Every marketer faces different challenges. And, ever since 2020, the ways we've had to pivot, adjust campaigns, and address challenges has been unlike anything many of us have had to do before.
And, even if you've somehow navigated the past three years without any surprising or tough marketing challenges, there's likely at least one task, tactic, or strategy you've always wanted to improve upon.
Today, marketing is so fast-paced that it can be difficult to identify which areas you'll want to develop to facilitate stronger growth in 2022 and beyond. For that reason, it's important to pause for a moment and reflect on the biggest challenges marketers feel they're facing this year.
Below, let's review the current global marketing issues impacting the industry, according to data from HubSpot's 2023 Marketing Industry Trends Report and marketing experts.
1. Generating Traffic and Leads
While this was the second biggest marketing challenge in 2022, it's the top challenge marketers will focus on in 2023, with 19% of survey respondents saying it will be their biggest hurdle. As you might expect, generating traffic and leads is always top of mind with marketers. And, even if teams are doing well with these metrics, they'll always want to improve them.
Why It's a Challenge
John Lee, Head of Evangelism at Microsoft Advertising, believes that generating leads will be a particularly big challenge for marketers. He told me, "Getting quality traffic isn't a challenge today, and likely won't be tomorrow. There has been growth in search and content marketing in 2021. New channels continue to surface and show promise, too (TikTok or audio chat rooms anyone?)."
Lee adds, "'Sea change' is the phrase that comes to mind for the state of digital marketing today. Change in the realm of privacy, identity, and changes to cookies. Change in the form of lost data clarity (will cookie-based conversion tracking continue to work, GA4, access to search queries, etc.). And all of this sits within the context of change to how and where we work and economies in flux as the world continues to move through the pandemic."
Fortunately, privacy changes don't mean the end of generating leads — it simply means learning how to re-think strategy.
As Lee told me, "To weather this storm of change, marketers need to be vigilant in monitoring and understanding industry-wide acceptance of privacy protocols and updates to search, social, and display/native platforms (consumer-side and marketing/advertising-side). And last, but not least — lean into the power of peer support and networking for sharing best practices and learning."
Additionally, marketers are struggling with producing enough demand for their content. And as the year's progress and competition stiffens, this will only become truer. With so many options of platforms for marketers to publish their content and even more ways to promote it, it's hard to know where to focus your efforts.
What You Can Do
When it comes to creating content that produces enough traffic and leads, marketers should ask themselves two questions: Are you truly creating high-quality content — the type of content people would pay for? And, do you know the type of content your audience actually wants?
For instance, when asked how they’d most like to learn about a product or service, 69% said they’d prefer to watch a short video over a text-based article, infographic, or ebook. This means, if most of your product-related content is in ebook format, you could be missing out on the majority of consumers who prefer video.
Additionally, the length of videos produced by businesses has increased (albeit more slowly than the increased creation rate of short video). While short-form video is still King/Queen, the number of videos in the 30-60 minute category grew 140% in 2021, compared to 2019 — suggesting that long-form video content is still a viable option for companies.
To ensure you're creating content that resonates best with your audience, you'll want to refer to analytics often. Use effective tools to properly track the types of content that perform best with your audience to generate more leads in 2022.
Additionally, once you know you're creating the type of content your audience wants, the focus shifts to promoting it in a way that makes your audience take notice.
More than ever before, people are being flooded with content. Consumers don't have to use a search engine to find answers. Instead, articles fill their news feed or buzz in their pocket via mobile notifications. To keep up, consider exploring alternate distribution methods — like social media or podcasting — to increase brand awareness.
It's vital to look at your marketing strategy at home and abroad, especially if you have a large international customer base. Along with taking cultural differences and geographical trends into account when creating content, brands going global need to have a localization strategy to ensure their content is readable, searchable, and discoverable in different languages, which can cost a great deal of time and money.
Lastly, if you have the budget for online advertising, one example of a helpful distribution method is by promoting your content with HubSpot's LinkedIn Ads Integration. Learn more about it here.
