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Marketers reveal their biggest challenges of 2017

Marketers reveal their biggest challenges of 2017 Chloe Della Costa
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With each passing year, the marketing world faces as many new challenges as it does opportunities. The continued proliferation of digital media is bound to make marketers' jobs easier in some respects, but it also presents significant risks -- both to individuals in their everyday jobs and to the larger industry as a whole. With all the potential data points that can now be measured, perhaps one of the most important challenges to the marketing industry is learning to recognize which metrics are most important, as well how much is still unknowable. Otherwise, there is the risk of moving backwards. To get a better sense of the unique challenges faced by individual marketers on the ground, we went straight to the source. Here are the top challenges that real marketing professionals shared with us.

Seeing the big picture

Jay Friedman, COO, Goodway Group

2017 is going to feel like the year of the mirage. So many of the pieces of data we need to unlock vital information to value our marketing are now within reach, but the complete picture is still a mirage. It's fairly easy to root out fraud now, we have the data to determine viewability and time in view, accessing raw logs is easier than ever, and even acquiring lost bid data is in reach in 2017. But it will likely be 2018 before the links are all established and we make a true breakthrough in valuing ad inventory, data, and the return it generates.

Thinking like a consumer

Julia Spano, senior director of marketing partnerships, BounceX

The No. 1 challenge I see for all marketers, including myself, will be to think less like a marketer and more like a consumer.

Marketers forget that consumers don't think in terms of channels or devices when shopping or perusing a news outlet; they think in terms of convenience. We're all consumers at the end of the day. In considering how we ourselves behave differently between mobile versus tablet versus desktop and between channels such as Facebook versus email versus site, you will begin to recognize obvious missed opportunities as a result of the disjointed points of friction that we, as brand marketers, have unintentionally created along the path to conversion.

It will be up to marketers to create more relevant digital experiences that react to the on-the-go mind frame of the consumer, regardless of the channel or device. Fortunately, technology companies are churning out innovative new platforms that enable marketers to explore new ways to create more dynamic people-based relationships with rich, non-disruptive digital experiences in scalable environments.

By taking a more consumer-first approach that focuses on the individual rather than the funnel, marketers will find themselves significantly more empowered to engage audiences and keep them coming back.

Generating qualified leads

Kent Lewis, president, Anvil Media

I believe the biggest challenge we will face at Anvil in 2017 is generating a sufficient volume of qualified leads. As owner of a measurable marketing agency, my primary responsibility is sales and marketing. As a result, inbound marketing has been a primary focus. I've noticed more prospects are electing to take digital marketing (paid and organic search engine and social media marketing, specifically) in-house and building out teams. We've turned this liability into an asset with two newer products and services including Anvil Marketing Index Scorecard (a benchmark audit and roadmap) and Anvil University (training and certification we're rolling out in Q1 of this year). Our goal is to provide maximum value to clients that are committed to building or maintaining digital marketing teams in-house, yet benefit from the perspective of a seasoned agency with 40 clients, plus awards and resources most in-house teams lack.

Prioritizing customer experience

Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction

The challenge I'm most excited about is the evolution of customer experience (CX) as a priority for CMOs. As it gets harder to make an impact on audiences by simply buying advertising, brands need to find new ways to create value for customers in order to sustain growth. The brands that will be most successful in this will be those that invest in CX based on an understanding of their customers. As an agency, we are using traditional disciplines of audience research, account planning, and insight development -- the kind of work that used to just be fodder for an advertising brief -- in new applications like content and experience design. As an agency executive, I'm challenged both with ensuring my team understands how their skills and talents can be applied in new contexts, and with communicating the value we can provide to clients that are struggling with growth challenges in a rapidly changing world.

Personally relevant messaging

Michael Ballard, senior manager of digital marketing, Lenovo

I think one of the biggest challenges for marketers in 2017 will be to make sure their messages are personally relevant. This means innovating to actually communicate with consumers on a one-to-one basis, instead of one-to-many. It means knowing who your customer base is, which part of your audience you're trying to reach, and crafting the messaging that will speak to them most directly and powerfully.

Marketers will need to think about intent. And while video is one of the most impactful platforms, it shouldn't just be general. It needs to be personalized to really have the converting power. Viewers no longer accept unrelated content, thanks to social media. And, as we are all learning, collateral damage is no longer allowed.

Using data to make predictions

Jim Nichols, VP of marketing, Apsalar

It's all about predicting likely outcomes and making better choices.

For 2017, we need to connect data-driven insight to concrete actions that drive sales and profit growth. Many of us have spent the last several years building data infrastructure. Now we're focused on deploying predictive analytics to model likely outcomes for different tactical options. Predictive analytics is the first step in the machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) "revolutions" so many pundits have been talking about. By finding patterns in our marketing data, predictive analytics can help us make better marketing investment choices. They can also be effectively and affordably delivered via SaaS.

Exercising restraint

J. Barbush, VP/creative social media director, RPA Advertising

It's easy to get caught up in the targeting, retargeting, and audience segmentation, and forget there are real people behind all those numbers. But we all need to be accountable to them.

Today's tools make it easier than ever to discover an audience, but finding the right message to connect is the real challenge. It's important that marketers focus in on that message, and use restraint when reaching an audience. You don't want your brand to feel like a lurker, following people around the web, mirroring back the products from their previous searches. It's creepy. These days it's more important to think less like marketers and more like people, because that is ultimately the audience we all serve. Marketers should lead their clients into not asking the question of "Can I?" but rather "Should I?" As we progress more toward automation in ads, it's even more important that your brand makes people feel respected. Most sophisticated marketers know this, but the tools and targeting make it tempting to cross a line with consumers which will ultimately damage your brand.

The rapidly changing media landscape

Reid Carr, CEO, Red Door Interactive

Things are changing in media at a faster clip than ever. Traditional and digital lines are blurring even further (What is TV today, anymore? Do we even really buy "media" or do we really buy "audiences"?). Clients are getting deeper into how dollars are spent via either direct relationships with publishers and with technology vendors or coming at it from the other side via procurement departments. Agencies, long the middle men, are getting squeezed, but are also expected to be cutting-edge and inventive with the latest and greatest ideas and opportunities. It is going to be a tricky year, no doubt, but I'm also excited to see how this plays out by December (because media will be very different by then).

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