When I went to business school, my core curriculum was filled with every commerce course in the book. From accounting and finance to economics and IT, the goal was to turn students into well-rounded business professionals.

After dabbling in different courses (and admittedly suffering through accounting), I found my calling in marketing. Finding a creative outlet where my love for words could be used strategically to turn a brand’s messaging into an engaging story felt like the educational stars had aligned.

From my experience, I had a lot of peers tell me I chose the “easiest” business major – until they had to take a marketing course for themselves. Marketing is so much more than just coming up with creative ideas (even though that’s a major part of it). Each day brings its own unique set of marketing challenges that you need to use your business and customer relationship skills to overcome.

Here are 14 marketing challenges that most businesses will encounter, and tips on how to work through them.

1. Going off-script during an unprecedented crisis

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: They don’t teach you how to do marketing during a pandemic in business school, and there is no playbook for a crisis of this magnitude. Coronavirus will be the single greatest challenge that many marketers will face in their entire careers.

However, whether it’s COVID-19 or something else, every marketer eventually confronts a crisis at some point. And in these situations, they may have no recourse other than to react on instinct and what they know about their audience.

The key thing to remember when trying to overcome an unprecedented situation as a marketer – especially something as life-changing as COVID-19 – is to be empathetic with your target audience. Never exploit hardship in your messaging and always focus first and foremost on how to be helpful.

If you suspect that your messaging could be perceived as you taking advantage of a bad situation, then you probably need to go back to the drawing board.

2. Managing audience segments

Marketers aren’t just creating content for a client or brand, they’re crafting materials that will call their customers’ audiences to action. Most marketing teams are creating content for three distinct audiences per client.

Identifying these target audiences is the first step to creating effective messaging within your marketing campaigns. In B2B marketing, defining buyer personas may be more beneficial for promotional purposes. Both target audiences and buyer personas serve important purposes to help marketers identify who they are creating content for.

Review our three-step approach to defining a target audience to help jumpstart your marketing campaign.

3. Understanding metrics

Over 80% of B2B marketers agree that their biggest marketing challenge is measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns. Understanding your marketing ROI is essential for tweaking your budget and future decision-making. After all, digital marketing is data-driven marketing, but with the amount of information being collected from each campaign, it can be easy to become overwhelmed deciphering which metrics matter most.

Measuring ROI is one of the more major digital marketing challenges, but it’s relatively easy to overcome. Metrics are divided into two categories: vanity and value. An increase in social media followers and higher keyword rankings don’t necessarily have an impact on your business’s bottom line. Value metrics, like downloads, conversions and qualified leads directly impact revenue and are what matter most.

Include these metrics in your reports to show clients or department heads how your marketing efforts benefited the company.

4. Navigating social media

Social media is one of the easiest marketing channels to use, right? Wrong. Many people may consider themselves social media experts because of the time they spend scrolling through different platforms. Social media marketing can certainly be beneficial for small businesses and large corporations because of its accessibility and outreach, but you still need a solid strategy and dedicated social media manager to increase sales this way.

While 74% of marketers around the globe invest in social media marketing, many of those marketers may not be utilizing the platforms with the most ROI. For example, Facebook and Instagram are great for B2C small businesses looking to create a community around their product or service by sharing visual content, but LinkedIn is actually the best for generating qualified leads in the B2B domain.

While you may associate LinkedIn with your last job search, 91% of marketing executives agree it’s the best social platform to find quality content.

5. Generating article ideas

Marketing and creativity go hand in hand. Coming up with original materials, titles and images that are optimized to reach target audiences is a challenge that flexes both the creative and analytical sides of a marketer’s brain, but after a while can become exhausting.

Writer’s block is one of the most aggravating content marketing challenges, but we have a handy topic brainstorming cheat sheet that you can fall back on when the inevitable happens. If that doesn’t get the creative juices flowing, consider using a content ideation tool or scroll through social media to see what consumers are searching for so you can tailor content to their interests.

6. Improving email engagement

Is it really 2020 and we’re still engaging in email marketing? Yes! When done correctly, email marketing offers a massive ROI because it’s so easy to implement and can directly reach your target audience.

Of course, email marketing is only effective if existing and potential customers engage with it. Savvy marketers realized that email marketing as a whole wasn’t the problem with a failed campaign, but rather how they approached this form of communication.

Email marketing should be targeted, personalized and valuable to the reader. Consider using marketing automation tools to help with these outreach tasks and manage drip campaigns. With a modern approach to email marketing, you can engage your core audience through a channel they likely check multiple times a day.

7. Choosing a strategy

Content marketing. Pay-per-click advertising. Email marketing. Social media campaigns. These are just a few tried-and-true marketing strategies that creative professionals consider for their clients’ campaigns. Ultimately, marketers must be comfortable using a mix of these strategies to reach a wide audience at different levels of the sales funnel.