2. Hiring Top Talent
While "Hiring Top Talent" was low on the list of challenges faced by marketers in 2022, it's expected to be the biggest challenge of 18% of marketers in 2023.
And, we're not too surprised. Hiring talent with a great track record takes time, effort, and money -- which many marketing teams do not have.
While hiring is a challenge marketing teams have faced throughout the past five years or so, concerns are continuing news of worker shortages and recruiters competing for applicants that have chosen to shift roles due to the global pandemic or management interests in mandatory office returns.
Why It's a Challenge
Many companies are shifting more resources to inbound marketing, which means higher and higher demand for top marketing talent. But supply simply isn't keeping up. From sourcing the right candidates to evaluating for the right skills, finding the perfect person could take months ... or more.
What's more, the type of marketing talent companies are looking for is changing, too. According to a report from LinkedIn, employers are seeking marketers with soft creative skill sets as well as hard technical skills. And the quick rate at which the demand for these jobs are rising has caused a marketing skills gap, "making it difficult to find candidates with the technical, creative, and business proficiencies needed to succeed in digital marketing."
What You Can Do
In 2023, hiring talent could grow even more difficult — particularly as more companies deal with transitions back to office life, competitive hybrid perks, as well as salary budget limitations due to the shifting economy.
She told me, "When I talk to high-growth companies or marketing agencies (and the marketers running those teams), I've found that hiring not only top talent, but diverse top talent is extremely challenging. In fact, I was just having a conversation with an agency owner who hires SEO and paid marketers, and he told me, 'Hiring is still the biggest challenge we face.'"
Fortunately, Grieser provided me with a few tips for employers to stand out from the crowd. She told me, "My suggestion here is for marketers to invest heavily in their employer brand for the long-term. Just like you need to market your product, you also need to dedicate resources, time and energy into marketing your company as an employer."
Grieser adds, "I would suggest Diversity Tech Co, Tech Ladies, and Girlboss as go-to resources to post jobs. These organizations are run by incredible individuals who really care about diversity, equity, inclusion and intersectionality. I'm also seeing niche communities and job boards pop up. For marketers specifically, I would post your open roles here: Dave Gerhardt Marketing Group, Hey Marketers, and Superpath (which is focused on content marketers specifically)."
While it might seem random to discuss employer branding in a post about marketing challenges, it isn't — since it's often the marketing team that cultivates a strong employer brand.
As Grieser points out, "Airbnb has an Engineering and Data Science blog, Intercom has an Instagram dedicated to their design team, and Dooly posts short, LinkedIn posts (see an example here) interviewing their fun team with a few fun hashtags #doolydreamteam and #meetadooligan."
"Guess who leads this initiative? The marketing team. Think about how you and your team can showcase your work and your team's work. I won't try to assume that employer brand falls solely in your court, but as a marketer, you have natural skills that will lend themselves to marketing the company as whole."
LinkedIn data shows that the number one reason candidates will consider or accept a job is career growth. This means that job listings and a company culture that offers employees a plan for growth will see the most interest from talent.
3. Marketing Plan Pivots
In 2020, we began learning the art of the pivot as many brands had to stop everything they had planned, observe the current state of everything, and navigate the bbest way forward. But, every time we think we get closer to a boring day in the marketing world, something evolves or changes that will cause us to need to pivot.
And, while some marketers are excited by the idea of working in a fast-paced, ever-evolving environment, it can get very tiring for others. That's why we're not shocked that 17% of marketers say that marketing strategy pivots will be the biggest challenge they face in the new year.
Why It's a Challenge
While you might think pivoting during COVID-19 gave you all the skills needed to change course when its necessary, every unprecedented event that we aren't expecting often poses new challenges (as those definitions suggest). When marketers don't plan for the unexpected, they could risk their performance metrics, budget, or even their audience if they market to targets that are forward-thinking and find untrendy or out of touch brands uninteresting to them.
