Quick question: What are your top three challenges when it comes to marketing?
Are they…knowing what to blog about?
Keeping up with Facebook algorithm changes?
Not getting distracted by adorable dancing baby animals?
And an even bigger question:
Are you alone?
Turns out, not really – in fact, probably a lot less so than you think.
According to a recent report from Experian Marketing Services, marketers all over the world face similar problems. They talked to more than a thousand pros at businesses of all sizes, and found that they actually have a lot in common when it comes to the challenges they face every day.
(The cute animal thing isn’t in the report, but it seems like a fair assumption.)
What are some of the toughest questions for marketers around the world to answer? And more importantly, what can you do to start solving them?
Knowing your customers
The top challenge reported by marketers in this survey?
Knowing the wants, needs, and attitudes of your customers.
Because when you think about it, the people you want to be your customers and the people who actually are your customers could be entirely different!
Not to mention the fact that wants, needs, and attitudes are all pretty nuanced things, and there can be a lot of variety even among your customers. It’s why businesses love creating “buyer personas” – profiles for fictional people who represent their customers, complete with wants, needs, hobbies, and even marital statuses.
(They also often have cute alliterative names, like “Salesman Scott,” and “Anesthesiologist Amy.”)
You don’t necessarily have to go so far down the rabbit hole that you’re trying to decide whether Dental Hygienist Helena is a Gemini or a Pisces, but figuring out who your customers are is important. And unlike what we were promised by that psychic training correspondence course, reading minds is not something you can learn in six easy weeks.
So how do you do figure out who your customers are, exactly?
First of all, you listen. When we host our weekly demos of Edgar, for example, it isn’t just so we can show new and potential users how he works – it’s so we can learn about how they want to use him! Every question we get via demos and webinars, emails, blog comments, and social media tells us more about the people who use Edgar – specifically, their wants, needs, and attitudes.
(Hey, those are those things marketers want to know more about!)
Second of all, you pay attention to your data. Twitter’s analytics show you all kinds of cool information about your followers, like where they live and what they’re interested in. Facebook, too! And while the people who follow you on social don’t necessarily overlap perfectly with your customers, it’s a great place to start when you’re trying to learn more about people interested in you and what you do.
Third, you ask. We’ve been known to send out the occasional user survey, for example, just so we can get to know our users a little better. (Much more efficient than going on 5000 speed dates – and with less awkward small talk.)
But still – as any good neurosurgeon will tell you, getting inside your customers’ heads can be pretty difficult, even when you know all the best ways in.
It’s not something you get to do once and stick to forever, either – as you grow, you have to keep in mind that your audience can change, along with the wants, needs, and attitudes of the people in that audience. No wonder so many marketers list it as their top challenge!
Speaking of top challenges, though, what came in second place?
Increasing visibility over competitors
It’s hard to get noticed – especially when you’re a small business!
While marketers at businesses of all sizes said that increasing their visibility is a big challenge, nobody reported it as much as the smallest businesses surveyed. Standing out and being seen is tough.
And while you can’t afford to underestimate the value of paying to promote yourself on social media, you also might not always be able to actually afford it. Increasing your visibility isn’t just a matter of size or money, though – it’s a matter of smarts.
Sometimes it means understanding the content that resonates with your audience, which can make your follower count swell, and creating that content as efficiently as possible – not to mention sharing it in places other than a social feed. It might even mean rethinking the way you look at your competitors altogether.
Bottom line? You’ve gotta listen to that old business cliche of “Work smarter, not harder.” (As opposed to that old business cliche of “Another day, another dollar,” because that just isn’t an economically sound profit margin.)
The most interesting thing about this marketing challenge is how closely it’s related to the one that came in third place:
Staying ahead of new marketing trends
About a third of the marketers surveyed say that their top challenge is staying ahead of new marketing trends.
After all, there are just so many!
Whether you’re trying to keep track of the most downloaded dog breed in Spain or understand why millions of people watched a watermelon explode, staying informed on the latest trends takes time.
Your best bet?
Find a few trusted sources for information on the latest marketing trends – places that keep close tabs on that sort of thing and break down what really matters, so you don’t have to.
(If we think of any websites that do that sort of thing, we’ll let you know.)
What are YOUR biggest marketing challenges?
Those are the top three marketing challenges reported by businesses all over the world – but they aren’t the only ones!
So, what are some of yours? Do you feel like the ones listed here represent your own everyday challenges? Are there other ones that you think get overlooked? Sound off in the comments below – you’ll probably find you’re not alone!