Try this Content Maturity Model to level up your content marketing

Content is the driver of all marketing. It makes business wheels go round and helps customers find and choose you out of myriads of other brands. It is a cornerstone of a solid marketing strategy and the fuel of business success. In short, Content is Queen (because, honestly, who appointed that ‘King’ anyway).  

We, as marketers, know that. Our clients/CEOs/executive teams/[insert another relevant department here], on the other hand... Well, let’s just say, convincing them can be an all too familiar challenge.*   

*If you’re an executive, non-marketing professional reading this post, I believe you’re a welcome rarity and will particularly benefit from what's coming next. 

So, how do you address that ever-present roadblock? They say that the first step to addressing a problem is understanding its essence and assessing its scope.  

Enter the 256 Content Maturity Model


What is a Content Maturity Model?  

In simple terms, the Content Maturity Framework or Model is a structured and visual way to determine how well your content marketing is set up to drive business success.   

Think of it as your very own marketing sextant (which is, incidentally, way cooler than a compass). You can estimate just how much “off the mark” you are in your efforts.    

The 256 CEO and founder Karen Hesse puts it nicely: 

“Content is the fuel of business success...and it eats strategy for breakfast. Our Content Maturity Model helps clients visually assess how advanced their content strategy is. By using it, they can align and internally communicate their content marketing priorities, set realistic expectations, and establish optimal strategies to drive maximum business impact.”   


What it is NOT 

Let’s get this straight.  

The Content Maturity Model is not (and really shouldn’t be) set in stone or used as a one-size-fits-all blueprint. Each company differs in its journey, priorities, business structure, marketing model, available resources; the list goes on.  

What works for a B2B tech start-up might not work (or matter) for an old-school B2C service company. The framework is there to give you a structured benchmark, but remember to tailor it to your brand and industry. Don’t be afraid to add (or remove) evaluation fields as needed. 

The maturity model is not linear. Meaning, you can be on the second level (spoiler alert: we call it Aspiring) in your publishing behaviour but already on the third one (Established) when it comes to defining your success.  

If you’re a gaming geek like me, think of it as your typical RPG level-up—each time, you get one extra point to assign to one of your skill sets. Eventually, you get better on all fronts, but it takes time and commitment. The same is true for content marketing. 

And finally, this model is not a step-by-step guide. It shows you the ‘what’ but it’s you and your team who need to figure out the ‘how.’ Just like in games, it’s helpful to know where you are on the map, so you can chart your way to your next destination. 


The 256 Content Maturity Model 

As an agency, for over a decade, we’ve been working with all types of companies, from government bodies to local B2C players to highly specialised B2B techies to B2C2B (that’s a lot of acronyms, right?) giants. So, when it comes to content maturity, it’s fair to say we’ve seen it all.   

 Based on that experience and our own internal expertise, we’ve devised a practical, no-nonsense model that we use to help our clients assess their content marketing level.  

When evaluating how advanced your content marketing is, have a look at:  

  • What drives your efforts 
  • How you define success 
  • What type of content you prioritise 
  • How you publish and manage that content 
  • Whether and to what extent it’s personalised to match your audience’s needs 
  • And how streamlined and consistent your content operations are

Based on those factors, we’ve defined four key stages of content marketing maturity: Reactive, Aspiring, Established, and Dynamic.

256 Content Maturity Model chart displaying four levels of content maturity: Reactive, Aspiring, Established, and Dynamic

Let’s have a closer look.


Level 1: Reactive Content Maturity 

As marketers, we’ve all been there. The company doesn’t really recognise the strategic value of content marketing and its direct business impact. At this stage, you have to fight tooth and nail for a decent marketing budget, marketing processes are a bit all over the place, and the focus is on the immediate gains rather than long-term benefits.  

Many start-ups and traditional businesses (especially if they operate and have always operated with the boots-on-the-ground sales strategy) often find themselves on this level.

