Ten Marketing Challenges that Can Make or Break Your Business

By Steve Unger
November 04, 2011

Identify and assess your company's current marketing efforts. Rate your company with our survey and target problem areas by understanding challenges, issues and strategies.



The first issue in this series identifies and allows you to assess your company’s current marketing effort.

The second issue discusses the pivotal role marketing plays in a successful technology company.

Each of the other 6 issues identifies key challenges and presents strategies to address.

1. Issue Identification and Assessment

As the President or Chief Marketing Officer of a small to medium-sized technology company, are one or more of the following "hot buttons" for you?:

    • We're having trouble planning the next product because we're so busy supporting the product we just launched.

    • Our marketing folks are spending so much time working with Development they don't have enough time to support Sales.

    • Our sales reps don't have enough qualified leads and spend too much time cold calling.

    • It takes us too long to close a deal. How can we speed up our sales process?

    • How do we decide on the features for the next product?

    • Should we delay launching the new product to get more features?

    • We've grown to a size that our old way of doing things just isn't working anymore.

    • How do we make our company more market- and customer-driven?

    • Are we getting the most out of our investment in marketing?

    • How should we organize our marketing group?

How far along is your company in each of these areas (Rate from 0 to 10, with 0 = no progress and 10 = outstanding progress)?


We have a clearly defined sales model outlining the activities and time required for each selling step.


We use our sales model to track each opportunity as it moves through the sales pipeline.


Our Marketing group effectively supports Development, Sales, and the Executive Team.


Our Marketing group does a great job of supporting our current products.


Our Marketing group does a great job of planning enhanced and new products in a timely manner.


We plan for and track the measurable results for all our marketing programs.


Our Marketing group is organized in a way that works for our company.--“All the bases are covered.”


We collect ample input from customers and prospects – including win/loss reports.


We periodically review our Marketing function to determine where we should invest.


We have a formal requirements database and product features are based on specific customer requirements.

 _____ Total Score


< 50 points: You are just at the starting line; lack of marketing is significantly impeding your results.

50 – 80 points: You have some marketing basics in place, but would greatly benefit from a more comprehensive approach.

> 80 points: Your marketing effort is stronger than most, and has the potential to be a major competitive advantage.

Download this worksheet (.xls)

2. The Role of Marketing

Marketing is the "man in the middle"--mediating between Customers, Prospects, Sales, Development, and the Executive Team. As such, Marketing is pulled in multiple directions.

Marketing is the critical intersection between Development, Sales, Customers, and the Executive Team.

How Marketing impacts your organization:

Marketing touches Customers, Prospects, and industry thought leaders via press releases, magazine articles, briefings, brochures, trade shows, customer councils, advisory boards, and lead generation programs. In addition to performing market research, Marketing also conducts or commissions win/loss interviews and gathers input from customers and prospects on feature requirements via interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

Drawing on the information gathered both externally and internally, Marketing supports the Executive Team in developing business strategy by identifying market opportunities and generating and executing marketing strategies and plans that support attainment of business objectives.

Marketing works with Development to define requirements, plan products, and bring products to market. Marketing must assure the delivery of a reliable and "complete" product that includes documentation, training, and support. If relevant, Marketing also addresses upgrade, migration and "end-of-life" planning.

Marketing trains the sales force on new products, manages the HQ visits of customers, prospects, and industry analysts, performs Win/Loss analyses, and gathers input on customer and prospect requirements.

3. The Classic Dilemma

Marketing has an obligation and need to support both Development and Sales. However, the simultaneous demand and contention for limited Marketing resources may cause one or the other to lose out. Creative thinking is required to assure that the needs of all parties are met.

Challenge #1: We're having trouble planning the next product because we're so busy supporting the product we just launched.

Issue: Let's face it, product launches are exciting. Months of energy have gone into creating a product that will (hopefully) enable Sales to make a breakthrough. Marketing is 120% absorbed in launch activities and training the sales force. The problem is that Development engineers are waiting to work on the next product and they need new product requirements NOW!

Strategy: The answer lies in having a requirements definition process that is on-going and produces an "evergreen" requirements database. You may also need to have one headcount dedicated at least half-time to key activities in product planning.

Challenge #2: Our Marketing team spends so much time working with Development they don't have enough time to support Sales.

Issue: This issue is a corollary #1 above. A close working relationship between Marketing and Development sometimes leaves little room for Marketing to support Sales.

Strategy: Again, the answer may come in structuring product planning as an on-going "evergreen" process. Often some marketing staff must have their roles and objectives defined to explicitly favor sales support.

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About the Authors

  • Steve Unger is a marketing consultant living in Portland, Oregon. For the past 15 years, Steve has worked for large, small, and start-up companies and helped them successfully address the challenges described in this article. Contact Steve at srunger@aya.yale.edu.

Categories:  Go-to-Market

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