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  • Writer's pictureFred Petito

The Top Five Challenges Confronting Marketing Leaders Today

The responsibilities of marketing leaders have expanded significantly in recent years and now go well beyond brand strategy and advertising to include marketing analytics, customer experience, and revenue growth.

The days of senior marketers being creative-centric, “big idea” people are long gone. Success now requires a much broader repertoire of strategic and leadership skills.


While today’s marketing leaders have an opportunity to make a significant impact in their organizations, there are a host of challenges that make what has traditionally been a difficult role, even more difficult. Below are five such challenges and possible strategies to address them:

1 – The VUCA Challenge – many marketing leaders struggle to effectively lead, make decisions, and execute in a marketing landscape that gets more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) every year.

To address this challenge marketing leaders need to find ways to develop more adaptive mindsets, so they are better equipped to make decisions amidst conflicting information and unpredictable outcomes. Additionally, an adaptive mindset will help marketing leaders anticipate challenges before they occur and bring a more strategic and agile approach to complex marketing problems.

2 – The Unrealistic Expectations Challenge – the expectations put on marketing leaders has increased dramatically in recent years. From traditionally being responsible for just managing the brand, many are now responsible for the overall experience customers have with a business. This shift to a more digital-, data- and technology-driven model has dramatically increased the complexity of marketing. This is a serious challenge for even the most capable marketing leader.

To address this challenge marketing leaders need to expand their perspective beyond traditional brand perception and brand equity metrics to consider the entire customer journey and lifecycle. With that expanded perspective they will be better prepared to bring customer data to life to paint a clear and compelling picture of the customer, who they are, what they want, and what motivates their interactions with the company.

3 – The Connect the Dots Challenge – many companies have transformed into “connected enterprises” to deliver better customer experiences and more customer value. The good news is that marketing leaders are a natural fit to connect all the dots to make these “connected enterprises” work. The bad news is that many lack the organizational savvy and agility to orchestrate all the functions and activities that are required to make this happen.

For marketing leaders to respond to this challenge, it is critical that they become adept at navigating the organizational and relational complexities of being a cross-functional orchestrator. This requires a strengthening of their ability to influence and inspire others, build supportive relationships with peers, and effectively manage conflict.

4 – The Rise to the Occasion Challenge – as the role of marketing has evolved over the last few years it is have expanded into more strategic areas across the organization. As such, it has never been more important to develop marketing leaders who can think more holistically, bring more creativity to difficult business challenges, and lead with more influence.

Meeting this challenge requires that marketing leaders elevate their self-and organizational awareness and develop a broader repertoire of strategic and leadership skills. Ultimately the goal for marketing leaders is to demonstrate to their CEOs and Boards that they are able to continuously deliver value to their organization by bringing a strong voice to the corporate growth agenda while providing cohesive business leadership that goes beyond marketing.

5 – The Stuck-in-the-Weeds Challenge – most marketing leaders work hard to position themselves as enterprise-level strategic leaders. But they are frequently overwhelmed with data and time-consuming executional tasks. As a result, their ability to influence organizational strategy is limited at a time when more strategic input is expected of marketing leaders.

The opportunity for marketing leaders is to become better delegators and find ways to consistently leverage their expertise as brand stewards and the voice of the customer to be at the forefront of driving innovation and growth across their organization. This can be accomplished by cultivating a more creative and less reactive mindset that is guided by their priorities, purpose, and strategic marketing vision instead of the fires and distractions that plague marketing leaders on a daily basis.

By tackling these challenges head-on senior marketing leaders can confidently bring their unique expertise to the enterprise strategy discussion. This will result in an elevated role of marketing leaders to their rightful place as critical partners in leading the growth agendas for their organizations.

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