What You Can Do
At HubSpot, and many other companies with excellent marketing departments, our marketers always try to be one-step ahead of the potential result (or even a lack of results).
When creating a large campaign or implementing a big strategy, it's important to ask yourself and your team, "What do we do if it doesn't work?" or "How do we pivot if the world changes overnight?"
When it's time to make that pivot, try to gather as much information as you can about your customers, audiences, and platforms to learn how everything has changed or evolved, and then use what you've learned to determine the best course of action. For example, when COVID-19 was declared an emergency, many of our marketers paused comms with audiences and notified them through emails or social posts that it was because we wanted to focus on offering the most helpful or valuable content unrelated to sales and revenue at that time. Then, while we were on pause, we met with each other and performed market research to help us put ourselves in the audience's shoes and learn how we could best help them.
If you do pivot, learn from what worked effectively and what didn't. This will help you in future scenarios where a pivot is necessary -- even if the situation is totally different next time.
For more information and expert tips on how to change up your content plan in a rush, check out this helpful post.
4. Training Marketing Teams
In 2022, training top talent was the top challenge marketers were focused on. However, as more marketers now focus on recruiting and retaining greaat talent in this time of faster workplace movement, training seems to have fallen to number four.
However, this doesn't mean training isn't an important factor to pay attention to, especially if you have a growing workforce.
After all, even top-tier talent need to have paths to grow, challenge themselves, learn, and become even better at what they do.
If you're a manager or marketing leader, you'll need to take time to teach that employee how your company works. This could include voice and messaging training, helping them understand buyer personas, or getting them acclimated to the tech stack or processes you use.
Meanwhile, regardless of whether you're a seasoned marketing team employee or new hire, you might wish your company had more opportunities for training, onboarding, or professional development that could allow you to excel and learn while also hitting your KPIs.
Why It's a Challenge
Unfortunately, in the fast-paced world of marketing, it can be challenging for leaders to find the time to train while employees might not have the time or money to access professional development outside of their day-to-day tasks.
That's why it's not shocking that 30% of marketers say that team training was the biggest challenge of 2021 and 21% say it will continue to be the top challenge for marketing departments in 2022.
What You Can Do
The first step to solving this problem, regardless of whether you're an individual contributor or manager, is reframing what "training" means to you. Remember that even the most top-tier, ROI-generating unicorn marketer will need time to get used to how your company works and grow as an employee and potential leader.
Ultimately, businesses should think of training and professional development offerings as indirect ROI generators. Ultimately, even the most top-tier, unicorn talent will need time to get used to how your company works.
On one end of the spectrum, companies and leadders can retain employees and save money on talent searches because of their offerings. Meanwhile, their talent will learn more, grow more, become even more competitive, and -- most importantly -- feel more fulfilled and supported in their role. Additionally, you don't always have to hire instructors or take time out of your day to train. For example, you can:
- Encourage project managers or individual contributors looking for visibility to present experiments, strategies, or learnings at events, weekly meetings, or annual team conferences.
- Book an annual professional development day during a slow season where all employees are asked to take a free online course of their choosing and report back on how it went.
- Consider hosting quarterly or bi-annual new employee or new manager training days where newer hires and new managers can plan to go to in order to train with minimal impact on their quarterly projects.
- Create evergreen training videos, internal quizzes, or other resources that you can send to new or newly promoted employees on their first day.
- Have managers develop 100-Day Plans for new hires or those that transfer to their team which includes training assignments, resources to read through, and a contact list of people to meet or schedule training with.
On the other hand, if you're an individual contributor, participating in your company's professional development training and/or taking free or affordable courses online could help you negotiate a stronger role and salaries for yourself at your company or elsewhere.
If your company doesn't offer training or reimbursement for it, check out this list of free courses.
