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The Content Marketing Maturity Model

8 min read

One of the biggest challenges we see content teams facing is proving the business value of the content they produce. They see successes here and there but have a hard time creating consistently good content and a more challenging time connecting their efforts to value generated for the business. 

Creating predictably great content that drives results starts with accurately determining the maturity of your content organization. By content organization, we mean anyone who touches some part of the content development process – strategists, SEOs, writers, SMEs, executive sponsors, and so on. 

What does maturity mean, and how can you measure it? 

That’s what we’ve set out to answer with our Content Maturity Model. Whether you’re part of a major enterprise, a publisher, or a startup, understanding the maturity of your end-to-end content process is vital to finding areas for growth and creating a content engine that generates tangible business value.

What is a Content Marketing Maturity Model?

A content marketing maturity model measures the extent to which content decisions are driven by established and documented processes, standards, and metrics within a marketing organization. 

Applying a maturity model to content operations started with Gartner’s adaptation of the Capability Maturity Model created by the Software Engineering Institute in 1986 to develop and refine organizations’ development processes. Using this model as a starting point, Gartner applied it to content operations.

Let’s take a quick look at that model, as it makes it clear from where Gartner’s iteration came. The Capability Maturity Model has five levels:

  1. Initial. Processes are ad hoc and disorganized within and between teams. Success is incidental and depends on individuals. Procedures are not repeatable.
  2. Repeatable. The organization has instituted basic project management, and processes are established and documented. 
  3. Defined. The organization has developed its own standardized, documented software development process. It’s integrated across stakeholder teams.
  4. Managed. The organization is monitoring and controlling its process through data collection and analysis.
  5. Optimized. The organization is using data and feedback to improve current processes and develop new, innovative ones. 

Over the last few years, Gartner has applied the thinking behind this model to content operations.

Image Source: Gartner Research

Gartner’s model follows the same flow as the CMM above. As you go higher up the maturity scale, your decisions around content are more intentional and customer-focused. The investment in content from leadership is more consistent. The use of metrics to make improvements comes naturally and is considered a “meets-minimum” requirement for content decisions. 

You go from thinking about content as something you have to do because everyone else is doing it to seeing it as a vital part of your brand and customer engagement strategy. The organization beyond the marketing team is supportive content and understands its importance.

From there, consistency and data-driven decision-making are what allow you to replicate your approach as you grow to a multichannel content creator. You already have the processes and project management side down pat. Now you can expand to everywhere your customers are. 

What Does Content Maturity Mean?

Content maturity is more about the process and your company’s attitude toward content as a strategic asset than it is about pure content quality.

You can answer the question, “How mature are my content processes?” by asking it differently. Ask yourself (and your whole marketing team for that matter), “To what extent are our content decisions at every stage of content development based on established processes and data?”

If you answered, “Not much,” or “Not at all,” you are likely in the beginning stages of building content operations maturity. 

Don’t mistake company size or budgets for maturity. Building a big team to create content and allocating funding to them is a great start, but it’s just that: a start. 

Implementing processes and standards for quality, inter- and intra-team cohesion, and data-driven decision-making across the content development cycle is where the mature content organizations separate themselves. 

We’ve seen small, resource-light teams and even single-person “teams” with a high level of content maturity, and massive enterprises that struggle to reach even an acceptable level of sophistication in their content operations. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get a rough idea of the overall maturity of your content marketing program:

  • Do we make intentional choices about which content to produce?
  • Do we consider business goals when making content decisions?
  • Do we consider content a brand asset at the highest levels of the business?
  • Do we think in terms of customer journeys and how content enhances the customer experience?
  • Do we have documented processes for content planning, content creation, content optimization, and content distribution?
  • Do we use analytics to get insight into what’s working and what isn’t? Do we use that information to improve our content process and broader marketing efforts?

What Most Content Maturity Models Miss

The Gartner maturity model and the others that exist are great ways to start thinking about your content maturity. But we feel like they’re not quite granular enough to help marketing leaders understand what they specifically need to hone to improve their content maturity. 

Those maturity models can tell you how you’re doing at a high level, but they don’t give you tactical next steps in determining what processes need refining and developing. 

For example, if you’re at Level 3 – Operational in the Gartner model, how do you know exactly what part of your content process you should work on to reach level 4?

Gartner and other content maturity models give you the forest. But content success comes just as much from the trees. It’s one thing to say, “we need to be more data-driven,” and another to say, “we need more reliable metrics for predicting the success of a topic we want to write about.”

That’s why we created our maturity model assessment. We wanted to give content leaders a way to gauge their maturity across the content development cycle. 

MarketMuse content lifecycle showing the eight steps of research, planning, briefing, writing, editing, publishing, optimization, and reporting.
The MarketMuse Content Lifecycle

The MarketMuse Content Marketing Maturity Model Assessment

The MarketMuse Content Marketing Maturity Model Assessment helps you assess your content development cycle and identify your strengths and weaknesses. 

One thing that will be clear from taking this assessment is that content maturity isn’t all-or-nothing. You might have a high level of maturity in your research and planning, but a low level of maturity in ensuring content aligns with your broader brand and content strategy

Use the results of your assessment as a guide to focus your efforts as you work to improve your content operations. If your content isn’t driving the business value you expect, you are likely relying on intuition and ad hoc actions instead of data. We’ll show you exactly where that is.

Mature content organizations know how to improve the output of each phase in this cycle and the speed at which they can get through the cycle. Quality is essential, of course, but being prolific is a virtue in itself. The buyer’s journey is not linear, so having a complete customer journey for your key business topics and products is vital to capturing your audience’s attention, no matter where they are in their decision process. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you see that many of your content processes needs shoring up. But improving even just one area can have a ripple effect across the rest of the cycle. 

Incremental improvements can have a ripple effect across the entire content cycle.

For example, improving your content research means easier planning and prioritization. Better data and prioritization means your content briefs are more robust, which leads to better writing.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Camden is the Content Marketing Manager at MarketMuse. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.