5 Common Challenges Facing Supply Chain Marketers Today (And How to Overcome Them)
Our recent 2023 Supply Chain Marketing Survey asked industry marketers about the issues plaguing supply chain marketers:
Check out the full report here.
The top pain points? Internal misalignment, generating qualified leads, brand strength, hiring and retaining the right team members, and finding ways to demonstrate results. In this blog, we’ll dig deeper into each area to highlight why these areas are tough on supply chain marketers and how to turn these issues into opportunities for success.
Internal Misalignment – Too Many Priorities
A report from Gartner says it is only possible for organizations to function properly with alignment between marketing and sales teams. We’d argue that marketing should be aligned with all the top leadership levels to reduce misalignment and ensure the marketing team isn’t getting spread too thin. Too little time to manage a surplus of digital marketing tasks and a lack of resources and tools to carry out marketing efforts will result in an overwhelmed and ineffective marketing team. Unfortunately, sales numbers tend to slow down if marketers can’t perform at optimum levels.
To be effective, marketing must be aware of the top-level business strategy and feel empowered to collaborate across the company. It’s critical to the success of the marketing function that market strategy, messaging, measurement, enablement, and operations are aligned.
- Clarify and prioritize goals. Set objectives and key results (OKRs) that align with the business’s goals, and ensure your stakeholders agree with them. When new ideas or potential opportunities inevitably come up, ensure that all entities are present and available for an open conversation on what needs to be deprioritized to reach the goal.
- Assess resources and adjust if necessary. Considering the OKRs you created, do you have sufficient staff, budget, and tools to hit them? If not, what’s the plan?
- Communicate priorities and progress regularly to keep everyone on the same page, and remember to celebrate wins, both big and small, to keep your team motivated.
Generating Qualified Leads
When it comes to generating qualified leads, understanding your customer is crucial. Leveraging your observations regarding best-fit customers helps you choose the right marketing tactics and create messaging that appeals to the target audience. If you don’t have Ideal Customer Profiles outlined, that’s a great place to start (and we’ve outlined our approach and offered a free template in this blog).
Our survey found that companies with larger marketing budgets plan to focus more on lead generation and conversion as they use more digital and personalized tactics to influence their audiences.
These companies focus more on gaining qualified leads through their marketing efforts and converting those potential customers into sales-qualified leads (SQLs). These conversions and the cost per acquisition are top of mind for companies with bigger marketing budgets.
If you’re falling short of your goals, you might consider this list of common challenges cited by LinkedIn to figure out where you’re missing the mark:
- Marketing departments have limited resources to sustain consistent lead generation. This correlates with our survey findings that marketing departments in the supply chain industry are generally understaffed.
- Sometimes a strategy is in place, but the lead generation campaign is missing something or needs to be updated for current market relevancy. A detailed and goal-oriented plan needs to be in place for campaign messaging to reach the right audience, and the best ones can pivot quickly to take advantage of current trending topics.
- Sometimes the messaging is missing a “personal touch.” A message that’s too generic will fail to connect. It pays to personalize your content, both with tokens that use contact-specific attributes and relevant messaging. Carefully crafted buyer personas can help tighten your marketing messages. If you’re unfamiliar with personas and need a refresher, check out this blog.
- Button up your ICPs and buyer personas, and audit all your marketing materials to ensure the message is on point and consistent. Narrow down the marketing channels where your target audience will most likely engage.
- Because marketing departments are often under-resourced, lead-generating campaigns may be a good opportunity for your organization to consider outsourcing. An agency partner can give your campaign the attention it deserves and cast a careful eye over your marketing tactics and messaging without the overhead of a full-time employee.
- Spend time testing AI tools like ChatGPT for audience research, content creation, keyword research, and more.