5. Keeping Up With the Latest Trends
As you've seen, the world is always changing. Even aside from the things you've seen all over the news, a brief skim of any social media feed once weekly will show you how much trends change. In one day, we'll open our TikTok feed and see constant clips filled with "Stranger Things" references all over the place. The next day, we've moved on to "CornTok" (a trend that involved us sharing videos with a remixed song sung by a boy who really loves corn).
Why It's a Challenge
Essentially, no matter where you look, trends are constantly changing. And, if you're publishing out of touch content that leverages very out of date or out of touch trends, your audiences might get bored and move on to a brand that feels more interesting to them.
Unfortunately, marketers might not always have the bandwidth or budget to lean into every trend out there. So, what are we supposed to do?
What You Can Do
Just like picking the right channels or social platforms that make the most sense for your brand, pay attention to the industries and trends that make the most sense for you to lean into, or brands that you know most of your target audience is leaning into. For example, one brand that perfectly leaned into "CornTok" was Rumba, which creatively published a TikTok of its products cleaning up -- you guessed it -- corn.
6. Facing Competition
In our 2023 survey, 16% of marketers cited their biggest challenge as "increasing competition from other brands." And, that's not shocking at all.
Business competition is a tale as old as time. And, even when you feel like you're winning on one channel or another, competitors can come at any moment ready to outperform you. That's why every platform, from social media to search engines, has gotten vastly more competitive over the past 10 years -- and will only get more saturated with competition.
What You Can Do
The concerns of competition are obvious. Ultimately, they could take business or attention away from you and harm your revenue. Luckily, it doesn't take a marketing genius to get ahead of them.
Start with a competitive analysis of all of your biggest competitors that you're most likely to lose audiences or customers to.
Examine their websites, social media, search keyword profiles, and other channels and make a list of what they're doing right that you can learn from, what they're doing wrong that you'll avoid, and the gaps in their strategy that you can take advantage of.
While we encourage you to highlight your unique perks and not copy the competition exactly, use your analysis results to think about the competitive selling points you can market and strategies you can use to innovate on what they're missing.
7. Securing Your Budget
In 2023, 16% of marketers are concerned about securing, gaining, and keeping stakeholder support for their marketing budgets. And, although we aren't surprised that a large chunk of marketers selected this concern, we were a bit shocked that more marketers aren't seeing this as top of mind given the current economic landscape.
Why It's a Challenge
Securing a budget has always been a pressing challenge for marketing globally. And, while marketers seemed to be getting what they needed for budget in 2022, companies could be eager to shift back to pre-pandemic strategies of placing money into sales, facilities, and other departments in the future -- especially if the U.S. or other countries enter a recession.
Often, getting and keeping more budget is easier said than done — especially for smaller organizations that aren't working with sizable or flexible marketing spend. But the key to securing more money for your team might not be that complex. Here's what you can do.
What You Can Do
The key to unlocking budget lies in being able to prove the ROI, of your marketing efforts (as we've noted above). Use your whole budget to demonstrate need, but also ensure you're spending money on things that will provide high performance, like high-traffic, lead-gen, or revenue-generating projects or headcount.
According to our research, organizations that can calculate ROI are more likely to receive higher budgets.
Again, success with inbound marketing also plays a large role in driving higher budgets. Effective strategies obviously produce results and make a strong case for increasing your budget. But remember, inbound marketing is a long game. If you get off to a slow start, you shouldn’t back off — in fact, you might consider doubling down.
To learn more about how to understand and leverage marketing ROI, check out this simple guide.
8. Demonstrating ROI of Marketing Activities
While this item didn't make our top challenge list this year, we still think it's very important to highlight here and focus on in 2023, especially if your business is focused on spending budget wisely -- or only on things that provide ROI.
And, in 2021, 28% of marketers saw it as their top challenge, while 21% of marketers expect to see this continue to be their biggest issue in 2022.
Measuring and gaining ROI continues to be a vital way for marketers to understand the effectiveness of each particular marketing campaign or piece of content. It also can be what decision-makers at your company rely on when determining if they'll invest more in your project, department, or team headcount in the future.
