5 of the biggest challenges facing today's marketers

McKenzie Gregory

Updated on December 12, 2018. 
Achieving success in today’s fiercely competitive marketing landscape is no small feat. Audiences are distracted, virtually every digital channel is overflowing with content, and breaking through the noise seems next to impossible. 
If you feel overwhelmed by it all, you aren’t alone. During Marketing United, we got the opportunity to chat with some of the best marketers in the industry about the top pain points they (and their peers) face on the job.
We also took what they said into consideration when creating our resolutions for 2019.
Here were their responses to the question, “What’s the biggest challenge facing today’s marketers?"
1. Dealing with data 

When it comes to data, there's so much to consider when it comes to email marketing, such as what information do you have about your consumers, and how can you use it to create a customized email experience? What information are you allowed to ask for as an email marketer? Elaine Armbruster and Cynthia Round tell us what they're facing when it comes to gathering information:

Elaine Armbruster (The Ohio State University): It’s been this way for a while now – you probably remember everyone buzzing about ‘big data’ just a few years ago. We have to get our data clean before we can personalize our messaging and provide the kind of custom experiences our audiences both expect and deserve.
Cynthia Round (The Metropolitan Museum of Art): We’re inundated with so much information, and we know so much about WHAT our audiences do. But too often, we don’t take a step back to understand WHY they do it. We can't get so sidetracked by the data that we forget the qualitative, intangible aspects of our brand that really drive loyalty.
2. Getting your website right 
The relationship between email and websites is one that should naturally go hand-in-hand but doesn't always. How can you strengthen that relationship? Ben Jabbawy and Oli Gardner tell us what to focus on:
Ben Jabbawy (Privy): 98% of traffic coming to your site is leaving without completing the goal you want: buying something, signing up for your list, registering for an event, whatever. Focusing on how to intercept that massive group of users and figuring out how to convert them is our biggest challenge. 
Oli Gardner (Unbounce): Most people fail when it comes to testing. Yes, A/B testing is the mechanism to make your website perform better, but if you’re a small brand, there’s a good chance you don’t have enough traffic to do it effectively. So, in the meantime, you need to be doing research to find out who your customers are and what they want. That way, by the time you DO have enough traffic to test, you’ll have a data-driven hypothesis to start with.


3. Identifying (and using) the right tools

Learning and keeping up with the latest tools and software can be difficult for email marketers, especially when their to-do list is already miles long. Can you relate? Ann Handley and Lauren Hobbs sure can. 
Ann Handley (MarketingProfs): There are so many kinds of technology and so many platforms out there, and I think it's become increasingly challenging for marketers to figure out which ones will sustain us and which ones will ultimately distract us. 
Lauren Hobbs (Union Square Hospitality Group): I think the biggest challenge facing today’s marketers is the rapid growth of so many channels, especially on the social side of things. There isn’t really any definition for what ‘expertise’ in social looks like because it’s changing so fast, and you’re constantly being forced to stay on your toes and adapt your strategy. That’s why you have to really hone in on the channels where you can win and ignore the channels where you won’t.

4. Collaborating effectively 

From organizing your team to implementing a thorough marketing cross-channel strategy, collaboration is one of the biggest necessities for marketers. Hear with Kevin Keith and Robert Brown have been up to:
Kevin Keith (Orangetheory Fitness): Everyone talks about collaboration. So often, I’ve worked with teams where it’s an issue: People have trouble communicating and getting on the same page. Being able to see the bigger picture and understand your role in a marketing team is absolutely crucial. 
Robert Brown (Nissan North America): Marketing teams need to be multi-disciplinary, and they need to communicate super effectively – not just in terms of how they express themselves, but also in how they think about the ramifications of what they’re doing and how it’ll affect the rest of the team, making sure everyone’s on the same page, and keeping it all moving in the right direction.

5. Staying relevant 

There's the saying "time is money," and then there's marketing, where this is an everyday reality. With new technology and platforms emerging each day, it can be difficult to keep up. See what Jenny Leahy and Samra Brouk have been up to:

Jenny Leahy (Microsoft): Our news cycles are incredibly fast, so for your campaigns to break through and actually be relevant across multiple channels, you have to tell an authentic story that’s true to your brand and on-tone with what’s happening around the world. You really have to be tuned into key events and your brand message to really make those stories shine through. 
Samra Brouk (dosomething.org): I think the biggest challenge facing today’s marketers is how do you stay relevant (and on-brand) when so many things are happening both politically and socially in the world? You have to find ways to meet your audience where they are, keep things timely, and avoid alienating anyone in the process. 

Sound off: What is the biggest challenge YOU face as a marketer? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!  

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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