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64% of marketers say they can’t do the marketing they want to do.

As marketers, we all know that there are many different ways to reach our customers, but that also means the marketing landscape is extremely fragmented. Your customers can be anywhere, at any time, engaged in many different media, at various different stages of the buying process—from research and shortlisting products and services, to rationalizing their purchase or supplier decisions.

Putting strategy aside, there are many different marketing tactics you can use to get your message in front of your customers and prospects: TV, radio and outdoor advertising, exhibitions, network and channel marketing, public relations, telemarketing, direct mail, email, video, content, social media, digital, mobile, and of course your own website.  And each of these break down into multiple, smaller tactics and steps, dramatically complicating the overall picture.

At the heart of all these approaches (and before any creative work is undertaken) it’s wise to conduct your research—not just to identify your most likely customers—but to get a real sense of what your prospects are looking for.

From a messaging perspective; what are the market research and consumer insights telling you? What are your competitors saying? And how can you position yourself as the solution?

This information changes over time—sometimes in a matter of weeks or even days, but it’s never static and no brand should be operating from information more than 6-12 months old. Without understanding the current needs of your prospects, your efforts will be based on legacy thinking, gut feel and guesswork—and that’s no way to spend a limited budget.

Marketing Attribution. It’s a real thing.

To determine the effectiveness and ROI of the tactic, track the results on the back end. These findings will confirm whether this approach is worth repeating—as well as how the tactic compares against others. Marketing Attribution done right should be able to tell you what portion of your revenue and pipeline you can attribute to your marketing campaigns and how different campaign elements contribute to growing sales.

There’s a lot to marketing effectively, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that marketers struggle with different tactics—especially as these channels constantly evolve and change. What did surprise us, were the type of challenges—and the negative impact—these roadblocks have on potential sales and revenue.

64%. Really?

We first saw this statistic in a webinar, but instead of accepting at face value that 2 out of 3 marketers struggle to get their work done and meet their business goals, we wanted to understand what was behind it and why?

Who contributed to this research? A little context.

Toward the end of 2017, we conducted our own research and asked 50 Senior Executives and Marketers from a variety of sectors including: Agriculture, Construction, Finance/Insurance, Healthcare, Industrial Automation, Legal, Manufacturing, Professional Services, Technology, IT, Telecom and others what challenges they struggled with. While the results are not definitive, they do potentially point to some common and widespread industry challenges.

16% were CEOs, Presidents and SVPs.
CMOs, VPs of Marketing, Marketing Directors, Marketing Managers and Field Marketers accounted for 80% of the research participants.

Product Marketers made up the remaining 4%.

Collectively, they represent all sizes of organizations from regional to national and international.

The top 5.

While some challenges were expected, others amazed us—especially when (in most cases) marketing is considered the driver of brand awareness, sales leads, and future revenue.

Our research identified the following as the most frequent marketing challenges. Check out the infographic for more on these issues and learn what marketers really want help with.

#1 Budget

What caught our attention were the reasons why 30% of the participants said funding was their top challenge. In many cases, marketing is seen as a cost rather than an investment in the company’s future. This makes marketing an easy place to cut budget when the organization is missing it’s quarterly sales numbers. However, a reduction in customer-facing activity often negatively impacts future sales leads and demand as awareness drops off.

Here are a few of the comments we received for why ‘Budget’ ranked as the top concern for marketers.

Not enough budget to support all of our business goals.”

“Our budget is viewed as an expense—that’s quickly cut based on overall company performance.”

“Budget allocation is contingent upon our ability to demonstrate a short-term ROI.”

#2 Leadership

For a variety of reasons Leadership was the second most frequently referenced challenge having been mentioned by 24% of respondents.

Some participants raised concerns that marketing wasn’t included in the organization’s strategic planning, or that they struggled with internal alignment across multiple functions and stakeholders.

A growing concern for many was management’s belief that marketing isn’t delivering value.