Ultimately, proving ROI often goes hand-in-hand with making an argument to increase budget: No ROI tracking, no demonstrable ROI. No ROI, no budget.
Providing ROI often comes down to using effective analytics measurement tools. For instance, Beautiful.ai Director of Marketing Kim Giroux told me, "Marketers are constantly challenged to illustrate the ROI of their efforts and [this year] is no exception. Proving ROI doesn't always have to mean extra work or effort though. In fact, certain technologies bake ROI into existing work processes."
Giroux adds, "Take presentation software, for instance. Savvy marketers today can create and use pitch decks with built-in presentation analytics that offer real-time data — such as how much time was spent viewing individual slides. Armed with these insights, marketers can better gauge stakeholder interest, inform their strategies, and adjust their campaigns."
Christina Mautz, CMO of Moz, believes measuring ROI comes down to redefining the marketing process as a whole. She told me, "My biggest challenge, and one all marketers face in providing ROI, is the prospect of meeting traditional KPIs in the modern workspace."
Mautz says, "Instead of leads and trade show success, marketing wins are now largely digital: engaging prospects and generating more clicks, downloads, and page visits."
CMO of Moz Christina Mautz says, "To better measure marketing progress, we have to redefine the marketing process, encouraging collaboration with sales and reaching KPIs together."
"For example, statistics such as page visits per sale or rising higher in the search engine results page (SERP) give marketers and SEOs tangible evidence as to how their work is meeting their ROI. New buying patterns and a customer-centric world require a divergence from the old, but measuring ROI will look far different than it did before and some leaders may not understand how or why."
When it comes to providing ROI, there's a strong case to be made for dedicating time and resources to establishing links between marketing activities and sales results.
This means using both marketing software (like HubSpot) and a CRM solution (like HubSpot's free CRM) and then tying them together to close the loop between your marketing and sales efforts with a service-level agreement (SLA). That way, you can directly see how many leads and customers are generated through your marketing activities.
Other Common Challenges
While our survey identified the biggest challenges in marketing, teams are still facing dozens of other challenges that are worth mentioning, but weren't one of the top concerns. Here are just a few:
In 2021, 64% of companies said they were investing in website upgrades. Meanwhile, 27% of survey participants said that managing their website was the top challenge in that year, with a chunk more saying they continued to rise to this challenge in 2022.
In 2023, website challenges aren't going anywhere. If you have an online presence for your business, your website serves as a key place that consumers will go to when researching your brand.
There, they might find company information, marketing content, and other resources that nurture them into becoming a lead or buying your product. On the marketing end, your site can also be a tool that can help you drive search result and social media awareness when it is optimized and shared around the web.
Although managing a website is consistently a challenge to marketers, it seems to be growing less threatening. While website management was the third-biggest challenge facing marketers in 2021, it didn't even make the Top Five Challenge list for 2022.
Chances are, your website's performance is high on your list of priorities — particularly since website speed and performance plays a major role in your website's SEO ranking. It's an asset that works around the clock to draw in visitors, convert them, and help you hit your goals.
Issues with website management include a variety of different factors, from writing and optimizing the content to designing beautiful webpages. Here are a few things marketers can do to deal with this challenge.
What Can You Do?
First, try HubSpot's free website grader to determine how your website stacks up on key metrics including SEO, mobile, and security performance — and how you can improve it.
If your primary challenge with managing a website has to do with the skills and resources you have available, you aren't alone. This is especially true for small companies who don't have all the talent in-house required to cover content, optimization, design, and back-end website management.
One solution? Hire freelancers and agency partners. To find freelancers, we recommend:
- Tapping into your personal and professional network by posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks with a description of what you're looking for.
- Browsing freelance writers and designers based on their portfolios and areas of interest.
- Browsing HubSpot's Services Marketplace, which lists a wide variety of designers from partner companies and agencies we've deemed credible.
Overall, you can make website management easier on your team by hosting your website on a platform that integrates all your marketing channels like HubSpot's CMS.
