The Top Challenges Marketing Leaders Expect to Face in 2023 & How You Can Solve For Them [Expert Insights & Data]

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Caroline Forsey
Caroline Forsey


Every marketer (and marketing leader) faces a different list of challenges.

A marketing leader knocks over dominoes that symbolize mounting marketing challenges

Maybe you're struggling to keep up with the latest trends. Or perhaps your team is finding it difficult to pivot your marketing strategy due to major global events.

Today, marketing is so fast-paced that it’s hard to know which areas you'll want to focus on or improve upon in 2023 and beyond. To help you plan accordingly, we did detailed research to discover the top challenges global and U.S. marketing leaders predict for 2023.

Below, we’ll dive into original HubSpot data and insights from: 

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader: Data from 500+ Marketing Executives on How to Get Ahead in 2023

Global marketing leader challenges

1. Adopting a data-driven marketing strategy.

Why It's a Challenge

14% of marketing leaders say adopting a data-driven marketing strategy will be a top challenge of theirs in 2023. And ZoomInfo's Chief Marketing Officer, Bryan Law, sympathizes.

Law told me, "We're all feeling the pressures of a possible recession and almost every company will face challenges with revenue growth and marketing spend in 2023. With potentially fewer dollars to put towards campaigns, adopting a data-driven marketing strategy will ensure that every effort is as impactful as possible."

Zoominfo CMO on marketing leaders challenges in 2023

To adopt a data-driven marketing strategy, there are two big levers you'll want to pull in 2023. Let's take a look at those now.

What Can You Do?

Effectively Combine First and Third-Party Data

Microsoft's Global Head of Programmatic Evangelist, Daniel Godoy, told me that it's critical marketers keep first-party data in mind if they're aiming to expand their reach in 2023.

Godoy says, "Marketers feel the pressure to win the ads race in a wild WWW. During this race, it's worth mentioning that consumer media behavior is changing, and advertising strategies, too. With the cookies deprecation coming (although it has been delayed by Google), it should be on our radar that at least 40% of browsers today don't get signals."

He adds, "Shaping your strategy by leveraging 1P or 3P trustable data becomes necessary to expand potential reach and start piloting your data strategy for the future."

First-party data can ultimately help you ensure you're reaching the right audiences with your ads and turning those audiences into high-quality leads.

Develop Unique Messaging that Resonates with Your Prospects

To run a successful data-backed campaign, Law suggests first defining your audience. He told me marketing leaders need to take the time to collect custom attributes, not just basic descriptive information. Then, he advises leaders to create dynamic prospect lists through audience segmentation.

Once you've defined your audiences and properly segmented them, you'll need to develop unique messaging that resonates with your prospects.

As Law puts it, "You'll need to figure out how to convey your ability to alleviate their challenges in a unique way to penetrate the significant market noise. Practice consistency in your overall theme, and include contextual personalization when applicable."

You'll also want to use data to reach the right buyers at the right companies. For instance, Law told me it's helpful to use technology to identify and engage at the contact or persona level, and automate workflows that allow you to reach people across channels. Finally, you'll need to test, measure, and iterate.

Law advises, "Before you launch your campaigns, set up metrics to help understand their performance. Use the data to confirm that your messaging is reaching the right people at the right time through the right channels. Data should drive this process and its iterations — and it should fuel your entire marketing strategy if you want to see success in 2023."

(P.S. — Are you already a ZoomInfo customer? If so, click here for 20% off HubSpot products, or sign up for free.)

Ultimately, preparing a powerful data-driven marketing strategy in 2023 will be essential for outperforming competitors — especially since data can help your team remain flexible and adaptive as trends or consumer preferences shift over time.

2. Keeping up with the latest trends.

Why It's a Challenge

Staying up-to-date on marketing trends wasn't just a challenge in 2022. 14% of marketers believe keeping up with the latest marketing trends will continue to be their biggest hurdle in 2023.

This makes sense. From branded audio content to augmented reality (AR) experiences, there's plenty of trends we saw spike in 2022. As a marketer, it can be difficult to decipher which trends matter most to your business — and which ones you can avoid.

What Can You Do?

Reviewing up-to-date marketing reports like HubSpot's 2022 State of Marketing Trends can help you stay informed on which marketing trends matter most to consumers. You can also subscribe to marketing podcasts or newsletters to learn more about what's happening in the industry.

Alternatively, consider asking your consumers what trends matter to them. For instance, perhaps you create a social poll to ask consumers about their favorite TikTok reels — this information can help you better understand the topics that currently matter most to your audience.

Once you have a list of interesting marketing trends, you can try implementing them on a small scale to see how they perform for your business. Testing is critical here. You can read about the effectiveness of short-form video content all day long — but until you try it for your own brand, you can't know for sure whether it actually matters to your audience.

3. Facing increased competition from other brands.

Why It's a Challenge

Competition isn't a new concept for businesses, but it's a major concern for many marketers when they look ahead. As social media and the SERPs become increasingly saturated with branded content, many marketers struggle to create content that stands out.

In our HubSpot Blog survey, 13% of marketing leaders report increased competition from other brands as their biggest concern for 2023.

