With all of the changes in information, technology, and best practices related to marketing, something that has remained consistent is that there will always be new challenges to face. AMC’s mega-hit TV show Mad Men depicts this perfectly, following a Manhattan marketing firm in the 1960s eventually facing the ultimate challenge – integrating their traditional marketing methods to a massive room-sized computer.
Over 50 years later, the marketers of today continue to face challenges in this constantly-evolving field. Every business has their own hurdles to overcome (even us!), so we wanted to hear from other marketers and entrepreneurs about the marketing challenges they face on a daily basis:
Generating Word of Mouth:
Word of mouth is one of the biggest challenges for us as it’s hard to earn and very hard to measure. We have recently started trying to WOW our customers by acts of kindness.
We send dog bones out to our homeowners with pets along with a Thank You card. Not only is this very cheap but it lets our customers know that we are listening and that we care. We follow up with an email asking if they received the gift along with links to our Yelp, Google+, and Facebook pages.
-Gene Caballero, Co-Founder of GreenPal
Attracting New Customers:
Whenever I survey small businesses and ask their #1 marketing challenge, it is to attract new customers. Yet, research study after research study finds that the most profitable source for small business growth is to focus marketing on building connections with a business’ established customers and further to use those deeper connections with established customers to drive word-of-mouth among those active customers. Too often word of mouth is left strictly up to chance, yet it is by far the most effective marketing method for small businesses.
-Pam Danziger, Market Researcher at Unity Marketing
Putting Time Aside:
As a small business owner the biggest challenge I face with marketing is actually putting the time aside to do it properly. Our focus since day one has been on referral marketing, which requires delivering a fantastic customer experience. It’s working and our business is steadily growing, but looking back I should have developed marketing channels that were scalable, so I could reinvest our profits into more rapid growth for our agency.
-Travis Bennett, Founder and MD of Studio Digita
Identifying My Target Market:
My biggest marketing challenges are identifying and refining my target market, and remaining consistent. Not being able to identify your target market requires you to try different approaches until you can narrow down and find a niche. This requires a lot of time and effort. Also, it’s difficult to remain consistent with marketing efforts(especially with social media posting) when you are a solo business owner. The key is to find the primary tools you wish to use and maximize their value.
-Tiffany Allen, Creator & Owner of Restored Natural Body Care
Gaining Attention Online:
My biggest marketing challenge is gaining attention on the internet.
There is so much going on through all of the social media platforms that it is difficult to get people to pay attention to your product/service. The content can be awesome, the headline can be eye catching, but people just don’t have the time. I have to post multiple times throughout a day to get even my repeat customers/followers to notice my brand, and it takes really awesome content in order to keep their attention.
Snapchat has made it easier to reach people, but has also narrowed people’s attention span to 10 seconds, forcing me to get my point across in a very short amount of time.
-Mel Jones, Thinking Coach & Motivational Speaker at The Motivational Philosopher
Conveying the Value of My Business:
The biggest marketing challenge in my life coaching business is convincing people of the value of investing in their own self-improvement. It’s often easy for people to invest in vacations, clothes and hair products even if they have to sacrifice other pleasures just to save up for them, but when it comes to investing in their own personal development, they get cold feet. The solution to this is to market in avenues that people have to pay for like magazines, conferences, workshops and seminars to ensure that you are targeting people with a track record of investing in themselves.
-Marissa Russell, CEO and Head Life Coach at The High Achieving Woman
Building Brand Trust:
The biggest marketing issue we face at the moment is building brand trust.
This a fundamental problem for any small business, as new customers are always wary of giving money to companies they do not know. This problem is amplified when your business is completely online, like ours is. Online users want to see ‘name brands’ selling products and don’t often like visiting websites that sell other company’s products.
We tackle this issue through customer service. We constantly have customers emailing us and asking about specific situations where they need a drone of some kind. We always point them in the right direction, even if it is away from our products as we are trying to help the industry as a whole.
–Wesley Flippo, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Buy The Best Drone
Keeping Up with a Competitive Market:
Online marketing has become such a competitive environment, with Amazon and Big Box stores having an unbeatable price advantage and offering same day FREE delivery. Online retailers are spending millions on SEO, paid advertising, content marketing, communicating and technology. The online playing field is so transparent and congested that the latest internet marketing techniques will be negated. Small businesses should return to fundamental marketing principles and focus on great products: Great Products Always WIN!
-Bob Shirilla, Owner of Simply Bags
Becoming an Authority Figure:
The biggest marketing challenge I have with small business marketing is trying to become an authority figure within an ocean of far bigger fish. Even if you know more, have a better product or are cheaper, you need to essentially yell louder than people with subwoofers and microphones!
–Sebastien Dupéré, Owner, President, and CEO of Dupray
Choosing Investments Wisely:
My biggest marketing challenge is deciding which marketing medium I’m going to invest in. My budget isn’t big enough to do a little of this and a little of that. I have to choose whether to spend on organic search, paid search, sponsored content on Facebook or Linkedin, or traditional media. I’m just starting my practice out so when I try something new, I don’t know if it will be effective. I might end up with zero clients. This makes marketing investment very scary. Once the money’s out the door, it’s not coming back unless clients start walking in.
