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The Marketer of 2023

What skills and tools do marketers need to stand out in 2023? We surveyed more than 400 marketers to find out. Learn how industry professionals are improving, from organizations like IKEA, Vela Software, Wunder.io, and Parents Plus.

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REPORTThe Marketer of 2023

Marketing takes another big leap in 2023, with technological advancements running at record pace. We wanted to hear directly from organizations about which tools and strategies will form their marketing campaigns over the next 12 months.

While 2022 was all about the post-pandemic marketing recovery, 2023 is focused on expansion and efficiency. The global economy is squeezing at a time where companies are growing, and the winners of this game are those who adopt efficient business strategies.

This includes both traditional marketers and social media marketers, half of which say a limited budget is the biggest challenge they currently face. So, how can firms interact with their audiences and customer bases better, if budgets aren’t going up?

In this report, we’ll show you how marketers from across industries are adjusting their campaigns to thrive in 2023. We’ll draw input from 409 respondents across Brandwatch’s network who were kind enough to share their thoughts with us.  

Let’s start by looking at where we currently are.

“For any company to thrive, they need to understand their market landscape, their audience, and how to position themselves against key competitors or emerging players. Having a clear go-to-market plan is the foundation of any successful marketing strategy.”
— Chloe Nicholls, Product Marketing Strategist at Similarweb

Obstacles we face right now

Before looking at how to improve in 2023, we need to know the obstacles that stood in our way in 2022.

Obstacles come in varying forms and often all at once, so untangling what needs to be addressed urgently, and what are long-term obstacles, is important. We asked our respondents what the three biggest challenges to getting to know their customers, prospects, and audiences are right now.

Time, data, and priorities

The response was understandably varied – after all, every company and every marketer comes up against their own unique set of challenges. But the main obstacles are not having enough time, not having enough data, and not having the right priorities internally.

And these overlap. Not having the right internal priorities means time is wasted trying to solve this issue. Acquiring useful data to help shape those priorities can also be difficult.

Our survey shows the majority of the digital marketers, and those who also work with social marketing, collect data through time-consuming surveys and focus groups. So it’s not surprising that time and data correlate for them.

Generating leads

Data, indeed, is the major obstacle. Elsewhere in our survey we found the biggest challenge for marketers of all types is generating traffic and leads, and therefore hitting targets. But without the right data it’s hard for marketers to predict lead generation rates, and also how much time to dedicate to it. More data on what appeals to customers equates to a more efficient way of working.

Looking ahead

In 2023, marketers need to stress the priority of having time to gather data to get to know their customer and generate traffic to hit their targets. It’s all about zooming out – you can’t just get to know your customer in a day, in the same way you can’t get to know a person in a day.

We found 57% of people who answered our survey didn’t have enough time to get to know more about their audience, but looking at the wider data, it’s easy to understand how that happens.

Team challenges

Next, we asked our respondents what the biggest challenges their teams were dealing with right now. And the results weren’t surprising.

The five biggest marketing challenges teams are facing at the moment are:

  • Generating traffic and leads
  • Measuring and reporting
  • Limited budget
  • Accessing data about prospects and customers
  • Lack of bandwidth

Again, we can see that these challenges interlink. Generating traffic is difficult without the knowledge that comes from accessing, measuring, and reporting on data about prospects and customers. But these things are hard to do right on a limited budget and with restricted bandwidth.

Tools like Brandwatch aim to help with these problems. Generating traffic remains the biggest challenge for those who don’t use social listening, be they solely digital marketers or people who also work across social marketing too.

“Building cultural relevance online will only become more important. Social listening tools and skills will be vital in finding, understanding, and engaging with the communities that are relevant to your brand.”
— Gabriella Karlsson, Social Media Specialist at IKEA

In fact, 30% of respondents said that difficulty predicting the future was one of their five main challenges, but being strategic about the future is possible with the right data.

Interpreting data correctly is also an issue. Harvesting data is the first step, but as Anne Woollett, Marketing Communications Manager at Tollring, explains, a successful marketer needs to use it effectively.

“There's a startling lack of understanding of the fundamentals – like knowing what makes data reliable, how to use it ethically, how to analyze it, and how to drive action from it. Without applying this knowledge, both to tactical and strategic activities, marketers cannot be efficient, effective, or ethical,” says Anne.

