How Marketers Will Work in 2023

The marketing consultant Bob Dylan once wrote: “Oh the times, they are a-changing.” 

He wasn’t wrong. With every passing year, the marketing industry adapts to outside conditions. Just as easily as it embraces new technologies and the opportunities they present, it must withstand choppy market conditions and shifting regulatory sands. 

With that in mind, let’s think about the year ahead. We brought together Okta’s marketing leaders and asked about their hopes and fears for 2023. 

It’s a year that promises new opportunities and new challenges. From the rise of super-intelligent content-creation algorithms to the proliferating social media marketplace, there’s a lot to talk about. 

The rise of generative AI as a tool for marketers 

Twitter is enthralled by ChatGPT — a tool that uses the sophisticated GPT-3 AI model to produce sophisticated, custom bodies of text. Here’s how it works. You give it a prompt, like: “Write me an essay about the importance of cybersecurity to the modern enterprise.” After a few seconds, the AI produces something that meets the original specification. 

Wait, I’m underselling it. The cool thing about ChatGPT isn’t merely that it writes well. It’s that it can leverage the entire body of information found within the open internet. It doesn’t matter how niche the subject. ChatGPT can quickly become an authority on whatever you give it. 

For Matt Duench, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Okta, ChatGPT is a reflection of the growing capabilities of generative AI and its potential to change how content marketers work. In early December, Duench tasked ChatGPT with writing example content unique to Okta’s business and product lineup. The results were nothing short of impressive.

“While the results weren't perfect, I was impressed with how close they were to our existing marketecture, and the conversational tone with how we write. not to mention the speed at which the results were returned,” Duench told me. 

“I think we’re just scratching the surface on how this tech could change marketing and content creation. In the short term, it can help us with building initial drafts, give us frameworks for positioning, and create ideas for keywords. Longer term, it could be a suggestive tool to improve the customer journeys. And that’s just the beginning,” he added. 

Marketers will see the login box as a doorway to conversion and retention

When we look at how digital teams divide their responsibilities, the topic of authentication and identity has traditionally been the domain of engineering and security teams. 

That’s not without cause. Authentication is a high-stakes game. For most businesses, the login box is the first line of defense. It’s the mechanism used to separate legitimate users from suspected attackers.

This is something Kerry Ok, SVP of Marketing at Okta, understands well. “I’ve spent over 20 years working in marketing, including at a number of B2B SaaS companies, and many teams rarely saw the login box as something that they could use to their advantage,” she explained. 

But that, she believes, is starting to change. The causal relationship between a poor login experience and customer attrition is now widely understood. Not only do we understand the symptoms, but we also have the cure. 

If the login box is a gateway, technologies like SSO (single sign-on) and social login are the desperately-needed lubricants to restore its creaking hinges. Modern CIAM platforms allow for previously-unthinkable levels of customization and extensibility, allowing digital businesses to customize the login experience for new, returning, and existing customers alike. 

“What if 2023 is the year when marketers start to see the login box for what it really is: the ideal opportunity to not only acquire customers, but retain them and drive conversions?”

Trust is (still) a business’ killer app

Technology is a vital tool for marketers, but let’s not forget the human element. The most successful businesses are those for whom people hold a degree of affection, trust, or affinity. Put another way: it’s easier to succeed when people like you. 

Trust doesn’t come free. It’s earned over time, and lost in a moment. Amanda Rogerson, Director of Solutions Product Marketing at Okta, believes marketing teams will strive to leverage this precious resource as they grapple with 2023’s challenges. 

“Humans are tired of the barrage of noise and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that floats around. Marketers will have to pivot and find innovative ways to reach audiences and create experiences that build relationships and foster trust,” she said. 

To deliver on this, marketers must reexamine their relationships with the storytelling tools they use. 

“Digital platforms that we traditionally have relied on to amplify our messaging are increasingly mistrusted as sources of truth. We will need to get creative to find new innovative ways to reach our audiences,” she said. 

UX is a primary criteria for buying decisions 

When we decide whether to buy something, we’re really considering several factors at once. Price is a major factor, but it’s not the only one. Other variables in the buying decision algorithm include things like shipping times, availability, quality, and how a product fares when compared to its nearest rivals. 

One element that is sometimes overlooked is UX (user experience). In many respects, it sounds obvious. Websites that make it easier for customers to buy something will inevitably attract more sales. And yet, as Nicolas Rodet, SVP of Digital at Okta explained, UX often ranks low on a marketer’s list of priorities. 

But 2023 promises to change that. “Customers have heightened expectations when engaging on digital. They want to achieve their goals faster. They want to do it without interruption and they want to be delighted by the experience. This changes the role of digital marketing from generating leads to becoming the gatekeeper and advocate of the customer experience across the business,” he explained.

