In the past two weeks, two completely different digital marketing industry reports have been released that, while very different, reveal some very similar insights about the greatest challenges facing the industry, and business as a whole, today.

Each year HubSpot releases the the significant gap between sales and marketing, one thing has exponentially stood out to us. Since 2015, the top three responses to the greatest marketing challenges have been the same, and they have a direct correlation to each other.

The top three marketing challenges facing companies in 2015, 2016 and 2017:

  1. Generating traffic and leads* (63% in 2017, 65% in 2016)
  2. Proving ROI (40% in 2017, 43% in 2016, 71% in 2015**)
  3. Securing Enough Budget (28% 2017, 28% in 2016, 51% in 2015***)

Top answer in 2017; **Top answer in 2015; *** 2nd ranking answer in 2015


State of Inbound

The Metrics Matrix

First and foremost, companies are still very challenged by tracking and analyzing their metrics. All of the top three challenges reported this year are related to data and metrics. With dozens of analytics and tracking tools available, from HubSpot to Google Analytics and Ahrefs to Moz, there is no shortage of options that companies have to track results. While using these tools is a daily part of what we do as an inbound marketing agency, we’ve discovered that many businesses, even multi-million dollar companies, do not have any type of analytics tracking in place when we first start working with them. While they might have at least Google Analytics set up on their site, they don’t have the internal resources to interpret the data, nor an internal process in place for what to do with these metrics.

Generating traffic and leads, proving ROI and securing budget are all directly correlated.

More than ever, marketing teams are being measured on their contribution to company revenue. To help prove marketing results directly impact sales, teams need the right tools and attribution processes to track their efforts and ultimately to leads and sales . The data in the State of Inbound Report proves that there’s still a big black hole in the operations of many companies that is preventing metrics from being accurately measured.

“So, these challenges come full circle. Tracking and proving ROI makes marketing teams more “successful;” thus successful marketing teams often get more budget.

Marketing Industry Transformation

Beyond the State of Inbound Report, there have been several other big news stories and studies about the shakeup and transformation of the marketing industry. In January 2017, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble made a speech that rippled across the marketing world. In a major statement of this speech, he called out the closed measurement systems of Google and Facebook, and demanded they take down their “walled gardens” of data metrics. Pritchard also demanded that every agency and media partner they work with adhere to the Media Ratings Council (MRC) standard by the end of the year, shaking up the long-standing agency commission structure of media buying.

On May 31, 2017, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report was released with 355 slides, often touted as “the most anticipated slide deck of the year. It was chock full of insights from the influential analyst covering stats and trends in mobile, social media, gaming, digital content and advertising. Slide 17 addressed the top challenges in Social Media Marketing, and surprise, surprise, the top two are measuring ROI and securing budget.

Social Media Marketing

And, slide 16 is being called the “most nervous-making slide title of the day – “Ad Measurability = Can Be Triple-Edged … When Things Are Measured = People Don’t Always Like What They See … Users Don’t Always Like Data Collected.” So not only are companies struggling with collecting and analyzing data, they’re not always happy with the metrics they are seeing. This is likely correlated to the lack of closed-loop processes for developing marketing strategies with proven and measurable ROI.

These two industry-leading reports prove there is a lot of work to be done, and companies, large and small are facing the same challenges.

What can be done?

  • Break down sales and marketing silos to close the gap between marketing and sales teams and initiatives.
  • Use the right tools to help plan and measure marketing strategies and results.
  • Work more efficiently with an agile marketing approach, using data to pivot and make changes more quickly based on metrics.
  • Revamp the company mindset from marketing as a department to marketing as a company initiative with collective goals.

This isn’t going to happen overnight, but making changes to the strategies, processes, methodologies and technologies that companies use in marketing is absolutely crucial.

Read more: The State of Sales Training ROI