Think of it this way: You may have a content marketing manager create a unique eBook to boost qualified lead generation. Their team also writes blog posts promoting it on your website. Then, your social team may share the blogs on LinkedIn and promote the eBook on Facebook and Instagram. As the date of its release approaches, you have an email marketing launch plan in place to share the news with existing and potential customers.

Using these marketing channels and tools simultaneously improves the customer’s experience interacting with your brand down the sales funnel.

8. Generating qualified leads

Speaking of generating qualified leads, 68% of B2B professionals identify increasing the quality of leads as a top priority (followed closest by the quantity of leads). The majority of potential customers who come across your website most likely won’t make a purchase. Creating content with specific calls to action geared toward consumers either further down the sales funnel or more likely to make a purchase is crucial for efficiently using your resources.

Content marketing, in particular, powers inbound lead generation by placing your brand directly in front of your target audience in a naturally engaging way. The marketing materials draw interest from potential customers who you then (hopefully) convert into qualified leads.

Qualified leads are more likely to become customers based on your collected data and buyer personas. Take the time to fine-tune your marketing activities to your target audience to garner better leads and improve your bottom line.

9. Determining action items amidst an abundance of data

Even before a campaign is implemented, marketers are collecting data to help with their decision-making process. From ROI, customer engagement, bounce and click-through rates, it can be difficult to know how to use all of the data available. While we already discussed vanity vs. value metrics, information collected through data-driven marketing can be further categorized into:

  • Data for strategy.
  • Data for audience targeting and planning.
  • Data for topic ideation and content creation.
  • Data for distribution and promotion.
  • Data for performance metrics and measurement.

Once you know which information should be used for each category, you effectively expand your analytics capabilities and improve your marketing strategy, and in the end, your bottom line.

10. Tackling reoptimization

You might think that once you send a piece of content out into the universe the marketer’s job is done. That’s definitely not the case. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing their criteria for what it takes for a website or article to rank high organically, which in turn, affects SEO best practices. This means a social post or blog might not get the results you were expecting after a few months or years of being live.

If an article doesn’t perform well organically the first time, find out why. By reevaluating why the article didn’t engage with the target audience well, you can first learn from your mistakes and then improve upon the existing content. Sometimes, content reoptimization is as simple as creating a more engaging title and adding relevant subtopics, but it could also mean a complete rewrite. Either way, there’s always the opportunity for improvement.

This can also mean checking in on existing, well-performing pieces and ensuring that they continue to rank high in the future. Update statistics and modernize the content so it continues to engage the audience and promote your brand.

11. Prioritizing the user experience

You’ve done it. You have a one-in-a-million marketing idea that you believe is perfect for your brand. But just because you like it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to enhance the customer experience to guide them down the sales funnel. This year, customer experience will be the most important brand differentiator, even more so than price and product, when it comes to the consumer’s decision-making process to make a purchase.

The customer experience begins when they first interact with a brand, and that’s usually through marketing materials. As a marketer, you must always remember that your content needs to engage with the target audiences across channels and devices. This can be as simple as ensuring that a website is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile or as specific as creating article titles centered on a unique keyword.

12. Working on a budget

Time and money are a few of any business’s most valuable resources, and for marketers, it’s no different. In 2019, marketing budgets in North America fell slightly to an average of 10.5% of company revenue (down from 11.2% a year prior), and it’s likely that COVID-19 has further depleted those reserves. As a result of those decreases, marketers for small businesses and large companies alike may feel their creativity is restrained by a budget.

The best way to work with a limited budget or other constraints is to invest what you do have in tools and strategies with the most ROI. For some, that means outsourcing inbound marketing to an agency that already has the knowledge and resources to do this, but you may also want to look into how marketing technology and automation solutions can assist your efforts. While the best investment depends on your business’s immediate needs, long-term goals and capabilities, most organizations are allocating their marketing budget across agencies, martech, media and labor.

Via Gartner.

13. Training new hires

Your marketing tactics are only as good as the creative team you hire to craft the baseline materials necessary to implement it. A skilled content writer or digital designer can turn your message into engaging content aimed to drive a potential customer to take action, so hiring the right team is crucial.

When hiring or training a new hire, look for and foster these traits to help them succeed. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but ensuring you’re onboarding the best talent makes for smoother transitions down the road.

14. Staying on top of trends

On top of staying vigilant to all this information, marketers must always be thinking two steps ahead of the next promotional trends and channels. From account-based marketing to automation tools and AI, there are plenty of exciting marketing opportunities for content creators to explore.

Take the time at the end of every week, or at least once a month, to search online, read the latest marketing reports or simply see what other marketers are doing to stay ahead of these trends and try them out for yourself.

So, for the record, marketing is not the easiest business major. Every day presents different marketing challenges to overcome and there’s no other way I’d want to spend my time than working in a field that challenges my creativity, analytical skills and customer service.

Elizabeth Little is a content writer in Boston. When she’s not typing away on her laptop and putting her marketing degree to good use, you can find her under a fuzzy blanket binge-watching reality TV or trying her hand at an overly complicated recipe hoping it comes out looking like the picture.