Level 1: Reactive in the Content Maturity Model featuring company needs and timelines, ad-hoc publishing behavior with no distribution plan, no content output, siloed and product-driven personalization, vanity metrics, email threads and offline asset management, and no governance

Key characteristics: 

  • Siloed, chaotic, and ad-hoc 
  • Inward-focused 
  • Generic 
  • Lacking KPIs and structured measurements 
  • Lacking a clear strategy 
  • Poor content governance

How to recognise it:  

  • Content is not planned strategically; instead, marketing efforts are driven by ad-hoc requests from management, sales, and/or product teams. Random acts of content and reactive content feature strongly. A content calendar is a rare sighting. 
  • Push and ‘self-centred’ content—product blogs, press releases, feature announcements, etc.—dominate the content mix. 
  • No clear, unified message across all communication channels and produced content. 
  • Content efforts are not informed by data, and there is no or minimum analytics in place. 
  • Lack of communication between teams and/or team members and a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities: everyone is “wearing multiple hats.”  Siloed decision making, duplication of content spend and efforts. 
  • No centralised, accessible file repository, making it difficult to collaborate, find relevant documents, and identify the latest versions. 
  • Poor content governance and a lack of established processes. 
  • Most or all processes are executed manually, which requires significant effort and resources. 
  • Lack of personalisation across channels and inconsistent tone of voice. 
  • Marketing budget is non-defined and/or determined by immediate needs.


Level 2: Aspiring Content Maturity 

The Aspiring level of content marketing maturity is common for growing companies, often with expanding marketing teams. At this stage, you’re keeping an eye on the competition and industry trends and focusing on producing SEO-relevant content that can be tracked to lead generation.  

Your team understands the value of brand and content marketing, but it’s a challenge to convey their importance to the rest of the company.

Level 2: Aspiring in the Content Maturity Model showing industry and competition as content drivers, defined topics with inconsistent distribution for publishing behavior, basic content output, transactional personalization, ROI as success definition, online and isolated asset management, and siloed governance

Key characteristics: 

  • Motivated but inconsistent 
  • Agile 
  • Disjointed 
  • ROI-driven 
  • Lacking a long-term documented strategy

How to recognise it: 

  • The main focus is on immediate gains and short-term conversions. 
  • Content priorities are informed by the competition and industry trends; “We don’t want to lag behind.” 
  • Focus on hygiene and transactional content, with occasional hub and opinion pieces. 
  • Lack of in-depth and cross-channel analytics and ways to accurately measure content marketing impact.  
  • While the roles and responsibilities are more clearly defined, there is a lack of cross-functional collaboration. 
  • The teams recognise the importance of consistent messaging but struggle to develop and/or implement it. 
  • There is a basic content calendar or schedule in place, but it is difficult to access and/or maintain. 
  • There is a marketing budget but no allocated content budget.


Level 3: Established Content Maturity 

If your company has reached the Established content maturity stage, you’re good.  

No, seriously.  

At this point, the entire company understands the value of content marketing, there is a clear and documented content strategy and a balanced content calendar in place, and all marketing activities are tracked, data-informed, and aimed at driving engagement and building a community. It’s a good, solid place to be in.  

While more established companies with bigger marketing teams and budgets often reach this stage, it is in no way a guarantee. In fact, all too often, we see bigger companies getting bogged down in hierarchies and internal red tape and struggling to maintain brand consistency.

Level 3: Established in the Content Maturity Model highlighting expertise and opinions as content drivers, marketing plan with basic automation, key personas and channels for content output, structured and balanced personalization, engagement and community success definition, online repository for asset management, and documented senior oversight governance

Key characteristics: 

  • Strategic 
  • Balanced 
  • Structured 
  • Consistent 
  • Data-informed 
  • Collaborative 
  • Rigid 

How to recognise it: 

  • There’s a clear, data-informed, documented content strategy, but it lacks flexibility and struggles to adapt to sudden changes in direction. 
  • Most channels are consistently tracked and analysed, but there is a lack of overarching data insights and clear, business-level visibility, content attribution, and content ROI. 
  • There is a good, balanced content mix, but it lacks Superhero/fame-making pieces.  
  • There’s a common, accessible data repository, but it's not always regularly updated or maintained. 
  • The key processes are automated using dedicated, platform-specific tools (e.g., Mailchimp for email marketing, Meta Business Suite for Facebook scheduling, etc.), but there is an opportunity for cross-platform automation. 
  • There is consistent collaboration across functions and teams. 
  • There is a significant marketing budget with a recognised content contribution.


