17th January 2023 •
It’s been a challenging few years for marketing leaders. Working in a constantly shifting environment where B2B audience buying habits are changing, new digital skills are needed, and budgets are under pressure means that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Marketing Directors have had their work cut out to deliver results.
Last year certainly saw an upturn in some areas. According to The state of the marketing budget and strategy 2022, published by Gartner, marketing budgets have built back up – 9.5% of revenue in 2022, compared with just 6.4% in 2021. But they are yet to get back to pre-Covid levels and some departments may have felt under-resourced.
And these budgets need to be spent wisely. Research shows that today’s customer journeys are ever more complex. There’s more independent research being done online before a prospect picks up the phone to a salesperson. And there are more people involved in decision making. Gartner reports that a typical B2B buying decision now involves between six and 10 people, each of whom can be armed with more than four pieces of information they’ve independently gathered.
This makes it more important than ever for brands to invest in relevant and useful content at all the touchpoints of their customer journey – whether those are digital touchpoints or otherwise. Brands must make good use of their budgets, developing full-funnel content that can be shared, repurposed, used across a variety of channels and measured reliably.
One of the ways to manage prospects, customers, touchpoints and conversions is to invest in marketing technology (martech). During 2022, with extreme pressure on marketing departments to operate and deliver, automation became increasingly important, helping to streamline tasks and make teams more efficient.
Martech solutions have been expanding at a significant rate for many years now. CMOs must be able to evaluate all the different options against the needs of their organisation and understand how to build a martech stack that is focused on engaging with and looking after customers in the best way. At the same time, these solutions need to be cost-effective, produce great data and be used by people who understand them. Only then do CMOs get the most value from their martech investments. Research shows that full value hasn’t always been gained by existing martech.
And what of the role of CMO? Last year, it felt to many like the role had evolved into a ‘Chief Everything Officer’, with leaders taking on a wider range of responsibilities, including data analytics, software evaluation, and management of user experience. More collaboration has been required, so many have also had to learn to work alongside a data or IT lead in the business, understanding how data can be most efficiently collected, stored, analysed and reported.
And, although lead generation has always been within a CMO’s remit, this responsibility has extended to delivering actual growth within the business. This means that CMOs need to be smarter about choosing the right growth strategies: those that actually make a difference to the bottom line.
All this has placed additional pressure on CMOs – tenure is at its lowest since 2009 at around 40 months. So, how can this be turned around in 2023?
Although the landscape may be very different to pre-Covid times, the core essence of marketing remains. There are welcome signs of a back-to-basics approach to marketing, where teams are focusing on marketing’s core value proposition: building awareness, engagement and demand through compelling brand messaging and effective campaigns that connect with customers.
Tying strategy to execution and measurement enables CMOs to demonstrate clear results and work with colleagues across the business to deliver great customer experiences. These changes have meant a new monetary focus, with budgets being split almost equally between brand awareness and performance marketing. And as we go into 2023, we are likely to see further economic pressure that will require marketing to do more with less.
Covid-19 drove a rapid change in channel priorities, shifting towards online and hybrid. We believe that CMOs should hold back from diverting all their budget to pure digital channels. Much like the future of work, the future of marketing is hybrid, requiring CMOs and their teams to define how online and offline channels can work together to provide an omnichannel experience.
In fact, CMOs should be adopting a holistic approach to marketing strategy, taking the time to really understand their audience and customer journey, and where appropriate, considering and adopting new technologies into their workflows.
With the UK officially in recession amid gloomy economic forecasts, the future may seem uncertain. Marketeers will need to spend with caution, but with clever planning and execution, they can make the most of their budgets, build their brand messaging and audience connection and drive authentic engagement.
Our top trends for 2023 are:
The Great Resignation has certainly resulted in churn. Overall, however, enterprises say that they have been growing their departments. It’s worth noting that the resource mix hasn’t changed in the last year, with 24% of budget still being spent with agencies.
The pandemic prompted people to reassess how they think about working. Many people left traditional roles to focus on personal needs or to find more flexible opportunities. This has shrunk the marketing talent pool – particularly when it comes to digital skills. It was challenging to recruit in 2022, and those challenges are likely to continue in 2023.
To find the best people, it’s important to have a positive employer brand. This has sky-rocketed in importance, with workers looking for employers whose values match their own. However, B2B organisations still neglect the role that employee insights have on the authenticity of their brand. This has resulted in underwhelming performance for people-centric outcomes like staff belonging, inclusion and job satisfaction. 2023 is the year to get this right, improving recruitment and retention outcomes and helping to fill those critical skills gaps.
Companies that fixate only on profits will lose ground to those that create a strong identity that meets employees’ needs for affiliation, social cohesion, purpose and meaning.
The drive to demonstrate a genuine concern for others has swept the B2B marketing industry, with the majority of B2B brands currently or planning on, taking a stance on societal issues. Worryingly, statistics show that more than half of B2B brands are ‘purpose-washing’ – making statements about commitments without carrying them through. This is a real cause for concern – customers can see through empty statements, and they will do more harm than good to your brand.
Customers are increasingly choosing brands for their ethical behaviour and their record on managing their impact on climate change. Likewise, investors are favouring businesses with robust ESG frameworks. And governments are implementing regulations requiring organisations to increase transparency in areas such as diversity, equal pay, carbon emissions and modern slavery.
CMOs need to make sure that ethical, environmental and social commitments are built into communication and marketing strategies – and that they are authentic and measurable. Customers will not forgive brands who say one thing and do another.
We help B2B organisations to plan and manage their marketing, simplifying the many complex issues they encounter and working creatively to create a competitive edge and increase market share. Find out more about how we support CMOs to deliver results, even in tough times, by contacting us today.Get in touch