What Can You Do?

To combat this challenge, marketing leaders will want to conduct a competitive market analysis, which can help implement stronger business strategies and identify potential opportunities to outperform your competition.

Additionally, it's a good idea to ask your team to flag any interesting tactics other businesses are leveraging. Your social team, for instance, can assess competitors' social channels to identify any gaps in their current strategy. Alternatively, your blog team might highlight their personal favorite blogs, and share takeaways they can apply to their own content.

Hosting regular team brainstorms around new, innovative ideas can help you ensure your business is ahead of the curve.

However, you don't want to just follow along with your competitors' strategies. It's a good idea to test out new platforms to see what resonates with your intended audience, even if your competitors aren't using those social channels.

4. Leveraging my CRM to its fullest potential.

Why It's a Challenge

12% of marketers believe their biggest challenge in 2023 will be leveraging their CRM to its fullest potential.

A CRM can be an incredibly powerful and effective tool for marketing, sales, and service — but it can be intimidating and time-consuming if you don't know how to use yours.

What Can You Do?

To make the most out of your CRM, take a look at our ultimate guide to using a CRM. You'll also want to consider purchasing a CRM that enables you to integrate all your other tools in one place.

Additionally, HubSpot's Product Manager Alexa Starks told me, "To leverage your CRM to its full potential, you'll want to expand usage with a flagship use case. In other words — figure out a gap or pain point with your current process that is solved by an underutilized feature of the CRM. Then, evangelize how your CRM will address that problem and create more connectedness within the organization."

Starks adds, "Rinse and repeat to show how implementing additional CRM tools can make the teams lives easier. Over time, this will increase adoption and eventually lead to a compounding effect, as a more connected process increases the ROI of your CRM purchase."

If you're instead struggling with how to structure your CRM, or which data is most critical, Starks suggests you get head of your data by figuring out the core questions you have of your data.

She says, "Imagine you have the answers to those questions. Now, think through what next-level questions you might have after you receive those initial answers. Taking time to map this out can help align the team around the ways your process may need to shift to ensure the necessary data is available and structured properly in the future."

5. Having to pivot my marketing strategy due to major events (e.g. recession, pandemic, political turmoil).

Why It's a Challenge

The past couple of years have required businesses to demonstrate new levels of flexibility and adaptability.

The pandemic, for instance, greatly impacted users' expectations and preferences when it comes to social media. Now, users' spend more time watching videos online than they did pre-pandemic, and they crave more fun and authentic content than they used to.

Similarly, political turmoil and recent changes in the economy have required businesses to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly to ensure they're continuing to meet the needs of their customers.

While it can feel risky to invest in new strategies or pivot as a response to major events, it's oftentimes worse to stick to the status quo. As the world changes, your consumers' behaviors and needs change in response, so it's vital you keep up with global trends to understand what your consumers' needs are on any given day.

Plus, your marketing could seem tone-deaf if you don't pivot accordingly.

All of which is to say: It's no surprise that 11% of marketing leaders believe pivoting their marketing strategies will continue to be a roadblock for them in 2023 and beyond.

What Can You Do?

Godoy is familiar with the challenge of pivoting your strategy appropriately. Fortunately, he has a solution.

He says, "The pandemic has brought changes in our lives and in our work schedules — and hybrid work opens possibilities to balance work and personal responsibilities at the same time. Before, we were determined to do certain tasks at certain hours … but in the world of today, we all live in the missing middle."

Microsoft Head of Programming on marketing challenges for 2023

He adds, "We're paying too much attention to the upper and lower side of the funnel and ignoring what happens in the middle. The real journey reflects that human decisions do not happen in a linear way. Audiences exposed to brand and performance are 6X more likely to convert. By capturing signals of intent and mapping this data, you'll get clarity on how the missing middle works for your brand."

Understanding your prospects' behavior and intent is a critical component of ensuring you can shift quickly if your marketing efforts aren't working. This is also where agile marketing comes into play. Agile marketing helps you execute by working in short sprints, which helps marketers quickly shift their focus, adapt to customer needs, and change priorities.

Agile marketing can help your team become more adaptable when global events upend your previous plans and force your team to shift focus. And it can help teams rebound more quickly from potential revenue losses.

Consider, for instance, how Doordash reported an operating loss of $616 million in 2019 — and then grew to $2.89 billion in revenue in 2020. Their agile approach during the pandemic enabled them to respond to their consumers' needs by delivering COVID test kits and launching the #OpenforDelivery campaign to support restaurants.

Essentially, Doordash pivoted quickly to support their customer needs, and dropped their pre-planned marketing approach to adopt a new, more timely one.

doordash response to covid

Finally, it's critical you keep an eye on both marketing trends and global events to ensure you're pivoting your strategy when necessary.

To ensure you're up-to-date on the latest trends, you'll want to monitor your social media channels to respond appropriately to customers. Additionally, consider leveraging social listening tools to keep up with trends happening in the industry.

Most marketers are goaled on two metrics: Traffic and leads.

Which is why it makes sense that 11% of marketing leaders expect that generating traffic and leads will remain their top challenge in 2023.

