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In 2024, marketers have access to an unprecedented array of technology to help us do our jobs. From the collection and analysis of data, to workflow support and project management software that ensures everyone is on task, one would assume there has never been a better time to work in the field.

But in the wake of a global pandemic, marketers are starting to once again observe a shift in the realm of digital marketing. This makes employing tactics like SEO (search engine optimization) and marketing automation—and working with tools like Google Analytics—virtually essential to boosting brand awareness and creating a positive customer experience.

Technological advancements and rapidly shifting markets can be hugely beneficial for business owners, but they bring with them new challenges. It has never been so important to nurture customer relationships, stay on top of digital marketing trends, and employ new tools and technologies.

Luckily, as marketers we’re used to adapting to the times, and so as we move into 2024, it’s especially important to keep an open mind and adapt our marketing strategies—and our mindsets—as we usher in a new era.

What Are The Biggest Challenges In Modern Marketing?

Increasing regulations around data privacy (like the California Consumer Privacy Act in the US and General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, in the EU) have made it more difficult for marketers to harvest quality data and leverage it to create positive customer experiences, which is essentially the basis of digital marketing. 

This has challenged businesses to rethink their approach to data collection including greater transparency around what data is being collected and who it’s being shared with.

Geopolitical instability has also contributed to insecurity in the economy, causing many business leaders to reign in their spending and reconsider their marketing activities. Now, it’s more important than ever for marketers to be able to demonstrate ROI, which in itself remains a challenge.

How Do Marketing Challenges Affect Businesses?

According to Salesforce’s recent State of Marketing report, building client trust is a top priority for CMOs right now. Part of building that trust is creating a narrative that customers can relate to, one that defines your brand, and comes across as authentic.

The report also indicated that 91% of CMOs believe continuous innovation to be the key to remaining competitive. 

Rehmann Rayani, chief strategy and marketing officer at Model N, told CMSWire that as businesses are cutting back on spending, it’s more important than ever to make conscious decisions on spending and to ensure that you are operating from a growth mindset, even when times are tough. He said:

"From making strategic hires to investing in key technology that will propel business growth, companies that double down on their investments now will emerge stronger in the long run." 

Top 10 Marketing Challenges

While there are understandably many challenges facing marketing professionals this year, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 we've seen have the biggest impact:

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Gaining New Customers

Customer acquisition is essential to a well-functioning business, but creating a roadmap for finding these clients isn’t always easy; it requires a true understanding of client pain points and current market trends along with in-depth industry knowledge, and technical know-how.

In some instances, it’s easier and more financially viable to focus on retaining your existing customers and building loyalty than it is to acquire new ones, though most marketers take a combined approach. In fact, 44% of companies have a greater focus on acquisition vs. 16% that focus on retention.

How to overcome it: 

The key to customer acquisition is to get creative. Firstly, embrace a diverse mix of marketing channels to ensure that you’re meeting your customers where they’re at. Rather than thinking about short-term wins, focus on building a sustainable customer acquisition strategy, meaning that any investments you make should bring you returns for the foreseeable future.

While it can be tempting to bombard a wide customer base with your marketing efforts, some experts have seen greater success by taking the time to strategise and create marketing offers tailored to their target audience. 

For example, a mobile telecom operator attempted to re-engage its client base with aggressive acquisition tactics, but failed to have the desired effect. So, the CEO listened in on customers’ calls and realized that he would need to revamp their offerings to solve for client pain points.

Once he adopted this approach, the business’s customer satisfaction rating turned around overnight, customer churn rates decreased by 75% and, over the next three years, the company nearly doubled its revenue. As the CEO said: “It’s amazing the things you can do when you shut up and listen to your customers.”

Recruiting Talent

Recruiting top talent is no easy feat. Highly qualified candidates know their worth, and they expect that to be acknowledged throughout the recruitment process. Good talent is tough to come by, and you can assume that they are likely considering multiple offers, so business leaders need to revamp their recruiting process to account for the current hiring climate.

How to overcome it: Creating a strong company culture is one way to set yourself apart in a candidate’s mind and convince them to join your company over a competitor’s. It’s also important to be open to candidates who might not possess every single skill you’re looking for, but who are able to be molded and shaped into an ideal employee for your organization.

“Having the right company culture in a workplace can make all the difference when it comes to making a position more marketable for potential employees,” says Thomas Mullin, Director at Robert Walters UK. According to Mullin, the right company culture is one that fosters an inclusive and diverse environment and demonstrates trust by giving employees autonomy and flexible working conditions.

Retaining and Training the Marketing Team

Finding the right employee for the job is tough, and once you do, you want to make sure you hang on to them. According to Gartner, the main causes of employee turnover are lack of recognition and lack of professional growth opportunities.

How to overcome it: 

Training and development have a direct impact on employee retention. Providing people with the right tools to do their job and opportunities for growth within the company makes them feel valued, and builds loyalty.

