content program on the spectrum? Tell us in the comments!

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