Key marketing challenges facing scale-up businesses

By Sam Martin-Ross, above, Founder of digital marketing agency, Digital Uncut

Growing businesses have become adept at pivoting and adapting to rapidly changing circumstances over the past few years, and this trend looks set to continue as we kick off 2023.

Facing another year of uncertainty and with a looming economic downturn, companies are learning to do more with less, and marketing departments are no exception to this rule. The ability of marketing to drive growth and build trust is vital to scaling businesses, but it also important to be aware of some of the main barriers to successful marketing.

Demonstrating value

Take any business that have established themselves as a household name brand and one thing is immediately clear: they understand the power of marketing. However, as businesses start the process of scaling, they often neglect this, viewing marketing as a good-to-have extra rather than the core business function that it is.

This approach is a huge mistake. For those working on the marketing activities of a growing business, it is important for them to be able to demonstrate the value of their activities, and how these add to the profitability and growth of the business.

While tracking the total ROI of marketing campaigns is at best difficult and at worst, completely impossible, there are certain metrics that gives a good indicator of what is working and translating into profit for the business. Marketing software tools, such as CRMs like HubSpot, or conversion tracking in ad platforms, allow you to track leads and conversions, allowing a better understanding and insight into whether a campaign has been successful.

Understanding SEO

Scale-ups often content with constrained budgets, and SEO takes on increased importance in these circumstances. When money is tight, SEO can, when done right, deliver more growth at a cheaper rate than other marketing strategies such as paid ads.

Depending on the specific goals and needs of your business, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to effective SEO. Rather, it requires taking the time to outline what you want to achieve, and understanding the best way to go about achieving these goals. This is particularly important, as changes to the Google algorithm, as well as Google’s push for relevant, helpful content has made it more vital than ever for marketers to really hone in on precisely what they want their SEO strategy to achieve.

Considering whether the focus is on generating leads or simply building brand awareness is a good place to start, and whether your business is B2B or B2C will naturally affect the approach to take. It is also vital to be aware of your website, and whether it is helping or harming your ability to climb up the search results. Sites that are not SEO friendly will have a much harder time, so it is prudent to invest in the technical side of SEO, too.

Getting a handle on data

Marketers and marketing departments have unprecedented access to all kinds of technologies that help collect data on campaigns and customers. While this can be invaluable, many businesses in the scaling up phase make the mistake of collecting too much unconnected data. This results in data sets that are overwhelming and distracting rather than value-adding. A report from mapp found that 63% of marketer struggle with unconnected data, resulting in a lack of a well-rounded view of consumer behaviour.

With privacy changes, and Google phasing out third party cookies this year, it has become crucial for companies to not only focus on acquiring data, but to also focus on the right kinds of data that truly produce insights and drive action and, ultimately, growth.

Understanding the immediate Return on Ad Spend on paid ads, or getting to grips with the cost per qualified lead are all good places to start, as they have an immediate benefit and help to establish the effectiveness of campaigns. Your data should be working for you, and adding value to your marketing campaigns and strategies. If you find it is simply sitting there gathering dust, it is vital to take a different approach.

Keeping up with consumers

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing scaling businesses this year when it comes to marketing is adapting and adjusting course to keep in line with changing consumer expectations. While consumer trends will naturally change over time, this year could prove to be a particularly challenging year from a marketing perspective as many struggle with economic uncertainty and caution around spending.

Ensuring your brand and marketing communications are in line with these changing expectations can be done in a number of ways. Establishing or utilising a social media presence can give you a good idea of what your customers are thinking, while also enabling the ability to directly communicate with your audience. This is particularly valuable for B2B brands who tend to develop more personal relationships with their customers.

Web analytics and changes in search trends can also be used to your advantage, giving you a deeper understanding of your target demographics. Gaining these insights into what they are searching, what they care about and where they are allows you to cater more effectively to them in your marketing campaigns.

Final thoughts

As a scaling business, marketing can often feel like a huge balancing act. However, being aware of some of the key factors which stymie the marketing efforts of many growing companies is vital to avoiding these mistakes yourself, and driving continued growth through effective campaigns.