Marketing's Top Five Challenges Identified (and more!)

In a recent poll* of some of the top marketers in the country (client side, vendor side, agency side, thought leaders, former clients and colleagues), the following question was posed:

What Are the Top Five Challenges You or Your Clients Face Today?

Below are the top five answers along with ten extras we just couldn't leave out.

This year, email and digital marketing seminars and conferences abound: EEC, Sherpa, MAAWG, EIS, DMA and dozens of others.

Each of these conference committees works hard to try and bring relevant content to attendees.  A lot of of these events are expensive, and these are hard economic times.  The committees try to secure speakers, panelists, keynotes and content, in addition to paid attendees and new membership.  Whast do the attendees want?  What are they looking to learn?  What can thought leaders provide?

As a marketer, new technology and marketing channels are critical.  As a vendor, exposure to new prospects, technology and social integrations are key for lead generation and PR.  As a business, you have an opportunity to learn about solving your own challenges and explore companies who might have solutions, and to learn about new channels and technology everyone says is critical, but you don’t exactly know how to put them all together, or just don’t know much about a specific channel…and you are charged with learning it now.

From the poll* of ~300 people – marketers, vendors, clients, former clients and agencies, the aggregate top five challenges for 2012 are (drum roll please):

  1. Internal bandwidth and budget on marketing, vendor and IT sides – clients and vendors are looking to “up their game” with limited resources.
  2. Marketing integration and optimization with new technologies into their existing platforms (and lack of knowledge base in new channels) – Mobile and Social lead the pack right now -and integrating email marketing with other traditional, and new channels.
  3. List/Customer Acquisition and eAppend via any channel (the latter has truly become a 4-letter word these days.  It has 7 letters, actually).  How can I grow my list in accordance with the law and not lose a good portion of my list if I port vendors?  How can I utilize different channels to grow?  How do I acquire solid new customers?
  4. Managing multiple “partner/vendor” contracts (sometimes 5 or 6 at a time) and those vendors’ unique abilities, and the failed efforts in wasted bandwidth to try and integrate them  with IT, their CRM databases and marketing into one email or other platform, including call centers.
  5. Privacy: Interpreting Privacy Policies from social groups and global rules (EU, APAC, etc., Google, FB, Twitter – they have all been in the news, as has SOPA, ACTA, PIPA), yet internal bandwidth issues remain.  Clients do not have time to filter through 40 articles, nor read the laws.  And how do they have to change their web privacy policies to conform?

    This wouldn’t be complete without the next ten:

  6. RFP help.  Or RFI help.  Email Service Provider Comparisons. This happens, quite often, in three areas of involvement on the client level: procurement, IT and/or marketing (or a combination).  They often work against each other with different goals, or have problems coming to fruition with marrying their multiple goals, cost-efficiently.
  7. Mobile: Everyone has seen slides and knows the potential positive impact.  Some have seen case studies, but they don’t know how to go about it.  They look for aggregators, efficiency and ease of use.  QR codes and how to utilize them is included.
  8. Loss of experienced professionals due to economy, and replacement with lower-paid/less expensive and less experienced staff who has to learn the “game” all over again – back to marketing 101 educations, diversification and separation of “duties” (e.g., a Social Media Manager, an Acquisition team, etc.).  Often working toward common goals, but at cross-purposes in the leadership/budget chain.
  9. Combating declining channel effectiveness, and how to measure and test for increased adoption and engagement.
  10. Utilizing analytics to full advantage.  All analytics, and how they can be integrated (from each channel) easily for a “one view.”  What do they all mean and how can I make sense of them and how do I marry them?
  11. How to build effective messaging in a highly competitive marketplace.  How to leverage the ability to profile data for more relevant dialogues across all channels.
  12. Utilizing analytics to full advantage.  We have web analytics, integration analytics, email analytics, social analytics, mobile analytics – basically this was a “HELP!”
  13. Video.  How can I integrate video into my channels?
  14. Increased use of triggered/automated email or other channel messaging – mostly with implementing automation, updating systems to handle, or creating the right rules and programs.
  15. Testing.  Putting together a cross-channel testing methodology, including frequency/cadence.

And outsourcing is an issue as well.  To outsource or not to outsource?  A good question.

Email marketing is quickly overtaking a larger slice of the overall marketing budget as a cost efficient and effective channel.  Immediate visibility into data is key.  With companies becoming more competitive, each looks to grab as much of the "pie" as possible, increasing their capabilities and partnerships to alleviate some of the pain marketers feel, and be more "channel-ready."

While many of the above challenges seem iterative, these are the many of the topics that were the most pressing.  Everyone agrees email as an effective channel is not going away.  However, the commonality is that marketers feel the pressure to have all channels at their ready in a complex marketing stream and clients want help with streamlining this process and utilizing every resource they have to optimize every channel.  Together.


*This was an internal study conducted by information era marketing + consulting, llc (EIMC) in 2012, and represents a compendium of marketers’ and thought leaders’ top challenge opinions in a limited study.  Of ~300+ surveyed, response rates were ~48%.  This was a private study, and is proprietary to IEMC, llc.  Dori Thompson is a results-driven executive consultant with 19 years of experience in direct and online marketing, ecommerce, sales, strategy, and research.  She is also the co-chair of the eec Speakers Bureau Advisory Committee.