In many ways, marketing leadership has never been harder.

Over the past year alone, you’ve needed to navigate economic turmoil; a workplace shift to more globally distributed teams; and new trends that felt like they arose overnight (TikTok, anyone?).  

Which is why 76% of marketing leaders say marketing has seen more change in the past three years than the last 50

Change isn’t always bad, but it is always challenging. And, as we prepare for the year ahead, many marketing leaders are wondering: What should I prepare for? Where should I focus my efforts? And what are my biggest blind spots? 

To help you create a powerful and agile strategy for 2023, we’ve surveyed 500+ marketing executives on the biggest challenges, opportunities, and trends ahead of us. Plus, we’ve interviewed some of the biggest experts across the industry — ranging from CMOs and VPs at LinkedIn, Uber, Microsoft, Dropbox, SEMRush, and more — to uncover best practices for becoming a better, more effective leader. 

If you’re not a marketing leader, but interested in becoming one, you’re in luck. We also have plenty of content and best practices on getting ahead in your career — including how to get executive stakeholder buy-in, and how to get promoted on both an individual contributor and manager-level. 

When asked which challenges marketing leaders’ expect to face in 2023, 14% said generating revenue and securing the budget they need are tied as the top challenge they believe they’ll face. 

Other top challenges marketing leaders expect to face include: 

Plus, to create a powerful data-driven strategy, you’ll want to collect custom audience attributes (not just basic descriptive information), and then create dynamic prospect lists through audience segmentation. From there, you’ll want to develop unique messaging that resonates with your prospects. 

Then, we asked them to select the one challenge they struggle with the most

And over half — 62% — told us growing a global audience is their biggest issue. 

Increasing revenue and sales is a top priority for most marketing leaders in 2023, with 22% — or roughly one-fourth — saying it’s their number one goal. 

To increase revenue, marketing leaders will want to identify areas of the customer journey that can be further optimized. For instance, perhaps you’ve observed your audience reach plateau-ing or even shrinking. To continue increasing revenue, you’ll need to consistently reach bigger pools of qualified leads. You might do this by testing out new platforms like TikTok or podcasting. 

Alternatively, maybe you notice your marketing team is attracting plenty of leads, but they’re not converting at high rates. To combat this challenge, you’ll want to create stronger offers or a more effective lead generation strategy.  

He told me, “As a fast-growing company with industry-leading NDR, adding in new revenue sustainably is our top priority. We are hyper-focused on building out different growth and sales capabilities to achieve that goal. As we embark on our 2023 planning, we do so with a renewed focus on efficiency and clear goals around our different self-serve and sales-assisted motions.”

As she puts it, “In 2023, a year that is expected to be dominated by economic uncertainty, the shift to profitable growth [rather than growth at all costs] will only be accelerated — moving from a nice idea to a requirement.”

To uncover which KPIs will matter most to marketing leaders in 2023, I spoke with executives at G2, LinkedIn, and HubSpot. 

Here’s what they say matters most: Reach, leads, MQLs (marketing-qualified leads), conversion to sales, return-on-investment, and brand strength. 

ROI is another equally critical metric for many marketing leaders — and that importance is only growing. In fact, one-third (33%) of marketing executives, VPs, and directors say that using data to demonstrate the ROI and business value of their efforts became more important in 2022.

The data aligns with this. In our Executive Leadership survey, we found: 

Getting leadership buy-in isn’t easy, particularly when budgets are tight and marketing leaders’ need to be especially careful about where they spend money. 

Which is why it makes sense that clearly demonstrating the impact adopting a new idea will make on achieving a company’s business goals is the number one most effective strategy marketing leaders’ reported for getting buy-in. In our survey, we found roughly one-third (31%) of marketing leaders believe it’s the most effective strategy. 

A few other potentially effective strategies include: 

SEO is an undeniably powerful strategy for audience growth, brand awareness, and increasing sales. 

In fact, 43% of marketing directors, VPs, and C-suite executives reported SEO as one of the most effective strategies their companies currently leverage.

But there are so many SEO metrics that it can be difficult to determine which ones actually matter. Is it organic traffic? Conversions? Keyword rankings? 

Our data uncovered these are the SEO metrics that matter most to marketing leaders when it comes to assessing the performance of their website: 

It’s interesting to note — organic traffic or rankings on the SERPs don’t even hit the top five when it comes to important SEO metrics for marketing leaders. 

When asked which role marketing leaders’ plan to recruit, 32% say ‘content strategist’ is their top priority in 2023 — followed by content marketing manager (23%). 

A content creator in 2023 might be tasked with creating a TikTok reel one day, then a blog post, and a YouTube video after that. 

Additionally, 37% of marketing leaders say ‘a lack of qualified candidates’ is their biggest challenge in hiring right now. Marketers are expected to be increasingly skilled in niche areas such as TikTok, podcasting, or video creation, so the pool of qualified applicants becomes smaller as companies expect more from their candidates. 

A few other highlights when it comes to hiring and promoting: 

If you’re hoping to get promoted as an individual contributor (IC), it’s important to know what marketing leaders’ look for when promoting an IC to a senior position. 

These are the promotional factors that matter most to marketing leaders right now when it comes to ICs: 

If you’re an IC who is looking to become a people manager, you’re in luck — we also asked marketing leaders’ what they look for when promoting an IC to a people manager, and 26% say they care most about an IC’s ability to build trust and rapport within their team. That’s followed by 25% who say they look for an IC’s ability to bring people together to solve problems. 

On the people manager side, marketing leaders say that people managers can make the greatest impact in their roles by motivating and empowering their team (39%). That’s followed by helping their team exceed goals and expectations (32%) and helping their team exceed goals and expectations (31%). 

As we segue into 2023, it makes sense that both individual contributors and people managers want to know how they can grow at their current companies. 

Alternatively, perhaps you’re a people manager and you’re looking to get promoted to a director-level. As you a people manager hoping to get promoted, Smith says you’ll stand out if you demonstrate: 

Thinking on longer timelines, and being able to strategically plan for the long and short-term, is supported by the data. 25% of marketing leaders say it’s the most important factor they look at when considering promoting a people manager, along with their ability to set clear goals and expectations for their team (24%).