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June 21, 2018

Marketing Maturity: Why Are (or Aren’t) Your Creative Ideas Driving Growth for Your Association?

We have all been part of the “big idea.” You attend a conference and walk away with something new to implement right away, or you and your peers have a revelation at your team retreat after a brainstorming session and the proverbial lightbulb turns on. You know exactly how to take your marketing to the next level and can’t wait to get started.

But eventually reality sets back in, time slips away, and you lack the resources to execute all the “big ideas.” Fast forward to weeks or months later, and we have all found ourselves in the same position – you’re not seeing the results you expected or progress has come to a halt somewhere along the way.

Last year, I wrote about the importance of adapting to new marketing realities in the digital age and the four team functions necessary to help market your association in this new era. Each function requires a dedicated team or team member to build and run it. When each team’s work aligns, they create the truly cohesive, engaging experience that members seek.

Functional Roles in Association Marketing

How does the maturity of your association’s marketing operation impact your results?

Many associations rush to address one or more of these areas to ensure they are meeting the mark. A big misunderstanding, however, is the idea that once each function is operating, results will follow.

But to enhance your marketing, you must first understand where your association stands in the everchanging landscape.

Most associations want to reach higher levels of success but struggle to assess their marketing maturity. Rather than implement the incremental, sometimes time-consuming steps required to progress, many focus on one component, such as creative messaging. They are so eager to keep their stride with audiences and competitors that they often skip steps and overlook their current marketing capabilities—and the tools and technology necessary to achieve their goals—only to realize they aren’t advancing their organization the way they aspire to.

To help with these gaps, we created a Marketing Maturity Model to identify where your association currently stands and the steps to take to grow your marketing sophistication. These levels are: developing, emerging, strategic and leading. Define where your association stands – and how far you need to go – by taking a closer look at the characteristics of each level of maturity.

Developing Marketing Maturity

At this stage, the main function of your marketing is tactical and likely includes creating emails on a week-by-week basis in hopes of reaching new members. You record basic metrics and have creative ideas, but there is little cohesion or long-term strategy. This stage is an important step toward long-term growth, but it shouldn’t last forever.


Emerging Marketing Maturity

An association that is in the emerging stage has a keen awareness of what kind of marketing has been successful for them in the past because their auditing function is working in tandem with the communications function to establish a stronger framework to enhance their full marketing operation. The process for implementing tactics is becoming more refined and optimized and a path is being paved to more strategic, actionable items.

Strategic Marketing Maturity

The strategic level of maturity means your association is known for its values and those values are amplified through your marketing. This stage takes everything you have learned in the developing and emerging stages and transforms them into sound strategies designed to increase reach, efficiency and quality. You have the power to create a timeline for growth with prioritized strategic initiatives that ensure your department is constantly maturing.

Leading Marketing Maturity

The result of taking the time to work through each level of maturity is that at the highest level of maturity, you will be a leading organization that is able to constantly evolve with, or even stay ahead of, the marketing landscape. The leading stage is driven by data that measures results that can be directly traced back to the organization’s strategic plan.  You have the tools, capacity and processes in place across each marketing function to promote consistent growth.

What’s your next step toward growth?

At one point or another, most associations find themselves stuck in one of the lower levels. When you look at each maturity stage, where does your association’s marketing currently land? Is it different for each function? Start there. Define where you are and determine just how far you need to go to reach the highest level of maturity in the industry.

The evolution of marketing in the digital age has given us a wide array of tools for modern marketing, but the strength of an organization must go beyond that. Nurturing your marketing department takes time, collaboration and resources. But once you acknowledge where you need to focus your attention internally, you set your association up for long-term success and the ability to quickly adapt to modern marketing.

Complete your own Maturity Model assessment and reach out to McKinley Advisors to start strengthening your marketing department today.


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