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26% of Companies Agree This Is Their Top Marketing Challenge

Your marketing challenges aren’t unique. While it may feel that way at times, the truth is that the marketing challenges you face day in and day out are felt by companies across every industry in almost every vertical. The uniqueness is actually in the solutions you use to solve your marketing challenges.

But, while we’re on the subject, what is YOUR biggest marketing challenge? We posed this question to more than 7,500 people who contacted our digital marketing agency through survey forms and we’re eager to share what they told us about lead generation, brand awareness and ROI.

But first, let’s talk methodology. Our survey sample of 7,503 respondents draws on data provided by contacts who signed up for our eBooks and related offerings over a two-year period by filling out a form that asked for:

  • Their professional role or “persona” (eight categories ranging from business owners and CEOs to marketing VPs and PR pros; sales, IT and agency staffers)
  • Their company size (nine categories ranging from 1 to 10,000+)

The form also asked respondents to name their biggest marketing challenge from a list of 15 possibilities.

The No. 1 answer will not come as a shock – 26% of respondents listed their top priority as Getting More Leads.

And as you can see, many of the other marketing challenges named by our survey respondents involve methods and strategies that support this overarching goal shared by marketers and businesses everywhere – developing, nurturing and converting leads.

Graph1_new (1)Before we take a deeper dive into the data, here are the rest of the answers:

  • Generating Brand Awareness – 11.74% of respondents
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 9.16%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 8.37%
  • Converting Leads to Buyers – 5.24%
  • Aligning Sales and Marketing – 5.17%
  • Using Social Media Effectively – 4.32%
  • Keeping Up With the Latest Trends – 4.28%
  • Staying Organized and Productive – 4.18%
  • Content Creation (Blogs, Ebooks, Whitepapers) – 4.16%
  • Targeting Buyers Effectively – 3.91%
  • Increasing My Website’s Keyword Rankings on Google – 3.88%
  • Increasing, Reporting and Proving Marketing’s ROI – 3.83%
  • Educating Prospects/Buyers – 3.64%
  • Using Marketing Automation Effectively – 2.17%

Biggest Marketing Challenges By Job Persona

Getting More Leads dominated the discussion – clocking in as the top answer for seven of the eight job personas. Lead generation was also selected as the No. 1 marketing challenge across each of the nine company sizes.

The suspense is killing you, right? Which of the personas did not rank Getting More Leads as their top priority? It was the Communications/PR Professionals, who selected Generating Brand Awareness ahead of Getting More Leads.

Communications/PR Professional

  • Generating Brand Awareness – 17.13%
  • Getting More Leads – 13.76%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 10.67%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 10.39%
  • Content Creation – 7.58%

Of course, it makes sense that the PR pros are intently focused on brand awareness. But it’s a bit surprising that so many respondents (11.74% overall, second after Getting More Leads) selected as their biggest marketing challenge a category that is notoriously difficult to measure.

One theory is that Generating Brand Awareness ranked so high precisely because it can be so hard to quantify.

In an article breaking down this challenge, HubSpot observes that brand awareness is often thought of as a “lofty, fluffy goal” that “means something different to everyone.” To help with this, HubSpot suggests more clearly defining your brand awareness goals and using “attribution modeling” to better measure the effectiveness of brand awareness campaigns.

Everyone Wants More Leads 

When we examine the top five answers submitted by each of the additional job personas, you will not be shocked to learn that the persona selecting lead gen by the widest margin is Business Owner/Partner, followed by Sales and the two Marketing personas.

Business Owner/Partner

  • Getting More Leads – 35.26%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – 9.54%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 8.95%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 6.52%
  • Staying Organized and Productive – 4.53%


  • Getting More Leads – 30.41%
  • Aligning Sales and Marketing – 10.53%
  • Converting Leads to Buyers – 9.94%
  • Targeting Buyers Effectively – 8.77%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 8.77%

It’s encouraging to see that, in addition to the expected focus on leads, converting leads and effectively targeting buyers, the salespeople were also attuned to Aligning Sales and Marketing (aka smarketing).

Marketing Coordinator

  • Getting More Leads – 23.8%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – 11.14%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 10.14%
  • Converting Leads to Buyers – 7.73%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 7.33%

VP of Marketing / Marketing Director

  • Getting More Leads – 22.86%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 11.52%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – 10.98%
  • Increasing, Reporting and Proving Marketing’s ROI – 8.28%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 8.19%

It’s also noteworthy that Aligning Sales and Marketing did not crack the top 5 challenges identified by the marketing professionals. Another interesting tidbit: Marketing Directors and VPs are focused on proving that their efforts are producing a return on their company’s investment.

CEO/Executive Management

  • Getting More Leads – 22.68%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – 12.99%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 10.52%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 9.28%
  • Converting Leads to Buyers – 5.77%


  • Getting More Leads – 19.69%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – 12.69%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – 12.18%
  • Keeping Up With the Latest Trends – 9.33%
  • Educating Prospects/Buyers – 5.96%

The data reveals that the second most compelling challenge both for CEOs and across the board – Generating Brand Awareness – is one for which it is considered notoriously difficult to quantify ROI.

