Have you ever seen the Wong-Baker pain rating scale? Used in doctors' offices and hospitals nationwide, it was developed to rate pain severity.
The scale shows a row of stylized faces rated 0-10. Zero is happy and smiling. Ten is miserable and teary, with increasing degrees of discomfort in-between. Marketers rarely experience a pain-free, happy-face day, unless they're sipping mai tais on a tropical beach, their electronic devices safely stashed away.
As a marketer myself, I know the feeling. We're expected to be data-minded, always on, social media marketing gurus. That doesn't leave much room for creativity. What's worse, everyone in the company who ever took a marketing class wants to weigh in on strategies and tactics.
Whether you're an entrepreneur or a marketer, understanding these seven major marketing pain points will make you better at your job:
1. Lack of Internal Alignment
Whether because of genuine communication issues or intrusive office politics, lack of alignment is a common complaint.
On a macro level, everyone in the company needs to be aligned around the brand and its value proposition -- everyone should know, understand, and believe in the elevator speech. Too often, that is not the case.
On a more granular level, lack of alignment can be around incentives, company culture, process, sales, CRM, technology use, and employee rewards and reinforcement. Oftentimes, sales and marketing departments are pitted against each other, and compete for the same budget, leading to unproductive infighting.
For instance, I've sold a marketing person on a terrific idea only to have them back out a few days later because another department head thought it was 'off strategy.' Unfortunately, the naysayer often has no clue what the strategy is. This can be from a lack of understanding marketing, or simply not wanting to understand it.
2. Funding or Budget Limitations
Big ideas often cost big money and can seem like a big risk. Even with an adequate budget, spending often gets diverted to the sales department, marketing operations and technological investments. As a result, many CMOs are forced to dial their creativity down to a more affordable level.
3. Barriers to Innovation
In "Swimming Towards Success," a five-year CMO Innovation Trends Study, Strategic Marketing Consultant Lisa Nirell asked 435 CMOs to rate the importance of innovation to their success on a scale from 1-10. More than a third of respondents gave the drive to innovation a 10.
While lack of money or human resources are common barriers, some CMOs also complain that engineers and R&D think they own innovation. Others run into turf issues with Customer Experience, Sales, E-Commerce, or Customer Service.
One barrier that's easy to break through is fear. Your most timid employees could be sitting on some great ideas. Try throwing an informal ideation session, open to all and preferably involving food. Have a company-wide contest for best new idea and publicly reward the winner.
4. Talent Acquisition
Despite, and sometimes due to, the online resume filtering process, good talent is hard to find. Sometimes the person who best matches the requirements on paper turns out to be a bad fit.
Job descriptions have become so narrow and specific, it's hard to evaluate whether the person you are hiring will turn out to be a slow learner or even a one-trick pony.
5. Firefighting and Mission Creep
If you're overworked, you're in good company. CMOs lose precious time fighting fires, reading emails, and taking phone calls. I constantly struggle with my urge to do things myself because "it's faster than having to explain it." My advice? Explain it. You'll find out who's a quick study, develop interpersonal shorthand, and waste less time in the long run. Plus, you're helping people grow in their career by sharing how you do things.
Mission creep is another stated source of frustration. Viable projects get bogged down by unnecessary details and preempt other important initiatives.
6. Faulty Data and Flawed Customer Insight
If your marketing efforts aren't grounded in facts, you won't like the results. Bad customer data and duplicate accounts in the CRM system are a nagging concern.
Inaccurate customer insight makes it hard to identify unmet customer needs.
7. Keeping Up with Technology
While feeling compelled to invest in new technology, marketing professionals quietly grumble about "innovation fatigue." New systems are pricey, require staff training, take time to adopt, and need regular upgrading.
As Nirell notes, "Technology-focused initiatives can easily overshadow key marketing functions, such as customer conversations, live events, messaging, crisis communications, and other marketing competencies."
While successful marketers and entrepreneurs struggle with these issues, they also come up with solutions and workarounds. Many of the marketers Nirell surveyed listed small, confidential peer gatherings as an excellent opportunity to pick up some actionable advice.
As a communications professional, the people in my network closest to me have become my personal brain trust. Consider inviting some smart marketers you know and trust to a get-together with your marketing team. It's a proactive way to show them that you feel their pain -- even without the help of the Wong-Baker scale.