The one thing marketers know for sure about change is that it’s constant. Interconnected shifts in the technological landscape and consumer behaviour are challenging businesses the world over. It’s the job of CMOs to navigate this ever-changing marketing environment. But what are the top challenges facing marketing teams today?
We've scoured the research for you and compiled a list of the top marketing challenges. Read on for a quick overview of topics like digital transformation, automation, cyber security and tightening budgets. For those looking for an easy-to-digest infographic, we’ve got you covered. And if you'd like more information, we take a deeper look at each challenge after the infographic.
1. Driving digital transformation
Technology is fundamentally transforming the way we live our lives. For brands, the digitisation of society means the end of the traditional business playbook. Newcomers have a tremendous opportunity to capture market share. And poor old incumbents need to reinvent themselves for this new era. Fortunately, management recognises the importance of digital transformation. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), just 33% of executives said their CEO was “a champion for digital” in 2007. Today, that number stands at 68%.
Which executive is leading the digital transformation initiative?
Source: The 2016 State of Digital Transformation – Prophet.
Our rapid digital evolution makes it hard to keep your head above the surface of the deep digital ocean. Adaptability is vital for staying afloat. If you don’t build a team that can adapt, competitors will leapfrog you. Adaptability isn’t only important for humans, but the technology we use as well. Quick turnaround times, fewer bottlenecks, automation and integration are mandatory.
- According to Gartner, you should ask “What is 'digital' for us? What kind of growth do we seek? What's the No. 1 metric and which KPIs must change?”
- According to HBR companies that “realize that the fate of their IT investments and business goals are intertwined will be most ready to face the challenges of tomorrow — and the next decade.”
- Scalability of marketing tasks is only possible through integration and automation. Plan technology investment accordingly. Here are some best practices for building multilingual websites.
- Brands who understand and leverage new models have an advantage. Think platforms, the crowd economy, and decentralised blockchain technology.
2. Improving customer experience
The customer remains at the centre of what we do as marketers. But the more we do, the higher expectations rise. So, are we delivering enough? That depends on who you ask. According to Accenture, only 7% of brands feel they offer a digital customer experience that exceeds expectations. On the other hand, 25% feel they are behind, and 67% think their customer experience is good enough.
Fortunately, CMOs recognise that continually improving the customer experience keeps brands competitive. According to Gartner, “by 2018, more than 50 percent of organizations will implement significant business model changes in their efforts to improve customer experience.”
Customer Experience Drives Revenue Growth, 2016 – Forrester
The good news is that we are moving along the marketing technology hype cycle. Technologies that improve customer experiences are available, and marketing teams are utilising them en masse. One powerful concept of this new age is Omnichannel marketing. We can now deliver the right content, in the right language, at the right time, to the right person.
The challenge for marketing teams is the acquisition of usable data. According to the former Microsoft Windows CMO Thom Gruhler, getting ahead requires data about “who’s on my basket, who’s on my stream or page, and how can I re-adjust what we’re putting in front of customers in to give them the best experience in the moment?”
- According to HBR, “successful companies prioritise user experience specialists and creating better customer experience through their digital initiatives.”
- Remember: your brand is what people experience, not what you think it is.
- Don’t try and be everything to all people, that’s impossible. Focus on segments, personas and, ideally, personalisation.
- As with a sales representative not speaking the local language, it’s not a good idea to try and cover multiple locales with one language.
3. Delivering personalisation
Modern marketers understand that relevance is hugely important. Why? Because when content is tailored to you, you’re more likely to pay attention to it. The decision of whether or not to engage with content only takes a couple of seconds. In fact, people now have shorter attention spans than goldfish.
Personalisation provides the answer to this marketing challenge. According to McKinsey “Personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 percent.”
But, how do you offer highly personalised experiences at scale? This is the crux of the challenge. Spotify offers personalisation with their “Discover Weekly” and “Your Daily Mix” features. Facebook has the now infamous filter bubble. And there are numerous other examples for personalisation inspiration.
The technology needed to deliver personal experiences is often complex and requires a steep learning curve. It’s therefore important to hire the right team with the knowledge necessary to capture data and use it to drive experiences. And once you have your team, give them space to learn and develop their knowledge.
- Take it one step at a time. Start with a few behaviourally based segments and work towards 1:1 personalisation from there.
- Don’t work ad-hoc. When writing marketing copy, for example, build a library of messages that can be used for varying situations.
- Streamlining workflows, intelligent content management and automation are imperative for delivering personalised content at scale.
4. Leveraging AI
We are in the midst of a war. Behemoths like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are battling to win the artificial intelligence arms race. This relentless march towards automation will make some jobs obsolete.
This challenge also offers a massive opportunity. Brands that harness the power of AI today stand to be the winners of tomorrow. According to former Microsoft Windows CMO Thom Gruhler, all brands should focus on “what you can pragmatically do with AI and machine learning to positively impact your customer experience and marketing.”
AI-Ready or Not: Artificial Intelligence Here We Come! – Weber Shandwick.
AI is no longer a dream of the future. Brands are already making use of its potential. The Associated Press uses Wordsmith to create routine stories about corporate earnings. Boomtrain helps brands send highly-personalised content to users. Google is continually expanding Google Translate. And chatbots are helping brands communicate in the right place at the right time, utilising AI to answer questions via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. In the long-run, every single brand will make use of AI.
- Embrace AI as a necessary part the future. If you haven’t already, look at current solutions which can improve your marketing efforts.
- Make use of professionals to automate simple tasks. For example, using freelancers to create chatbots.
- LanguageWire on machine translation: “(it) won’t replace professional translators anytime soon, but does have useful applications for translation tasks where quantity and speed is more important than quality.”
5. Identifying the right technology
A common theme in many of the challenges facing marketing teams is technology. Namely, the need for marketers to understand and adapt to technological trends and developments. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task. The marketing technology (MarTech) landscape is extraordinarily complex. Scott Brinker of chiefmartec.com now has over 5,381 solutions on his popular marketing landscape infographic.
Marketing technology landscape supergraphic development 2011 – 2017. Source: chiefmartec.com.
Compared to 20 years ago, technological change has evolved marketing into an unrecognisable beast. An important skill for the CMO is to understand the solutions available and identify the right partners to solve these technology-related challenges.
- Once again, agility is vital. Marketing teams need to be more responsive.
- Keep in mind, that change is difficult. It will need proper support to avoid chaos and burnout.
- Recognise the move away from classic marketing management. In many cases, modern marketers require the skills of software professionals.