Social Media Marketing Challenges
In our survey, 16% of marketers said that their biggest challenge of 2023 will involve keeping up with the latest social media platforms, as well as their growing lists of new features.
And, with the constant evolution of how social media looks, feels, and functions comes a mess of other social media challenges that marketers are worried about, including -- but certainly not limited to:
- Creating engaging content (which 22% of social media marketers cited)
- Gaining and keeping followers (22%)
- Reaching your target audiences (21%)
- Finding ideas for content (21%)
- Creating content that generates leads (20%)
Content Marketing Challenges
The content marketing world is vast and full of different strategies. And, each major tactic comes with its own challenge.
For example, if you're a blogger or video creator, SEO and ranking on Google will likely be one of the biggest hurdles and opportunities your team will face because both blogs and videos are always competing for the covered first page of search results on Google.
Meanwhile, if you focus on multimedia, such as videos, podcasts, or design, views, view-time, and shareability could be key to nurturing a lead. And, as many marketers struggle with demonstrating ROI -- your efforts will be no different. While bloggers could include a form, purchasing link, or landing page URL in their posts which are easier to track, you won't always be able to easily determine the ROI of content that doesn't allow URL embedding in it.
As a content marketer, it's important to determine which goals are most important to your team and company's growth and focus first on the challenges that will hinder reaching them.
Email Marketing Challenges
Over the last year, email marketers have run into all sorts of challenges, such as pandemic-related low engagement and Apple iOS 15's privacy protection policy impacting open tracking and open-rate based strategies.
But, by far, the biggest challenge email marketers will probably always face is gaining and retaining subscribers. In fact, our research found that 19% of marketers see email and social media list growth being a top challenge throughout the year.
If you identify with our participants, check out this post with more data on why consumers subscribe and unsubscribe from email.
Some of these challenges aren't new.
If you're a marketer who sees the same challenge year-over-year, it might be a barrier worth putting on your radar. However, some challenges can be industry-wide. Year-over-year challenges across the industry are incredibly important to note, regardless of whether they impact you or not.
Why? These challenges might not just be something you're facing, but could also be faced by your competitors. If you can figure out how to navigate a reoccurring industry challenge effectively, you could have a leg up against the competition.
Way back in 2021, I surveyed over 120 marketers on our HubSpot Marketing Blog subscriber list to gauge the biggest challenges affecting the industry. Here's a quick graph highlighting what they said.
By far, "Generating traffic and leads" was marked by nearly half as the biggest challenge marketers are facing this year.
This challenge was followed by 21% who said "providing ROI for your marketing activities" was their biggest challenge.
"Delivering an account-based marketing strategy" (8%), "securing enough budget" (6%), and "managing your website" (5%) were the other three notable challenges marketers feel they're facing in 2021.
It's important to note, a few other marketers marked "targeting content for an international audience", "training your team", and "hiring top talent" as their top challenge ... but these three challenges were marked by less than 3% of the respondent pool, so they're less statistically significant.
Identifying Your Marketing Challenges
A thorough analysis of your marketing strategy and its current performance will help you discover where your biggest marketing opportunity lies. This will allow you to focus on improving the areas that need the most attention, so you can start making your marketing far more effective.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, sometimes, the best challenges to focus on could involve solving for the biggest pain points of your companies executives or leaders. And while the post above focuses on the challenges of general marketers at all levels, we also did a follow-up survey to learn about the key challenges and pain points director+ marketing leaders are facing daily. Check out this post, from our Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader blog series (fully launching Nov. 1), which includes tips from marketing execs and experts at companies like Microsoft, HubSpot, Help Scout, ZoomInfo, Sprout Social, and more.
Just interested in learning about general marketers? Be sure to check out our 2022 State of Marketing Report, which you can download for free below -- or get our predictions for how marketing will change in the next year with the HubSpot Blog's follow-up 2023 Marketing Trends Report.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been updated annually to include new, exclusive HubSpot data and expert insights.