Marketing Is Getting More Difficult. Here’s Why.


Whether you’re managing a digital business or a brick-and-mortar storefront, marketing is a practical necessity. Marketing is the way to raise visibility and awareness of your brand, and the only reliable path toward multiplying your overall audience.

Certain elements of marketing have remained consistent from the very beginning of the concept; providing information to new people in new and interesting ways can reliably improve brand familiarity, for example. But in many ways, marketing is getting more complex and more difficult – especially for non-experts.

Why is this the case? And what can you do about it?

Marketing Difficulty Is Growing

What makes marketing difficult or easy? This is a somewhat abstract and nebulous question, but it’s one that’s important to explore if we’re going to understand the root causes of marketing’s increased difficulty. In some ways, marketing difficulty is about the amount of time, money, and effort you have to spend to accomplish something. As marketing becomes more difficult, it becomes more expensive and more time consuming. We can also evaluate marketing difficulty based on perceptions of newcomers; The steeper the marketing learning curve is, and the harder it is for new people to pick up on the most important concepts, the more difficult it can be described to be. We may also consider marketing difficulty as a byproduct of competition, making it harder to stand out in a crowded world.

Unfortunately for us, marketing difficulty is growing in all of these areas and more. The problem is even more exacerbated for certain industries and niches; for example, startup SEO is becoming more difficult at a faster rate than marketing for more established companies.

But why is this the case? What are the root causes? And is there anything that’s in your control in this area?

Changing Consumer Perceptions and Preferences

One possible culprit in the steep increase in marketing difficulty could be evolving consumer perceptions and preferences. Several decades ago, the world’s best marketers and advertisers we’re trying to come up with catchy taglines and persuasive advertisements that blatantly tried to sell a new product to a target audience. Customers would peruse advertising with open-mindedness and intrigue, reviewing new products for potential purchase without much judgment of that advertisement or reflection about its purpose.

Today’s customers have different preferences. Consumers have been bombarded with traditional advertising for decades now, and ads are so prevalent that they’re seen as aggressive and annoying. If you try to cram a conventional ad down a consumers throat, they may completely ignore what you’re saying and walk away with a worse impression of your brand.

Today’s customers want more, and you have to deliver more in order to become an effective marketer. They want to see storytelling, more than cheap attempts at persuasion. They want to see authenticity, rather than a manufactured person. They want to see and find their own organic content, rather than being forced to confront in advertisement that interrupts their daily life.

Accordingly, the traditional marketing and advertising approach is practically dead. Effectively persuading and reaching customers in the modern world requires a more nuanced, organic approach.

Technologies and Tools

Marketing is also getting more difficult because of the technologies and tools involved in the field. In some ways, this is ironic; Most new marketing technologies are designed to make marketing easier, or at least open up new opportunities for marketers to reach consumers.

So why are we saying that technologies and tools are making marketing more difficult?

  • Expense. One explanation is the expensiveness of adopting new tools. It’s possible to leverage a number of different tools to create and launch new marketing campaigns, but you might end up spending thousands of dollars, compromising the value that you get from the campaign’s success. This also serves as a barrier to entry for startups and independent entrepreneurs; If marketing tools are too expensive, they’re not going to get used.
  • The learning curve. Which tools are best? How do you use them? How do you change your strategy to adapt to consumers’ changing technological perspectives? There’s a steep learning curve related to all new forms of marketing technology, and that makes it difficult to embrace and adapt.
  • Confusion and misuse. Misusing technology can cost you time and money in the same way that using it properly can save you time and money. If you use the wrong tools, or if you dump money into a technology that isn’t a good fit for your brand, you could suffer some severe consequences.
  • Misleading metrics. Focusing on vanity metrics can be damaging to your long-term potential. Just because you see a colorful graph with a line heading in a promising direction does it mean you’re doing things right or that your strategy is truly working. With so many potential metrics to measure, it’s increasingly common for marketers to focus on the wrong metrics.

The Competition Apocalypse

Another major factor for the sharp increase in marketing difficulty is the overwhelming amount of competition online. When messaging an audience online, you could potentially reach billions of people – but that also means you’re opening the door to competitors from all over the world, and potentially millions of different businesses and individuals.

On top of that, tools like free website builders, business plan templates, and others make it easy for even inexperienced entrepreneurs to launch new businesses and create new websites. They also have the potential to launch their own marketing strategies, regardless of how much experience they have.

This means if you want to launch and manage and effective marketing campaign, you’ll need to find some way to counter all this competition. It’s incredibly tough to stand out in such a crowded market without distinguishing yourself, and you’ll probably have to spend a lot of money to do it.

The Fragility of Digital Marketing

Let’s say you spend a few years marketing your business via SEO, building links and writing content. But one day, you face a significant Google penalty and your ranks catastrophically sink. Obviously, you’ll have generated traffic that whole time, so it’s not a total waste. But still, this can be highly discouraging for modern marketers.

All it takes is one new AI system or one new wave in consumer preferences to completely disrupt – or even destroy – what you’ve managed to build. The fragility of digital marketing is something you have to acknowledge and build into your campaigns.

Adapting to an Era With Difficult Marketing

Marketing is harder than ever. So what? Does that mean you have to abandon all pretense of pursuing marketing and advertising strategies?

Certainly not. It just means you’ll have to embrace the new difficulty and adapt your approach. The following strategies may help you:

  • Resume adaptable. Try to remain adaptable. Marketing is tough these days. You’ll need to analyze your new competitors, learn new tools, and drop your least beneficial strategies – then change everything when something in your environment changes. Only the most adaptable companies survive.
  • Stay agile to avoid competition. Competition is a major problem – but you don’t have to face it head on. Targeting a different audience, focusing on your differentiating factors, and working with new channels can help you circumvent it.
  • Diversify your strategies. Use a variety of different strategies to balance each one’s individual strengths and weaknesses and harness more reliable, consistent results. This way, you’ll keep experimenting with new approaches – and you’ll discover new ways to get the most of your marketing budget.

Marketing is getting more difficult. That much is certain. But you can at least find solace in the fact that it’s not just getting harder for you; it’s getting harder for all of us. We are entering a new era of marketing and advertising, and that’s not necessarily a bad period it just means you need to remain adaptable and attentive if you want your tactics to generate a meaningful return.

Nate Nead

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.


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