While there are different reasons for why this is, it could also be a result of reported brand safety concerns around digital, together with declining organic reach and the effectiveness of social media—Check out our article Digital Marketing—Trouble on the Horizon for more on what you need to know.

#3 Staff

Staffing concerns were the third most popular challenge for 20% of marketers. Some struggled to meet the workload with an under-staffed marketing team—resulting in slow turn-around and missed deadlines. For others it’s a lack of knowledge, skills and experience within their existing team to successfully develop and execute the wide range of marketing deliverables needed for today’s multi-channel marketing landscape.

Either way, the underlying take-away is that these barriers are impacting opportunity and potential growth in sales and revenue.

#4 Insight

At 18%, insights into the effectiveness of various tactics (KPIs), along with customer insights were both listed as everyday challenges.

On the front end, clearly understanding the marketplace and customer needs is a key issue in crafting relevant ‘now’ messaging. On the back end, identifying the meaningful metrics and conducting campaign performance analysis across multiple channels, combined with poor or sketchy data quality, were the leading reasons given.

#5 Distractions

Rounding out our top 5 challenges with nearly 15% are constant distraction. And those distractions come from all over. While some are short term technology and platform based issues that need resolving quickly, most distractions stem from the organizational culture and a misunderstanding of marketing’s key function.

Distractions came in the form of day-to-day operations such as unplanned ‘urgent’ requests for small one-off needs that pull limited resources away from higher priority activities—making it difficult to stay focused on the bigger brand-building and growth driving strategic marketing initiatives that raise awareness and generate leads.

Other challenges included:

Database issues

Access to timely, quality data was a concern for some. Obstacles ranged from being able to use data that resides in multiple locations, causing project delays, to ensuring the data is clean, accurate and up to date. For others it was an ongoing challenge to keep their data organized and in an easy to use CRM system.

While not mentioned as a current concern, regulations on the use of personal data and the consumer protections around that information will likely be a big issue this year. With CASL coming into force last year and GDPR this Spring, it’s vital that you know where each Opt-in contact on your lists reside and what permissions they’ve given you. If they didn’t Opt-in but were added to your database manually by sales—perhaps from sharing their business card at a trade show, don’t use it—you’ll be violating the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, and others.

Shifting Objectives/Priorities

Changes in a company’s strategy and direction have an obvious impact on marketing. A campaign may be put on hold or shelved if management suddenly wishes to go in a different direction, or brings other priorities forward due to external events in the marketplace. These delays also occur because of internal staff changes at the senior level, as they introduce different agendas and goals. This disruption reduces customer facing material—allowing competitors to take advantage of your ‘off-the-radar’ brand activity.

Legacy Thinking

Legacy thinking is another issue for brand marketers. Market demographics change constantly and yesterday’s customer has very different needs and preferences to tomorrow’s customer. How they like to consume information, the devices and platforms they use, the time of day, all are different. If your marketing plan is basically the same as previous years and there’s no appetite to explore new approaches, it’s likely you’ll see your competitors gaining marketshare.

Groupthink is just as dangerous. If your marketing messaging and understanding of your customers, comes mainly from sales and customer service feedback, it’s time you hired a Chief Listening Officer. Building brand and campaign messaging off of what your market is asking for, is the most effective way of increasing awareness, site traffic and lead generation.

Our takeaway.

At the outset, we expected to hear things like technology, social media, and regulations to be the main issues marketers faced. And while these were real issues for some, they weren’t mentioned by the majority.

What’s interesting and worth taking note of is this: As challenging and fun as marketing is, 80% of the top 5 challenges are due to the internal culture. They are of the organization’s own making and could so easily be avoided. By removing these self inflicted barriers and freeing marketing departments to do what they can and should be doing, marketers can make a real difference in the growth and increased value of their company.

> Be sure to see the accompanying infographic and learn what marketers want help with the most. Then give us a call at 612 349 2711 or send us an email and let’s schedule your free consultation. It’s time we helped you get more done.