According to senior business executive Monu Kalsi, supporting the individual development of your employees is essential to keeping them. “Support ongoing growth for team members through training, conferences, and certifications. These learning opportunities can be internal or external. The key here is that any individual development plan must be aligned with their career aspirations and opportunities assessment.”

For more employee retention strategies, check out Kalsi’s excellent how-to guide to creating and maintaining high-performing marketing teams

Selecting the Most Effective Marketing Tactics 

The challenge: No doubt your team has a list of brilliant marketing campaign ideas bursting with creativity, but which path will generate the results you want? Before executing, you’ll want to make sure that the tactics you’ve chosen will deliver more than just provide eye-catching content marketing, but will elicit an emotional reaction from your audience and drive decision-making.

How to overcome it: Effective marketing tactics are aligned with the overarching goals of the business and have defined KPIs, such as revenue, traffic generation, or client acquisition. Once you’ve identified what kind of impact you want to make, consider what marketing strategy is most likely to get you there. For example, a competitive strategy is designed to help you gain an advantage against competitors, while a growth strategy is designed to expand your business and increase revenue.

Dell, one of the largest computer manufacturers and technology companies in the world, has succeeded by honing in on a key pain point of their clientele—frustration with the growing amount of e-waste created by rapid technological innovation combined with shortened product lifespans.

Dell currently boasts the world’s largest electronics takeback program, and is constantly looking for ways to deliver value to their clients for the long-haul, aiming to extend the lifetime of their products as long as possible. In the process, Dell has saved more than $1 million by recycling plastics from recycled computer parts.

According to Jennifer Allison, director of supply chain sustainability at Dell, “We’re talking about systems — not just products, programs or initiatives. Looking at the whole system is when change begins to make a significant difference. Technology is a great tool for measuring and analyzing systems, understanding processes and identifying inefficiencies.”

Budgeting for Marketing Campaigns

The challenge: In our current era of austerity, CMOs are being tasked with finding creative ways to devise effective marketing campaigns without breaking the bank. The question marketers must ask themselves is where can they afford to scale down without impacting the quality or efficacy of their marketing activities?

How to overcome it: The solution here is to learn to do more with less, and work with what you’ve already got. This is the time to double down on content repurposing, identifying your most valuable content marketing assets and reintegrating them in a new way—whether that’s making sure they’re up to date, putting a new spin on them, or converting long-form content into visual assets (slides or video) for social media distribution. You can also consider content syndication to take your content further.

As Identity Digital’s Kimberly Michener puts it, “While tactics like social media ads, digital display ads, and SEM are usually effective, remember that the secret to high ROI and fast growth is being flexible, willing to experiment, and learning from the data. And always keep your specific goals, objectives and audience in mind.”

Find more insights from Michener in her article on how to manage your marketing budget for improved ROI.

Refining Messaging for Differentiation

The challenge: Brand messaging is the way you communicate your values to your clients; the challenge is to find the right words to effectively communicate with your audience and differentiate yourself from the competition, while still coming across as genuine and authentic.

This can be a tough line to walk, and it can be tempting to create over the top messaging in the effort to set yourself apart from the competition, but this can come at the cost of communicating from a place of authenticity and forging a genuine connection with your audience. 

How to overcome it: It’s easy to think that brand messaging can be conceived of in an afternoon, but it’s crucial not to rush the process. Spend time carefully considering your brand messaging and how you want to come across to your audience. Be specific in terms of word choice and tone. Refine your messaging until it feels right and authentic to the brand, and make sure to adapt it for different channels. Your messaging for LinkedIn should look different compared to something you would post on Instagram, for example.

In her 23 years of experience in the industry, Michelle Chuang, Principal at MMS Brand Consulting, has distilled the essence of brand messaging down to its simplest form. “A strong brand message goes beyond simply communicating the function of a product or service; it also encompasses the aspirational values that the company stands for. It should resonate with the target audience on a deeper level, forging an emotional connection and inspiring them to align with the brand.”

Dig deeper into the nuances of brand messaging in Chuang’s recent article How To Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Brand Message In B2B Marketing.

Measuring the ROI of Campaigns 

The challenge: In marketing, your ROI is proof that your strategy and tactics are producing tangible results. This is essential to understanding what channels are most effective and where to focus your attention (and your allocated funds), informing your future marketing activities, and securing budget from other stakeholders. However, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the exact affect your marketing activities are having.

How to overcome it: A clear strategy to measure your marketing ROI consists of specific goals, a set budget for each activity, the right technology, and a formula for tracking metrics and calculating marketing ROI. Tools like Google Analytics can be especially handy here, as they enable you to track performance metrics, page rankings, and conversions, and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

A basic formula for calculating marketing ROI is MROI = (Marketing Value - Marketing Cost) / Marketing Cost however you may want to devise a more nuanced formula, depending on what works best for your business.

Facing Increased Competition

The challenge: As market competition increases, it becomes more challenging to stand out and make an impact on your audience. The challenge here is to market your value proposition in a way that deeply resonates with your audience and makes them want to buy from you in spite of the myriad of other options available to them.