Also, it’s possible the IT professionals might have chosen something other than Getting More Leads as their top challenge if other options were provided (for example: Technology Solutions or Fixing Problems For All the Other Personas).

Agency (Creative/Web/Inbound)

  • Getting More Leads – 18.87%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – 14.47%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – 7.55%
  • Staying Organized and Productive – 7.55%
  • Keeping Up With the Latest Trends – 6.92%

Some (especially us content creator types) may find it a little surprising that Content Creation did not rank higher among the Agency respondents (5.66%), since it is such a fundamental and necessary element of an effective inbound marketing program. Meanwhile, the only persona placing greater emphasis on content creation was Communications/PR Professional (7.58%).

Less Concern About Reporting on ROI

Only 3.83% of respondents described their biggest marketing challenge as Increasing, Reporting and Proving Marketing’s ROI. However, conventional wisdom suggests this area would rank somewhat higher since the ability to prove marketing ROI often directly impacts the size of the next year’s marketing budget.

In fact, proving return on investment of their marketing activities was named the No. 1 challenge facing marketers in HubSpot’s 2015 State of Inbound survey. The report revealed that not everybody was properly tracking ROI, but that two-thirds of the respondents who documented a greater return on investment over the previous year received an increase in their marketing budget.

Finally, coming in dead last in our Vital survey, just 2.17% of respondents reported that their biggest challenge was Using Marketing Automation Effectively. This is a bit surprising since most successful inbound marketing programs rely heavily on utilizing the robust automated reporting capabilities available today to track nearly every aspect of the process – and then using that information to continually shape key strategies.

The chart below shows that the CEO/Executive Management persona was most likely to cite effective use of automation as their biggest marketing challenge.

Graph2_new (1)

  • Getting More Leads – Business Owner/Partner – 35.26%
  • Generating Brand Awareness – Communications/PR Professional – 17.13%
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy – Communications/PR – 10.39%
  • Staying Organized and Productive – Agency – 7.55%
  • Keeping Up With Latest Trends – IT – 9.33%
  • Converting Leads to Buyers – Sales – 9.94%
  • Content Creation – Communications/PR Professional – 7.58%
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic – IT – 12.69%
  • Increasing My Website’s Keyword Rankings on Google – IT – 5.7%
  • Using Social Media Effectively – Communications/PR – 7.02%
  • Aligning Sales and Marketing – Sales – 10.53%
  • Educating Prospects/Buyers – IT – 5.96%
  • Increasing, Reporting and Proving Marketing’s ROI – Marketing Coordinator – 6.43%
  • Targeting Buyers Effectively – Sales – 8.77%
  • Using Marketing Automation Effectively – CEO/Executive Management – 3.92%

Biggest Marketing Challenges By Company Size

Getting More Leads ranked No. 1 across all company sizes represented in the survey. However, the emphasis on lead generation appeared to diminish in relation to the size of the company.

Graph3_new (1)

Size of company / % of respondents from each company size saying their biggest marketing challenge is Getting More Leads

  • 1                       33.43%
  • 2-5                   28.06%
  • 6-10                 25.26%
  • 11-25                24.74%
  • 26-50               20.36%
  • 51-200              20.99%
  • 201-1,000        16.19%
  • 1,001-10,000   17.16%
  • 10,000+           17.69%

Generating Brand Awareness ranked No. 2 for all company sizes, except those with 10,000+ employees – 12.24% of such firms reported that their biggest marketing challenge was Increasing, Reporting and Proving Marketing’s ROI (compared to just 3.83% of respondents overall).

The statistics also suggest that while even one-person companies understand the need to coordinate sales efforts with marketing strategies, the emphasis on this challenge takes on greater importance the larger the company.

Graph4 (1)

Size of company / % of respondents saying biggest marketing challenge is Aligning Sales and Marketing

  • 1                        3.24%
  • 2-5                    3.72%
  • 6-10                  5.05%
  • 11-25                 6.38%
  • 26-50                7.25%
  • 51-200              6.55%
  • 201-1,000        7.29%
  • 1,001-10,000   8.25%
  • 10,000+           9.52%

Here are some additional takeaways from reviewing answers to the question “What is your biggest marketing challenge?” by company size:

  • The greatest emphasis on Content Creation was among companies with 10,000+ employees (6.8%)
  • Increasing My Website’s Overall Traffic was top of mind for firms with 2-5 people (10.67%) and 6-10 people (10.81%) and least important among 10,000+ firms (5.44%)
  • Planning a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy seemed most important to firms with 201-1,000 people (11.34%) and 1,001-10,000 people (10.23%); and, perhaps because they’re already satisfied with their marketing programs, least important to 10,000+ firms (5.44%)

What Is Your Biggest Marketing Challenge?

Clearly, lead generation – no matter your job persona or company size – is critically important to all. But the survey also hints at the interconnectedness of the many challenges we all face in the multifaceted, multichannel world of 21st century marketing.

Here at Vital, we spend all day, every day working hard to help clients achieve winning results with our highly creative, data-driven approach to brand strategy, website development and inbound marketing.

What is your biggest marketing challenge – or better yet, your top 3-5? Add your comment below or drop us a line to continue the conversation.

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