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Tackling 2023’s Top 5 Marketing Challenges

Marketing leaders have faced a tough year with two-thirds reporting mid-year budget cuts. And despite the cuts, 86% report being expected to make major changes to their marketing strategy to achieve greater results.

Any effort comes under intense scrutiny as to its value in terms of ROI, but results are getting harder to prove. With GA4 and changes in privacy regulations, attribution is a challenge. Additionally, strategies that produce positive outcomes in the long term often don’t show results immediately, making it more difficult to get buy-in.

With this challenging climate likely to continue into the next year, we assessed the biggest hurdles marketers are dealing with and how they’re adapting. These are the top five marketing challenges of 2023.

1 | Pressure for greater efficiency

When we spoke with marketing leaders, nearly all of them mentioned the need to focus on efficiency. As budgets tighten and talent is harder to acquire, businesses are constantly having to do more with less. While this is a struggle, it also encourages leaders to make smarter choices and become more creative.

“The biggest change I’ve seen, both internally and then with peers in the B2B marketing space has been just this renewed focus around efficiency,” said Katie Hollar, VP of Marketing at Clutch, a business service marketplace. Hollar began her marketing career in the midst of the Great Recession, and she recognizes the importance of being disciplined in times like these. She encourages marketers to view it as an opportunity to focus and take stock of what strategies are actually delivering results. 

“What I see is a greater emphasis on ROI, which I don’t think comes as a surprise. I see a greater emphasis on efficiency,” said Matt Amundson, CMO of Census, a data activation platform provider. Census takes a range of approaches toward efficiency. On the one hand, they’re focusing on closing higher value, enterprise deals rather than expending energy on as many deals as possible.

On the other, Amundson recognizes the importance of generating new demand among a wide audience, and they’re doing this through more organic channels, such as building communities. Organic efforts require less budget and lead to long-term growth.

2 | Increasing acquisition costs

On top of this pressure for efficiency, customer acquisition costs are rising. Buyers are equally focused on time and cost savings and are reluctant to spend on new solutions. And with the number of solutions on the market, companies often feel the need to outspend the competition.

Allie Collins of Centime says, “Acquisition costs are rising, our cost per lead looks nothing like we’ve ever seen before. Competition is really stiff…Two years ago, it was really easy to get an efficient CAC to LTV ratio where everything was humming along. And then, we just saw big changes in the SaaS climate where it became a whole different conversation.”

Collins’ strategy is to get creative and focus on generating organic traffic rather than trying to beat out the competition on paid ads. She believes that a strong content strategy, targeted to resonate with audiences’ pain points will win out in the long run.

3 | Concerns around attribution

Another obstacle several leaders discussed is the difficulty of attribution. While they’re under pressure to show how they’re bringing in customers and how much it costs, it’s getting harder to demonstrate this due to recent restrictions on collecting data.

“So the fun part is that all of this kind of change in the market is happening at the same time as a few other things, including the deprecation of cookies, which makes paid channels that much less efficient due to the reduction in sophisticated targeting,” said Sarah Bugeja, VP of Marketing at  Mavrck, an influencer platform. “Data and attribution are tough. There are a lot of limitations based on browsers and cookies and what we can and cannot do as advertisers. It makes measuring effectiveness that much more difficult. It also presents an interesting opportunity to be creative.”

Bugeja suggests that while direct attribution isn’t always possible, there are certain signals to look out for. It’s not just about the analytics and raw data anymore; it’s important to consider buyer behavior and do deeper research into what influenced them to make a purchase.

4 | Justifying budget

These challenges also mean it’s tougher to justify budget for new initiatives like demand creation. However, several of the marketing leaders we interviewed recognize that investing in the long term is worth it and have gotten buy-in from the entire leadership team.

Allie Collins noted that her leadership team understands the importance of building a strong marketing program and wisely invested the time to grow it rather than demanding to immediately see revenue: “It takes a leadership team that’s willing to understand that there’s going to be six months to a year where we might see traffic increasing, but it’s going to be a slow burn, and it’s going to take time for that to turn into inbound leads or inbound revenue.” 

Brand building is another long-term investment that can be hard to justify budget for, but Sarah Bugeja recommends it and says it will actually cost businesses more if they don’t: “Become the thought leader and the authority in the area in which you play. When a customer actually needs you, they think of you and there’s reason for consideration in the first place.”

5 | Cutting through the noise

Finally, just getting their business’s message heard among all the competitors is a massive hurdle for many to overcome.

“Cutting above the noise is always a challenge,” says Thi Thumasathit, VP of Marketing at Gleen. In a new startup in the chatbot industry, it’s tough to stand out among larger competitors. Thumasathit is aiming to grow the company’s audience with large volumes of targeted content created with the company’s own AI generator. 

Marla Malkin, VP of Marketing at Attivo ERP, sees a similar issue as business leaders are bombarded with emails and ads from all sides: “I probably get hundreds of emails per day from companies trying to sell me lists, sell me lead generation tactics, trying to put our leaders into all sorts of programs like pseudo-conferences with meetings that they arranged for a very high price tag.”

Creating a targeted message that stands out to buyers requires more strategic effort than ever. A shift is needed to succeed in a crowded market or to reach outside of the known market.

Overcome challenges with demand creation

In the current marketing landscape, you can’t afford to get your strategy wrong, but that doesn’t mean playing it safe and sticking to traditional methods. To be more effective in the long term, you have to create demand where others aren’t.

To get buy-in on tighter budgets, you need a strong case. While ROI is becoming harder to attribute, it is possible to measure results with more creative tactics rather than just looking at data.

If you need help formulating your demand creation strategy for 2024, contact us for a free consultation today.

The Author

Susan Swier

Susan spent most of her writing and editing career in educational publishing. She’s a voracious reader who can quickly grasp complex subjects, a useful skill when transitioning into the B2B field.

Susan Swier