woman in a hooded sweater
As we count down the days to 2017, acknowledge that generating attention for your business will be fiercer than ever. PHOTO: Aleksandar Milosavljevic

Nearly seven in 10 marketers rate generating traffic and leads as their biggest challenge, according to HubSpot's 2016 State of Inbound Report.

It’s an ironic predicament, considering that people today consume more content than generations past thanks to the web and the growth of smart devices.

So back to the question: If people are feverishly watching videos, reading blogs and listening to podcasts, why should marketers have a hard time getting traffic and/or leads? As long as you create high-quality content, the traffic and leads will just come, right?

Uh, no.

Perhaps such a strategy would have worked in 2009. But as we count down the days to 2017 — and beyond — it's time to acknowledge that generating attention for your business will be fiercer than ever.

Analyzing the Challenges

Since the dawn of time, marketers have had one common goal: get traffic and leads. Back then, the customer life cycle was pretty linear. Someone sees an ad or notice of an event, then expresses interest. You educate, persuade them and so they buy.

Today, you’ll be lucky if you can get through that process.

1. Content Saturation Is a Growing Concern

More and more consumers have access to free information at their fingertips. They go to a store, see something they like and just when you think they’re about to make a purchase, they flip out their phones and compare prices at other retailers. In minutes, you might see the same customer leaving without buying anything.

You can’t blame the content they saw for influencing their purchasing decisions. In fact, with so many businesses and thought leaders producing all kinds of content, marketing experts are expressing concerns over "content saturation".

This creates big disadvantages: first, marketers in saturated niches will have a tough time standing out unless they find a unique way to attract attention to the brand, that is. Second, consumers may feel overwhelmed at all the information available to them. Remember the famous "jam experiment"? Faced with too many options, a consumer often buys anything at all.

2. Brand Discovery: Where Consumers Can Also Become Marketers

You or your content may not be the source of interest in your product. Again, this is where the power of the web comes into play. A potential customer could see your product/service on someone’s Pinterest board or via a casual mention at a blog. This is where even other consumers become marketers, guiding others in exploring the product or service.

Think of it as modern referrals. In partnership with influential consumers, marketers can widen their reach and gain trust from the target market. Bloggers were among the first ones to adapt to this trend since there are lots of free blogging sites.

Today, you’ll see other consumers aiding in brand discovery, such as Snapchat artists and Instagram influencers. This means you’ll need to constantly be listening for who and what’s being talked about regarding your brand.

3. High-Quality Content: Still a Hit-or-Miss

With so many competitors (locally and established) in a single field, customers hold more power over brands than ever before. If they’re not satisfied, they can so easily switch to another business. Factors such as discounts and personalized in-store services are expected. In fact, even the most loyal customers admit they would try other brands for more variety, lower prices and better customer service.

The old premise of "create good content" isn't enough. First: you need to think about what kind of content your consumers want. Second, how will they see it and how often? With almost all brands hooking customers through content, where do you fit in? And how long can you keep at it?

In an analysis by BuzzSumo, even the best sites with great content (including Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger, Buffer) are experiencing a drop in interaction (such as shares). This isn’t because they don’t produce amazing content — it goes back to content saturation.

The Ever-Changing Role of Marketers

The word marketer can be somewhat limiting. Especially today when consumers’ needs and expectations are changing fast, it’s not enough to just "market."

CMOs in particular need to be sensitive. Instead of waiting for people to discover the brand, businesses should be proactive in ensuring they are visible, with a consistent message, across different devices without losing the experience. Be proactive in guiding the customer throughout the entire life cycle.

Be there to answer questions, follow-up and monitor results. Hire people who know how to interpret valuable data, and translate that into real strategies tailored to your target market. Follow the numbers: every cold, hard stat tells a story.

Whether it’s 2000 or 2017, marketers want the same thing: to generate traffic and leads. What has changed are the strategies needed to achieve that goal.