-Robert Theofanis, Esq., Attorney at Law
Search Engine Optimization:
One of the most difficult challenges associated with running a business is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Getting our website to show up on page one in Google is a full time job in itself. It includes many moving pieces, like the technical infrastructure of our website, keyword research, digital media development, content creation, link acquisition, social media configuration, and much more. All of these activities help boost our search engine rankings, but takes up a tremendous amount of time.
-Sean Hall, Owner and CEO of TekBoost
Cost & Limitations:
The biggest challenge by far is the cost. Advertising is so expensive because small businesses have to compete directly with big brands over the same ad space. You don’t just get a discount for being the little guy.
The second hurdle is the rules/laws that make getting your name out there near impossible. In my city, signs and billboards are illegal. As a website and logo designer, it’s almost impossible to get business outside of referrals since there are strict policies against solicitation.
-Jake Jones, Owner of Sweet Awesome Sites
Finding Time to Promote:
The biggest problem I find when running my business day to day is trying to find time to promote my own business and our services. Running a small business is sometimes like juggling, you deal with the day to day client projects, supplier relationships, staff queries, finance and cash flow management and all whilst trying to grow your small business. It can be stressful but learning to manage your time better helps you try to tackle the never ending list of marketing tasks you have as a small business owner.
-Mitchel White, Managing Director at LeftMedia
Nailing Our Value Proposition:
Our biggest challenge with our marketing has always been nailing our value proposition. What is it about our product and offer that compels people to say yes? Until we know this, any marketing efforts or spend in any channels will be like pouring gasoline on wet leaves.
For instance, when we first launched, we thought people would like our service because it’s a cheaper way to get their grass cut. What we found through copy testing in different channels such as ad-words and FB is that the customers’ ability to get same day service is a much more effective and compelling subset of our value prop that drives more visitors and more conversions on our landing pages.
Nailing our value prop first is crucial and while we are getting better at it every day, we still don’t fully understand exactly why our customers say yes to our digital offers.
–Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal
Balancing My Workload:
We have found our client load is very cyclical — we have highs where we are all slammed, as well as lows, where work is very slow. As a small business, it is challenging, then, to find that perfect amount of marketing necessary to guarantee we’re not too busy or too slow.
–Natalie Baker, Business Plan Consultant at The Startup Garage
The biggest problem we face is that we are a small business competing against billion-dollar giants. These mega-printing companies have massive marketing budgets, so we’ve had to learn how to make the most of every penny we spend on our own campaigns.
Content marketing has turned out to be the best solution for us. Since most of our clients are graphic designers, we use our blog to share tips and tricks to help them do their jobs better. This results-oriented content provides measurable benefits, so it builds trust that turns readers into clients and helps us compete against bigger brands.
-Vladimir Gendelman, Founder and CEO of Company Folders
Finding Scalable Marketing Channels:
Over the past six months, I’ve found that my biggest marketing challenge, in particular during this startup phase, is finding efficient ways to test different marketing channels and tactics without burning through large sums of cash, and while attempting to get data that is statistically significant.
When you are working at a larger business, it’s not a big deal to run $5-15K tests all of the time, but as a self-funded entrepreneur, it’s tough to run as many tests as are needed in order to find the sweet spot. My business, Official Coupon Code is in a highly competitive industry, therefore finding scalable marketing channels will be key to ensuring future success.
-Antonella Pisani, CEO/Founder of Official Coupon Code
Keeping Deliverability Rate High:
Over the years, we’ve built a mailing list of over 100,000 people but since coupon emails are typically considered spam, our biggest challenge is keeping a high rate of deliverability. To decrease the number of emails that were ending up in spam folders, we added DKIM, SPF, and DMARC records for our outbound mail and it made a huge impact on delivery to the big mail providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft.
-Mike Catania, CTO at Promotioncode.org
In today’s online consumption world we live in, marketing business to business and to government agencies, is very difficult. We used to have booths at medical society events, legal seminars, and law enforcement conferences. We also used to mail brochures and flyers to prospects in conjunction with outbound telemarketing efforts. Those types of marketing strategies don’t work for us anymore, so we are concentrating heavily in online SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing). The return on investment today with our SEO and SEM is paying off much better than the traditional methods of marketing I mentioned above.
-Ben Walker, Founder and CEO of Transcription Outsourcing, LLC
Measuring the ROI (return on investment) of my marketing activities is my top marketing challenge. Plus, proving ROI often goes hand-in-hand with making an argument to increase budget: No ROI tracking, no demonstrable ROI. No ROI, no budget.
Tracking the ROI of every single marketing activity isn’t always easy, especially if I don’t have two-way communication between my marketing activities and sales reports. I check my analytics frequently – when it comes to increasing ROI, inbound marketing is proven to be the best bang for your buck.
-Zondra Wilson, President/CEO of Blu Skin Care, LLC
Getting Our Name Out There:
The biggest challenge we face is connecting with bloggers and journalists who are interested in covering our story. As an editing software for PDFs, we realize our product isn’t super sexy. However, our business model and revenue is reliant on online sales, so it is critical we get our name out there.
–Sophie Knowles, Founder of PDF Pro
What are some of your biggest marketing challenges? Have you found any solutions? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!