Why Marketing is Hard

Marketing is hard.

Sure we’re not saving lives, building homeless shelters or curing diseases. We’re not solving the world’s most immediate problems, but that doesn’t make marketing challenges any easier to tackle.

I recently gave a talk to room full of business students seeking advice. Alongside their degrees, many of these students had a side gig. Whether operating social media for their family’s business or developing their own video production company, each came to me asking the same question; How do I get my business to really take off? Implicitly their question also included the following caveats; how do I accomplish this with conservative budgets and a team as small as one?

It’s a tough question to answer, and one worth billions. If everyone knew how to be successful at marketing, we wouldn’t have an entire industry built off it. The reason it’s such a tough question is because marketing is hard. Here’s why:

People Are Constantly Changing

To sell any kind of product, one first needs to understand their audience. Whether targeting teenagers for education or local moms looking for family supplies, you need to understand both the consumer’s needs and where they are looking. The hard part is that those consumer preferences change over time. The shifts to more sustainable and socially responsible shopping for instance, have put a lot of pressure on businesses to adapt. That’s not even mentioning the various shipping and purchase methods that are now expected. Then there’s the topic of numbers. Trying to please everyone? Good luck. With current culture wars, any shift to placate one audience can mean ostracising another.

What’s all the more challenging is that people have become increasingly more savvy to ads over the years. We are exposed to hundreds, potentially thousands of ads per day, yet the average person cannot recall even ten ads they viewed during a regular session. We’ve becomes so used to ads we instinctively tune them out. Whether we’re scrolling social media during tv commercials, or completely ignoring the right banner side of a website, we’ve become cyber sleuths at evading ads. We also understand product placements within content, making it that much more difficult to make a product stand out.

You Can’t Build an Overnight Sensation Without Trust

Now there are some mainstays when it comes to attracting audiences; convenience and price. However, those are far from guarantees. Take for example the litany of unknown advertisers that come across your own feeds. It’s not enough to have a good product at a decent price. You also need to have an established reputation and trust.

There’s a tricky thing about trust; it’s built over time. It takes on average 8 impressions of something to create an action, and that’s if the user is somewhat familiar with who you are.

Trust is also highly individual. There is some argument for mob mentality when it comes to hot trends, but for the most part trust is developed on a one to one level. You need to convince every single customer of your authenticity, each time starting from scratch.  

The Market is Constantly Changing

Then there’s the ever-shifting market. The marketing landscape is not the same place it was ten years ago, or five, or even one. We are constantly adapting to new scenarios.

Take privacy regulations for one. Ten years ago cookies ran rampant on the internet, providing visibility into consumer’s actions across websites. Modern policies have restricted many of the tracking tools we used to rely upon for highly targeted ads.

Next we have technological innovation, influencing both the tools we use to store and analyse data, as well as the platforms themselves. We are constantly hearing about the newest media network, creating pressure for businesses to be everywhere all at once. Don’t even get me started on the demands for AI.

We also see increased competition for all manners of business. Options across all sectors are seemingly endless, making the choice for consumers all the more complex.

With a market that’s constantly in flux, it takes consistent research to stay on top of your game. That’s difficult for busy marketing teams, let alone individuals. The bulk of my own daily tasks are made up by such research for a reason. It takes work.

The Demands for Marketers are Increasing

Just as consumers are shown to change, so too have client’s expectations. With improved technology, there’s been a consistent demand for better reporting. It goes along with the assumption that every pound is tied to a speedy ROI. Naturally this is difficult given current laws preventing tracking across multiple sites.

Marketers are also facing smaller budgets during a cost of living crisis. They are expected to be on more platforms, achieving greater results with less. Let’s not even delve into the value of creative work here. All of this contributes to an environment which is more and more difficult for new brands and new marketers to thrive.

Back to Basics

So what’s my advice to aspiring young marketers? Go back to basics.

Regardless of the size of type of business you’re trying to run, the same fundamentals apply. A significant amount of spend and resources needs to be invested in awareness. Tell us about the company, the product, and why I should care. This is particularly important for startups and small businesses who can’t rely on nostalgia or simple word of mouth.

Next retarget audiences encouraging further exploration. Cement some of the previous selling points with a new take. Offer something to the consumer in the form of new information, a coupon, or a free trial. Tell them why you stand out over your competitors.

Then finally, once an audience is primed, tell them why they should convert. Remind them of items or pages they browsed, or things left in their checkout cart. Remember that the full experience through the funnel is what builds customer loyalty over time.

Align With the Best

To the next generation of marketers out there be cautioned that marketing is hard, but it’s not impossible. Stay on top of trends, offer a solid product, and flow through the principles of the marketing funnel. It will take time, and perhaps some luck, but your efforts will grow.

For those fortunate enough to work with agencies like Adgen, you’re already a step ahead. We’re at this every day and still learning as we go. Marketing is hard, but we work hard to be good at it.