Lacking data collection

As we’ve seen from the above responses, at the heart of the issue is data. And when it comes to data collection, marketers don’t seem to be empowered with the right tools.

One fifth of our survey respondents either weren’t sure which data collection methods they use, or don’t use any methods of data collection at all. Given that website traffic and social media are major lead generators for customer businesses – the majority of respondents included at least one social platform in their list of top five best channels for generating quality leads for their businesses – having data from these lead sources is invaluable for understanding what specifically turned that visitor into a lead.

For instance, information about the audience who responds to a brand’s Facebook posts means that marketers can create more posts that generate website traffic.

But away from social media, marketers are beginning to think more about how they create their own communities. Online magazine subscription models, podcast communities, and gaming are all moving away from the big social media platforms, and going it alone.

Sam Bettis, Customer Engagement Director at krow.x, says: “With new technologies, the web is becoming increasingly fragmented. People are hanging out in different places. Could we see the end of the Big 5? And if we do, where do we find customers? This is going to need us to consider new approaches to mapping experiences.”

Analyzing and managing brand reputation online

We all know how important online brand reputation is, and thankfully most businesses manage their image successfully. Our survey found businesses are more adept than ever at dealing with good and bad reviews, handling social media comments, and addressing publicity issues.

In fact, only 10% of people who took our survey gave their organization 1 or 2 out of 5 for reputation management. Clearly the world is doing something right. Yet only 20% gave their businesses a full score. This means the remaining 70% of marketers feel like they are doing an average job with managing their brand reputation online, and are in need of improvement.

Communications Manager, Jamie Johnson, thinks that “having a better understanding on how people consume their information generation to generation” is going to be important in the coming year. Plus, Jamie thinks this will contribute to how businesses manage their brand reputation online.

Digital consumer intelligence

Digital consumer intelligence is a smart way of saying ‘how well do you know your target audience?’. And half of our survey respondents thought their organization knows its target audience fairly well. What’s more, 41% of that half of the group didn’t find generating traffic a challenge, showing that generating traffic is easier when you have good digital consumer intelligence.

Time, meanwhile, presents another big challenge. Over 50% of those who don’t rate their audience intelligence highly believe time is the primary constraint. This could explain why their brand doesn’t know its target audience too well. But it’s also a problem for those who rate their digital consumer intelligence full marks. In this instance, perhaps they’re spending too much time getting to know their audience and not doing anything else.

“Only with continuous learning can we create win-win opportunities to deliver what customers really need”
— Kara Wallace, VP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development at Mortenson

Current tools and techniques

Having looked at how marketers feel about their limitations, let’s take a look at what tools and techniques are most readily available to them.

Our survey results found that reporting, calendar, and SEO tools were the most frequently mentioned of the most important tools for marketing teams heading into 2023.

Having the right organizational tools is crucial in digital marketing. To hit a winning formula, you need to be planning ahead using a calendar and SEO tools, and then reporting back and actioning on what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Exactly half of the digital marketers who answered our survey put reporting tools in their top three most useful tools and techniques. In fact, 80% of marketers who mentioned that they were struggling with generating traffic put SEO tools as one of the most important tools for them. Yet, only 41% of the group struggling with traffic generation rated a calendar as important. Using these tools hand in hand with reporting tools could really help generate traffic, and therefore leads.

Bridging the skills gap

Having the tools to implement stronger marketing strategies is one thing, but marketing teams need the skills to use these tools correctly.

This is one of the biggest issues heading into 2023. There are scores of marketing tools out there that promise to aid your brand’s management, but actually mastering the toolkit available isn’t always easy. It can be like learning a whole new language.

Tools are nothing without the correct skills to make the right use of them, and content creation, data analysis and digital advertising were rated as the three most important skills among teams today.

These skills are very separate, but seem to represent the diversity of what marketing teams are dealing with at the moment. The most highly-skilled roles are the more traditional ones – in which someone may need to be trained in additional, more diverse skills to cater for the online market in 2023.

It might also explain why not having enough time features so heavily on people’s obstacles. You cannot do everything all at once, but a big skills gap can hand-tie a brand for years.