How to overcome it: To stand out in a saturated marketplace, make sure to humanize your digital marketing efforts. People tend to want to buy from other people rather than faceless companies, so leading with a human touch will take you far and help set you apart from your competition. Make sure that you have a deep understanding of your customer’s pain points and use your marketing efforts to convey how you can provide the most value. 

You might also consider niching down and targeting a smaller sector of the market who you’ve come to realize are underserved. This tactic could propel your growth and eventually give you access to a larger portion of the market.

Tracey Moon, CMO at Cybersixgill, knows a thing or two about standing out in a saturated market. “Content marketing is a great way of building trust in complex technical products and services. Done right, you’re explaining to readers the intricacies of the topic in ways they likely don’t understand and taking an educational approach rather than a self-promotional approach. By creating eBooks and reports that explain complex topics and offer practical guidance, we established credibility as a knowledgeable resource that our customers and prospects trust to deliver valuable information.” 

Learn more about differentiating yourself from the competition in Moon’s article How To Compete Against Your Sector’s Brand Goliath Using Speed, Agility, And Smarts.

Keeping Up with Global Market Changes

The challenge: As political tensions continue to rise, and the technological landscape evolves at an increasingly rapid rate, corporate leaders find themselves struggling to keep up. Pressure to respond in a thoughtful way while rethinking your business strategy and risk frameworks, combined with uncertainty around how to provide for customers’ needs can cause business leaders to avoid taking action altogether.

How to overcome it: Communicating with your customers is key to understanding what they want and expect. By gaining a deeper understanding of your current client base and keeping an eye on shifting market trends, you can find success even in an ever-changing market.

Deloitte’s 2023 Global Marketing Trends Report goes into more detail on the top global market changes CMOs are facing include economic instability, increasing emphasis on sustainability, and rising technologies, as well as the importance of risk-taking and cross-functional collaboration.

Working with a Lack of Resources

The challenge: One of the most tangible consequences of political and economic instability, two mainstays of the last year, is a lack of resources. For marketers, this manifests most notably in a lack of qualified candidates to fill crucial roles, restrained budgets as businesses tighten their belts, and strained supply chains. 

How to overcome it: Make sure you’re accurately measuring your marketing ROI so you can justify your budget and even petition for a greater allocation of funds. Ensure that your marketing objectives are clearly defined, that you have an intimate understanding of your buyer persona, and that your strategy is designed around specific data points that make it easy to measure the impact of your marketing activities.

We recently spoke with Revology Analytics’ Armin Kakas, whose 15 years of experience in commercial analytics has led him to the understanding that collaboration is key to maximizing ROI. “Cross-departmental collaboration is critical for effective Revenue Growth Management, and marketing is no exception. Regular communication, shared performance metrics (i.e., Revenue, Gross Profit $ and NPS goals), and highly collaborative planning sessions should all be part of the winning formula.“

Read more of Kakas’s ideas on How To Manage Your Marketing Budget For Improved ROI.

Finding the Right Tools

The challenge: Having the right MarTech stack is essential to collecting data and creating impactful marketing campaigns. With so many competing tools on the market, it can be difficult to determine which ones are worth implementing in your organization, and where to allocate your precious marketing budget.

How to overcome it: Start by defining your goals and KPIs for future marketing campaigns. Then, consider what tools can best help you to connect with your audience. This will depend on where your target audience lives, their challenges, objectives, and how you can best deliver your messaging.

Ultimately, you will likely need to test out a number of tools to discover their functionality and determine which ones are right for you, but starting off with an understanding of your needs as well as research into what tools are currently on the market will help to narrow your search.

Not sure where to start? The following are some of our current favorites:

  1. Salesforce Pardot — Best B2B marketing automation tool
  2. TextMagic — Best for two-way SMS marketing comms
  3. Campaigner — Best for segmentation & personalization
  4. ActiveCampaign — Best for marketing automation
  5. Google Analytics — Best for marketing analytics

Check out our full roundup of the 28 best marketing software. 

Moving Through Marketing Challenges To Find Success

While CMOs are facing unprecedented challenges, we are also seeing solutions emerge in the form of marketing technology, including a whole slew of tools and services to help you do your job better. 

It’s important to understand that you’re not alone—as you’ve seen, these challenges are coming up in different ways for marketers of all kinds. Luckily, our readers are all exceedingly clever, creative individuals who live for a challenge, and we love producing insightful marketing articles about the creative ways marketers are finding to combat common marketing challenges.

We want to know—what are the biggest marketing challenges you’re facing in 2023, moving into 2024, and what tactics are you applying to help you work through them? Let us know in the comments, or connect with us on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The CMO newsletter for more expert insights, marketing industry trends, and quality content that’s been created with you in mind.

Anya Leibovitch
By Anya Leibovitch

Anya Leibovitch is a content marketing strategist and writer. She has worked with brands and agencies such as GSoft, Divisional, and The Green Organic Dutchman to create story-led brand content and thought leadership articles.