In fairness, not every segment of the digital economy is oblivious to the importance of UX as a tool for marketing, customer retention, and customer satisfaction. Those on the B2C coalface have long pained over the finer details of their storefronts. A great example is Amazon’s 1999 patent for one-click buying, where customers could purchase an item without having to select their preferred shipping address or payment method. 

But the same hasn’t always been true for B2B apps, where UX often takes a backseat to more business-critical elements: like price, suitability, security, and more. But as Rodet explained, “the way we interact with digital as consumers influences our expectations for how we engage as B2B buyers.” 

The changing face of social media 

The network effect is a powerful force. It’s the reason why certain social networks are unassailable. Put simply: social networks derive their value from their users. And so, you naturally gravitate to the same sites as your colleagues, friends, and family. 

Leaving to a new upstart is hard, because …  well … who would you talk to? Who would you poke, retweet, or upvote? 

For reasons that should now be obvious, 2023 will present smaller social networks with a rare opportunity to break through. Sabrina Barekzai, Senior Social Media Manager at Okta, is watching the shifting landscape with serious intent. 

“I think my role in social media will change next year as the platforms people use shrink and grow,” Barekzai said, pointing to the rising consumer interest in smaller microblogging sites, like Post and Mastodon, as well as the emergence of new genre-redefining players, like BeReal. 

Barekzai also pointed to the changing user profile of sites like TikTok, which is rapidly emerging as a tool for corporate storytelling, education, and professional advancement. For many security influencers, like Markus “MalwareTechBlog” Hutchins, TikTok is their tool of choice. 

It’s not merely that TikTok supports a visual and highly-energetic form of storytelling, but also that allows creators to craft long-form explanatory content beyond what’s possible on platforms like Twitter. Additionally, TikTok’s algorithm allows for the kind of ephemeral discoverability that’s essential for building an audience. 

The banishment of the bland

We have a weirdly intimate relationship with the Internet. Our phones are the first thing we look at when we wake up. As we sleep, our phones keep a vigilant watch from the bedside table. We socialize, shop, and work online. 

And so, the idea that we live digital-first lives is nothing new. The only real variable is scale. Katie Ryan O’Connor, VP of Content at Okta, notes that the internet only grew in importance during the pandemic, and the content consumption habits that formed amid that period will remain even as life trickles back to normality. 

“Digital life is real life now. Deloitte has some great insights here, especially around content becoming more personalized, interactive, and immersive. For content marketers in particular this means generic content is DOA in 2023. Content will look and feel more bespoke and that will raise the bar for everyone yet again, especially around video,” said Ryan O’Connor. 

It’s not merely that creative will align with the interests of consumers. Content will strive to capture the ineffable sense of authenticity you’d normally identify with an independent creator. 

“When experiences like TikTok can deposit you right into the messy middle of someone’s day, the more curated or “branded” experiences lose their shine,” said Ryan O’Connor. “Organizations looking to connect meaningfully through content will need to take the time to understand the true value of their content, and how to creatively execute that value exchange in a way that feels very real to that audience.”

Adversity breeds adaptation

When Okta Chief Marketing Officer John Zissimos talks about the digital world of the early 2010s, it’s with a rose-tinted air of nostalgia. These were simpler times, especially for marketers, who found it easier and cheaper to reach their intended audiences. 

Now? Not so much. The proliferation of channels is a double-edged sword that forces marketing teams to think carefully and deliberately about where they allocate precious budget. It adds complexity to decision-making and campaign monitoring. Device-level changes — like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency — make it harder to target content and track the efficacy of a campaign

Things are just harder. And so, marketing teams must adapt. For Zissimos, this means revisiting the fundamentals of storytelling and building a trusted relationship with their target audience.  

“I think it comes back to the basics of how do you get the person you want to talk to into some kind of a room and then thrill the living hell out of them? As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re looking at more coordinated events. Gathering people in a place and giving them something that’s of real value,” he said. 

“This really is the best content.” 

Hyper-personal experiences are important, but Zissimos doesn’t overlook the incredible potential for digital. With online campaigns becoming tougher and more expensive, teams must think about what metrics matter, and how they can adjust their tactics in-flight to achieve the most optimal results. 

“Suppose you have a whitepaper. You can use the old clickbait tactics and generate a few thousand clicks, but that doesn’t lead to much. Marketing teams are often guilty of cherry-picking metrics that affirm their own success, but don’t necessarily translate to success for the business. The challenge is now to ask how we measure this real success. And the answer is a process of constant testing and learning,” he said. 

This agility is vital when using an external platform as an outreach channel. Google and Facebook, he noted, constantly change their search and timeline algorithms. This changes the efficacy of a campaign, forcing teams to revisit their budget.

“Suppose you’re spending $1,000 on Facebook ads. The next year, an algorithm changes and you have to spend $1,300 to get the same results. Teams have to work out whether it’s worth paying more, or if they should redirect their budget to other channels. It’s essential to be able to pivot.”