Even if marketers are doing well with these metrics, they'll always want to improve them.

6. Generating traffic and leads.

Why It's a Challenge

Google search features like featured snippets and images have made it increasingly difficult to get traffic to your site at all. In fact, 65% of Google searches now end without a click.

Social media is also becoming saturated with 24/7, around-the-clock content. As the creator economy booms, it's becoming increasingly difficult for brands to create content that stands out.

Ultimately, marketing leaders are struggling to produce demand for their content. Plus, they're unsure which platforms will prove best for their business — and how to promote their content effectively.

What Can You Do?

To combat the challenge of creating high-quality content that resonates with your audience, you'll want to use effective tools to properly track the types of content that performs best with your audiences.

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 even need to use a search engine to find answers anymore. Instead, articles fill their news feeds or buzz in their pocket via mobile notifications. To keep up, consider exploring alternate distribution methods — like SMS or podcasting — to increase brand awareness.

Additionally, you might test out influencer marketing to generate more traffic and leads. Micro-influencers, for instance, have high rates of engagement and are often seen as experts on certain niche topics — so finding a micro-influencer that aligns well with your brand can help you generate high-quality traffic and leads effectively.

7. Hiring top talent.

Why It's a Challenge

11% of marketing leaders report hiring top talent as their top anticipated struggle of 2023. And Jamie Gilpin, Chief Marketing Officer at Sprout Social, agrees. She told me that hiring and cultivating top talent is a key focus at Sprout Social as they head into the new year.

Gilpin says, “As a discipline, marketing is ever evolving, which requires candidates with unique, more varied skill sets. Social media in particular is playing a larger and larger role in every brand's marketing strategy and requires highly skilled professionals with in-depth knowledge of social media’s shifting landscape."

She adds, "With new platforms, features, and more consumers preferring to interact with brands on social, marketing teams are tasked with hiring and developing talent across their marketing function who understands the total impact social media can have on your organization."

Sprout Social CMO on marketing leaders challenges in 2023

What Can You Do?

To attract top talent, you'll want to focus on your employer brand.

As Gilpin puts it, "To attract talent with unique skill sets, our company has worked incredibly hard to build a strong employer brand that clearly communicates our values and culture to current and prospective employees. One way we’ve been able to amplify that message is by leveraging the social influence of our own employees."

She continues, "By going beyond our own social channels and by helping our employees become brand advocates on social, we’ve seen the visibility and authenticity of our content grow. Whether we’re announcing a new product, sharing a company culture initiative, or promoting a job opening, our employees have become our greatest asset in building the type of brand awareness that will help us continue to grow our team in 2023.”

Strengthening your employer brand is one of the most effective ways to attract top talent, and leveraging your employees' unique perspectives will help you demonstrate more authenticity in your recruiting materials. In 2023, marketing leaders will also want to consider how they can turn their employees into brand advocates.

Top U.S. Marketing Executive Challenges

While global and U.S.-based participants from both of our recent studies anticipate a similar list of challenges, the way they’re prioritizing them shifts when sampling just U.S. executives. Below is a similar graphic to what’s shown above, but with data from 500+ U.S.-based executives polled for our Executive Leadership survey.

US-based Executive Marketing Challenges

One noticeable shift is that while strategic blockers like making data-driven decisions, keeping up with trends, and content pivots hit the top of the global challenge list in our Marketing Industry survey, U.S. leaders polled in our Executive Marketing survey are focused on the bottom line, preparing for financial challenges like generating revenue, securing budget, and sales-marketing alignment.

This isn’t shocking. While many countries are in a time of financial uncertainty following the pandemic, the U.S. has faced lots of contradicting news reports of whether we are or aren’t in a recession. With this in mind, marketing leaders are focused on saving resources, ensuring they get the money they need, and justifying their work, headcount, or investments by showing revenue attribution or business-wide impact. 

Luckily, whether you're dealing with any of the global or U.S.-based challenges, many of them can be navigated with the insights and takeaways above, such as:

  • Collecting the best analytics possible to make data-backed decisions, ideally by merging first-party data and GDPR-approved third-party data.
  • Knowing how your buyer is continuing to evolve. You can also use data and sales-marketing alignment to stay in touch with what your customers and audiences are focusing on.
  • Ensuring that you approach marketing strategies or investments strategically by asking yourself, "What is the ROI, business impact, or revenue opportunity here?"
  • Preparing to pivot. The only constant thing in marketing is change and many of us have already started working backup or pivot-planning into our strategies for when trends or circumstances around us change suddenly.
  • Building a great employer brand. By doing so, you'll attract all sorts of marketing talent that can navigate many of the challenges above.

Get Inside the Minds of Today's Marketing Leaders

Interested in other top challenges, trends, and opportunities that marketing leaders are focusing on, or want to learn how to build tactics that will get you visibility by solving for their pain points?

Check out our latest series and content hub page, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader: Data from 300+ Marketing Directors on How to Take Your Team to the Next Level. Along with learning more about our data findings from our Executive Leadership Survey, you'll also hear from more top-tier experts from companies like Uber, LinkedIn, G2, and SEMRush.

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