Though our survey shows individuals with more years of marketing industry experience are not as worried about brand strength or working to generate more brand recognition in the next year, it is still a top pain point for marketers tasked with preserving or generating more positive brand awareness. Brand strength is important because it can drive customer loyalty, differentiate a company from its competitors, and ultimately contribute to long-term business success. Maintaining a brand’s reputation in a positive light is a critical function of the marketing team, but it can become particularly challenging when there is internal misalignment, a lack of budget, and a lack of resources.
It is essential to ensure your messages resonate with the audience and remains “on brand.” The look, feel, and tone should match every time. Consistency is vital to building brand awareness because it helps create a recognizable and memorable brand identity.
- If you don’t have brand guidelines, create them. HubSpot has a killer list of examples that you can find here.
- Consider investing in low-cost branding channels that can give your influence a boost. Social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are free platforms that offer paid ad options that can be kicked off with little investment (we’ve found a lot of success with targeted boosted posts on LinkedIn).
- Ensure your website content is optimized for search engines and includes clear calls to action, encouraging visitors to take the next step, such as filling out a contact form or downloading your content.
- Provide educational resources, such as webinars, guides, and ebooks, that demonstrate your brand’s expertise and offer value to potential customers to help establish your brand as a trusted authority.
- Showcase positive customer reviews and testimonials on your website and social media channels to help build credibility and improve brand awareness.
- Take advantage of co-marketing opportunities with trusted partners to expand awareness and reach new prospects.
Hiring and Retaining the Right People
Our survey shows more than 50% of respondents work for companies with a marketing team of four or more people, and another 18% have a marketing department of one. The B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report from Content Marketing Institute found that 46% of its respondents say one person (or group) in their organization is responsible for all types of content development.
What is the size of your marketing department?
It can be tough to maintain an entire brand, all of its marketing efforts, and generate qualifying leads when you are understaffed. Marketers can easily get overwhelmed when the workload isn’t fairly distributed, and work isn’t effectively prioritized, leading to burnout and turnover. However, the unease around the economy has made many leaders in the supply chain industry reluctant to replace employees or invest in a larger marketing department, making retention more critical than ever.
The seasoned members of the marketing team possess invaluable institutional knowledge. While it may feel expensive to reward top performers monetarily, it almost always pales in comparison to the cost of onboarding someone new.
According to Forbes, to retain your top marketers, you must focus on providing:
- Fair pay
- Access to training and learning and development programs
- Involvement in the top-level strategy
- Growth opportunities
- Acknowledgment and rewards for accomplishments
Companies wanting to keep their marketing team strong and reduce turnover would do well to prioritize these areas.
Ability to Demonstrate Results
The first best practice we shared when we tackled internal misalignment was to set OKRs in conjunction with your stakeholders. The marketing leader’s responsibility is to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the metrics that matter, making certain that the team can consistently measure those metrics to gauge progress.
If you’ve identified your specific targets, but are still struggling to demonstrate results, you may be suffering from:
- Ineffective measurement and reporting – using the wrong metrics, failing to track progress over time, or not providing enough detail.
- Limited access to data and insights to enable informed decisions and demonstrate marketing’s impact.
- Limited resources and budget (an ongoing theme) -rendering you unable to provide reporting or analyze progress.
- Too much data, leading to analysis paralysis
- Start by setting clear goals and metrics that are aligned with the overall business objectives. Ensure you’re being evaluated on the metrics that push the business forward.
- Regularly track progress over time to see how the marketing activities are performing. This will help identify areas for improvement and enable the team to make data-driven decisions.
- Invest in tools that enable the team to gather, analyze, and interpret data, so in addition to reporting, you’re paying attention to customer behavior, campaign performance, and other key metrics.
Rest assured that these pain points plague marketers in all industries, not just supply chain. In general, though, most supply chain and transportation companies have been slow to elevate the role of marketing within their organizations. To address these top challenges, marketers must play a more significant role in the business planning process and collaborate closely with critical functions across the organization. With this level of involvement, marketing can begin to lobby for the resources necessary to effectively execute its strategies and drive growth in the long term.
If you’re experiencing challenges executing your marketing strategy, we’d welcome the opportunity to help.