Level 4: Dynamic Content Maturity 

At the Established stage of the Content Maturity Model, you have your basic content marketing needs and processes covered. You're running a committed marketing team and have secured management buy-in. In short, things are good. But there is a way to move forward.  

At the Dynamic stage, companies shift focus to brand and storytelling. As a marketing team, you still have a solid, diverse content flow, but it’s highly personalised, informed by in-depth data insights, and dictated by personas’ needs.  

What’s more, you know that the content marketing world doesn’t stay still, so your strategy evolves with it. Content becomes the fuel of your business success, and, as a company, you are perceived as experts and thought leaders in your field. It’s the content marketing big league, and you own it.

Level 4: Dynamic in the Content Maturity Model showcasing personas' needs and brand, amplified and persona-driven dynamic workflows, dynamic content at all touchpoints, brand storytelling with immersive experiences, brand affinity and equity, DAM and active maintenance, and consistently optimized governance

Key characteristics: 

  • Innovative and transformative 
  • Persona- and brand-driven 
  • Strategic and proactive 
  • Adaptive 
  • Data-powered 
  • Demonstrating thought leadership

How to recognise it: 

  • While there is a long-term documented strategy in place, it is flexible and dynamic enough to adapt to any significant industry or company changes. 
  • Content strategy and initiatives are informed by data insights and driven by established personas’ needs aligned with content pillars. 
  • Content demonstrates not only topical competence but also thought leadership and expertise.
  • Comprehensive content governance and clearly defined and streamlined processes facilitate and accelerate all content efforts. 
  • MarTech and automation are leveraged across the board, with clear cross-platform workflows. 
  • Content is organised using DAM (Digital Asset Management) platform, which is actively maintained by a designated lead. 
  • The roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, empowering each team member to contribute according to their area of expertise; there is a seamless cross-team collaboration that powers a highly effective and consistent messaging. 
  • Content is recognised as the key business driver and given the primary role and budget.


Assessing your content maturity 

There are a couple of important points to consider when reviewing your content maturity.  

If you can, get more than one perspective. While it’s possible for one person or team to assess the company’s content maturity, it can be a slippery slope leading to assumptions. When evaluating your level, try and involve different teams, the C-Suite, and, ideally, your customers. This way, you will get a range of opinions, so you can spot trends and validate your own perceptions.  

Remember, content marketing maturity and success are relative and should be viewed in context. Carefully analyse your competitors’ content strategy and outputs, review industry trends, and dive deep into your own analytics. This way, you’ll be able to refine your priorities, set accurate benchmarks, and establish a feasible success definition.       

And finally, consider involving a third party. I know, I know. I can be biased here. But hear me out. 

First of all, a third party can help run a dedicated workshop, bringing together essential stakeholders, without constraints of internal hierarchies.  

Second, expert consultants are much more likely to establish an open dialogue with your customers—it's much easier to share a genuine opinion with a “stranger.”  

But most importantly, they offer an unbiased, external assessment based on data and research. When it comes to your own brand, it can be difficult to remove emotional connections and remain objective; as they say, there’s too much history.          

/Cue a subtle promotion here/  256 can, indeed, help you evaluate your company’s content maturity level. And once determined, we can help you create a roadmap and lend a hand in getting you to the next level. Just saying.  

Drop us a note, or catch me on LinkedIn. Let’s make the magic happen.

Nadia Reckmann

Nadia Reckmann

Prior to becoming a Senior Content Marketing Manager at 256, Nadia honed her storytelling skills by shaping brand voices across three continents – from US B2B giants to hungry Berlin startups. Her love for writing is only rivalled by her passion for content strategy. When she is not crafting another witty video script or developing data-driven personas, she’s likely swinging the night away dancing (and teaching) lindy hop.
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