Why isn’t my marketing working in 2023?

Why isn’t my marketing working in 2023?

For a lot of the small business owners I’ve spoken with, marketing and lead generation are more challenging in 2023 than they have been in the previous few years. Personally, I don’t think it’s one specific reason – I think marketing right now is challenging due to a mixed bag. Big tech changes, a tough economy and distinct changes in consumer behavior to name a few.

That’s why my bi-weekly emails to our most avid agency followers is “What’s Working” – regular updates on what I see actually working in 2023 marketing for the small business entrepreneurs I work with. It’s a consistent stream of troubleshooting bad or slow marketing results along with fresh lead generation ideas to consider. You can sign up for this on the home page, by the way.

What is working for 2023 marketing?

What’s working in 2023 lead generation is also a mix – a combination of tried-and-true sales marketing tricks WITH updated knowledge of how platforms work best. When you maintain the traditional approach to marketing with a clear strategy based on business goals, target audiences and a clear customer journey but stay up to speed on platform changes so you know how to make your content on those platforms get through – you’re doing it right.

What most business owners lose sight of is the clear strategy – also known as a clear marketing plan – and I think it’s because so much of marketing talk is based on new platform developments which distract from the core of good marketing.

For example, a few weeks ago I was doing a marketing consultation with a retail brand and the owner was so frustrated. “We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do but it just doesn’t seem to be working.”

So together we looked at the brand’s social accounts, email and website and sure enough, it all looked good at first glance. The sales conversion data, however, told a different story. Good marketing metrics aren’t aways an indication of good sales.

So to help get to the bottom of it I asked, “who are you targeting?”

The response was not a refined, descriptive customer profile but rather a long list of audiences.

This part of every consultation or client conversation I have usually leads to a lightbulb moment. Because marketing that works is more about the strategy than applying best practices to platforms. 

Bottom line: You can have wonderful marketing by all appearances and still struggle bringing in sales.

So what works? A locked-in, fine-tuned strategy.

Google search updates, Instagram algorithm changes, AI emergence like ChatGPT and debating TikTok’s legality are all newsworthy issues in marketing world – but they’re also a big distraction from what the business owner or marketer needs to be focused on.

Plan and strategize – THEN learn how to make the platforms you use work best for your goals.

If you’re struggling to get sales in 2023, you’re not alone. I encourage you to disconnect from marketing platform and lead generation technology talk and simply go back to the marketing plan to readdress the big questions that have to be clear before anything else. Goals, audience, budget. Narrow these down and then adapt your platform use to them. I guarantee better results when you start making strategy the biggest priority of your marketing.

Slow marketing results in 2023? This may be the OTHER reason:

Consumer behavior in 2023 is tricky. On the one hand, most middle class Americans have enough spending power to buy what they want. On the other hand, warnings about the economy, the disappearance of those monthly stimulus checks some people got used to for a while, higher taxes and rising costs of basic needs like food and gas are all going to give those same Americans pause about what they’re spending. Yes, it’s a typical economy slowing – the kind small businesses need to push through and get to the other side of.





startup marketing in 2023


I also think something has changed that has nothing to do with the economy – consumers are simply pickier because today’s top brands are doing THE MOST to serve them. And the little guy has to do MORE to keep up with these rising expectations.

If you’re following a clear marketing strategy AND offering a great customer experience, all that’s left is patience. Take this very high-level case study as an example.

I just bought a really nice pair of jeans. The whole process took months. Yes, months.

First were the recurring thoughts of really wanting a new pair of amazing, high-quality, go-to denim. Then came the browsing online, the discovery of the perfect pair and the two month pause to save up enough for this perfect pair. One weekend, I looked at my finally-ready jeans fund and promptly went to the online shop and made the purchase.

I lay this out as a perfect example of the kind of journey every consumer is on for every type of purchase. Some journeys are super short (like the impulsive drive-through latte) and some take years (hello, real estate).

What my jeans have to do with your marketing

How well you understand your typical customer’s journey from want/need to final order and THEN how you use your marketing platforms to coax them toward your business along this journey is truly strategic marketing.

Many business owners and newbie marketers are using marketing platforms based on the functionality of those platforms only to have disappointing results.

Your marketing platforms NEED to be used based on your particular customer’s journey. and how that platform fits into the journey best. 

Pinterest vs. Pinterest – two types of uses

The jeans I bought I found on Pinterest by doing a search for a specific type of denim which means the brand has been utilizing Pinterest not only to build a library of pins but also to meet me in my search. I was a pretty warm/hot lead by the time I went on the platform to search so all the brand needed to do is make sure they were on there and that their pins were optimized. The platform worked fantastic for the part of the journey toward purchase I was on – close to purchase and actively shopping. 

Using Pinterest as a brand awareness method would not have worked as well in this instance. If I’m not in the market for jeans and I’m on Pinterest searching for office furniture, I probably wouldn’t see their pin unless they were running ads and even then I probably wouldn’t be very interested in it. The most they would get from me is a save – which is better than nothing – but this scenario would be a much further stretch and longer than necessary process to getting me to the checkout. This low strategy use of a platform is the scenario a lot of businesses are in with their marketing.

Yes, marketing in 2023 is challenging but people are buying. Your customers are out there. Keep planning, keep strategizing, keep tweaking and keep showing up. That’s how to beat a hard sales year.

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