For example, our study found a severe lack in mobile marketing skills among marketing teams (just 10.3%). Considering two thirds of global search traffic is done on mobile devices, not having mobile marketing skills and tools can set a brand back.

Diamond Frandsen, Brand Manager at InterCoastal Net Designs, says the big challenge for next year is “taking the time and giving time to team members to train up on the newest changes, updates and policies set by the large advertisers and search engines.”

2023 marketing resources and tools for success

Looking into 2023, it’s evident the marketing industry is shifting away from traditional sources of data collection, and towards a more nuanced, technologically-powerful approach.

Remember at the start of this page we revealed that many digital marketers collect data through surveys and focus groups? Well, only 4.4% of respondents actually think surveys will help them in 2023. That’s a drop from 52% last year. People want to shift away from that time- and resource-consuming method, and towards faster, more efficient strategies.

Data analysis (30.1%), social media listening (28.4%), and consumer research tools (27.6%) top the list of desirable additions marketers need to help forge their marketing strategies. These are generally passive tools that track user intent and needs, rather than active tools that interact with users.

Conveying data to decision makers higher up is also an issue. Zachary Morris, Marketing Associate at Johnston Allison Hord, says “being able to properly analyze data and report to non-marketing management” is another hurdle that needs to be addressed.

“Being able to properly report this data to other decision-makers in the company will justify both time and budget invested into marketing initiatives,” says Zachary.

Looking forward, the need for data analysis is reflected throughout our survey. Marketers find predicting the future the biggest challenge across their teams, and want more data to make better decisions. Yet, one fifth of respondents don’t know which way to turn, and many don’t collect data at all. Add to this the fact that 57% of marketers feel they don’t have the time to get to know their audience, and it’s clear 2023 should all be about data.

Stephani Roberts, founder of AudaciousMamas.com and TheAudcaciousLife.com, predicts 2023 will see a fresh trend for “owning your own communities online (not on social like Facebook) through low cost or free memberships, where social listening becomes easier and more efficient to elicit honest feedback and input around content, problem solving, and customer needs.”

2023, here we come

Marketers are always looking at ways to improve their workflow – from training co-workers to widening their data resource. And 2023 will be no different. Our study has highlighted several key areas for improvement:

Audience understanding

Knowing who your audience is and what they want remains a perpetual headache for marketers both in the traditional marketing space and on social media. 2023 represents a shift away from traditional surveys and towards a “listening” approach.

Data collection

We all want to predict the future, and increasingly data is the resource desired to do this. Collecting data on audience and customer intent helps reduce costs and more accurately predict future trends.

Reputational management

70% of marketers feel they could improve their brand’s reputation. Many are seeking a reputational management platform that provides a holistic approach but don’t have this as a priority.

Time restrictions

Setting goals is one thing but finding the time to grow a brand remains a marketer’s perpetual struggle. In 2023 the focus is shifting towards time-saving processes, and using digital platforms to inch away from “analogue” workflows.

Skills improvements

Mobile marketing skills remain low for an industry that works so much in the online space. If time and data efficiencies cannot be improved then boosting a team’s skill set is the natural alternative.

Play the video

It may be 2023 but many brands still don’t realize the power of video marketing. This could change with time but video remains a market space that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

“Having a much broader vision and mastering consumer psychology, on the one hand, and be aware of the benefits and possibilities of the artificial intelligence applied to marketing, on the other, will allow us to generate versatile and dynamic strategies for our clients and their brands, in order to be able to connect efficiently with their target audiences.”
— Álex Rubio, CEO & Strategy Director at Twelfhundred Digital

We’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed to these insights, including the folks we’ve included throughout this piece:

  • Álex Rubio, CEO & Strategy Director at Twelfhundred Digital
  • Gabriella Karlsson, Social Media Specialist at IKEA
  • Jamie Johnson, a Communications Manager
  • Kara Wallace, VP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development at Mortenson
  • Stephani Roberts, founder of AudaciousMamas.com and TheAudcaciousLife.com
  • Diamond Frandsen, Brand Manager at InterCoastal Net Designs
  • Sam Bettis, Customer Engagement Director at krow.x
  • Anne Woollett, Marketing Communications Manager at Tollring
  • Chloe Nicholls, Product marketing strategist at Similarweb

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