Marketing Through the Maze: The 5 Forces We Face in 2018

We’ve both been “practicing” marketers, working exciting day jobs while also investing in the B2B Marketing Academy. We kept busy much of last year working while blogging on sites like,, and sharing ideas at the Intelligent Content Conference, Content Marketing World, and other industry events.

Our goal for 2018 is to double down in our mission to connect with and encourage other marketers. Why you might ask? It’s hard for marketing leaders to succeed today. By comparing notes and sharing ideas, we believe that we’ll all be more successful in navigating these exciting times.


Keep an Eye Out for These 5 Challenges to Marketing Success in 2018

What makes marketing today any harder than in the past? We see these 5 key market forces shaping marketing success in 2018:


1. Digital Transformation

It’s not just a business buzzword. It’s a movement.

Everyone talks about this trend. Executing cross-functionally and effectively is another matter.

Marketers are best positioned to lead the way by capturing customer insights at the point of digital interactions. This helps guide brands in meeting customer needs. Also, marketers are expected to be digital these days. From dressing up your “digital front door” (aka your website) to providing engaging and relevant content—you’re at the forefront of digital for your company.

But vanity metrics like Twitter and Facebook followers aren’t enough for success. True return on marketing investment is what garners budgets. Also, the rest of your company is transforming too. In addition to driving inbound marketing leads from your top-notch work, you also can be a hero to your colleagues by creating digital spaces for customers to learn what’s new in the industry and explore products. Better yet, engage your service and support teams by creating digital onboarding and self-support experiences for new and existing customers.


2. Customer Experience

A mega-category in business today–customer experience (CX) means vastly different things to different people.

The best definition I’ve seen comes from thought leader Paul Greenberg.

“How a customer feels about a company over time.”

Most companies cite this as a key goal and differentiator. The best companies embrace it as a driver of investments and programs throughout the enterprise. They get customer insights ranging from surveys, interviews, focus groups, and more. Then, they use the information to prioritize real work. They make CX pragmatic and actionable in the everyday work of employees in order to make a difference for customers.

Marketers who lead CX efforts are in a position to be role models of change. Get customer insights, share them and use your marketing work as a lab to experiment on how to best serve customer interests. By aligning overtly and measurably to what customers want, you can shine the light on best practices for the rest of your company.


3. Content Marketing Evolution

We’ve both seen a turning of the tide in content marketing.

When the concept of content marketing was in its infancy, a few leading organizations such as the Content Marketing Institute and cutting-edge companies like Marketo and Eloqua (now Oracle) were early pioneers. There were few companies producing customer-focused, edutaining content. As a result, ROI on inbound, content-driven marketing was high for companies that did this well. Their approach stood out amidst the norm of speeds and feeds content.

Fast forward to 2018, content marketing is becoming mainstream. 91% say they use content marketing as an approach, according to 2017 Content Management & Strategy Survey by the Content Marketing Institute.

What’s the impact of that? Hiring and managing content operations is getting easier. But what about return on marketing investment (ROMI) and your ability to forecast leads? We believe that’s still evolving.

We’ve seen some anchor content and inbound marketing targets to past results. Seems logical right? But with content saturation increasing across all industries and companies, gaining awareness and interaction is far harder today. So ditch the hockey stick goal charts and expect to put more effort into reaching the right customers. Fewer of the right prospects are better than a wagonload of uninterested, casual content consumers.

Instead of focusing simply on creating more content, we’re seeing marketers focus their energy on better storytelling, and getting more from every piece of content they create.


4. Marketing Technology

When purchased and deployed well, it lets us focus on creativity, collaboration and execution in alignment with outcomes.

With so many cool vendors out there, it’s hard to prioritize what’s really needed. We believe marketers should prioritize technology that streamlines website and SEO optimization, digital marketing automation and lead creation first. It’s the core of what we do. So, it’s best to make that as easy as possible.

Next, make sure that your results can be quantified where possible. With lead generation happening across digital channels, social media, events, sales teams and more—you’ll need a tool to unify disparate data sources. This allows you to focus on trends and resulting actions rather than on the effort to gather data and form insights.

Whatever you do, be open to exploring the latest in what vendors are offering. The pace of change in marketing technology is rapid. So, every few months brings surprising new offers to the table. Keep a short list of vendors who can demonstrate how they help you report ROMI.


5. Expectations

Marketing leaders need to deliver results by engaging people while juggling these dynamics.

The average tenure for chief marketing officers dropped from 44 months to 42 months, according to the 13th annual CMO tenure study by leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart. “This represents a two-year decline of six months, or 13%, over the last two years.”

Not only that, but Millennials—a key source of talent—are known to rotate jobs frequently as a growth strategy. “A recent Gallup report on the Millennial generation reveals that 21% say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-Millennials who report the same. Gallup estimates that Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually.” So, you must quickly train and ramp Millennial talent before they hop to new ventures—all while maintaining consistent progress.

Don’t forget. On top of managing your ‘people strategy’, you must thread the needle on expectations while digitally transforming, aligning to customer experience, knowing what content will drive engagement and choosing the right technology. Phew! It’s a tightrope walk.


Welcome to the new normal for 2018

The good news is that you’re not alone. To provide ideas and support, we’re launching two new blog series. The first features everyday heroes who have succeeded in adapting and thriving amidst these dynamics:

The second is a practical, tactical marketing series for those who just need tools to make it through the storm:

We hope you enjoy the content, and tell us what topics you wish we’d cover.

Peg & Christine



High energy, inspired B2B Marketer. Lessons learned largely in high tech and communications industries where I've worked with very smart folks, on very cool things, in very dynamic environments. I like helping others navigate people, tech, programs, and problems with vision, courage, and impact. All opinions are solely my own.

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