The findings of the February 2021 edition of The CMO Survey were published last month. The CMO Survey is led by Dr. Christine Moorman and sponsored by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, the American Marketing Association, and Deloitte.
The latest survey results are based on responses from 356 senior marketing leaders at companies based in the United States. Almost two-thirds (64.6%) of the respondents were affiliated with B2B companies, and 94.5% were VP level or above. The survey was fielded January 6-26, 2021.
The CMO Survey is conducted semi-annually, and it's a valuable resource for capturing the views of U.S. marketing leaders regarding the overall economic environment and major marketing trends. In addition to top-level results, survey findings are reported by four economic sectors - B2B product companies, B2B services companies, B2C product companies, and B2C services companies. Unless otherwise indicated, the results described in this post are based on the responses of B2B marketers.
B2B Marketers Are Optimistic About the Economy
The survey asked participants to rate their optimism about the overall U.S. economy using a 100-point scale, with 0 being the least optimistic and 100 being most optimistic. The following table shows how B2B survey respondents rated their level of optimism in the February 2021 survey and the two immediately preceding surveys. As this table shows, B2B marketers' current level of optimism surpasses the February 2020 (pre-pandemic) level.
The survey also asked participants whether they were more or less optimistic compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. More than half of the B2B respondents - 51.3% of those from B2B product companies and 58.8% of those from B2B services companies - said they were more optimistic.
Marketing Became More Important in 2020
A substantial majority of B2B marketers believe the importance of their marketing function increased in 2020. Sixty-nine percent of the survey respondents from B2B product companies, and 76.6% of those from B2B services companies said that marketing became more important at their company last year.
It should not be surprising that the marketing function increased in importance in 2020. In a survey of B2B decision makers conducted last April by McKinsey & Company, 96% of the respondents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had already required them to make changes in their go-to-market model. Many of these changes involved a shift from face-to-face interactions with existing and potential customers to content-based interactions, many of which were/are digitally enabled. Hence the growing importance of the marketing function.
Pandemic-Driven Strategies Will Be Durable
The COVID-19 pandemic caused dramatic changes in how both consumers and business buyers shop for, learn about, and buy products and services. As a result, many marketers made major changes in how they reached and engaged with customers. The big challenge for marketers now is to determine which of the new customer behaviors will persist after the pandemic has subsided, and therefore, which of the new marketing strategies will continue to be important.
An overwhelming majority of B2B respondents in The CMO Survey believe the marketing strategies implemented because of the pandemic will remain important after the pandemic has ended. The survey asked participants to what degree they thought the marketing strategies they used during the pandemic would be important in the long term. Respondents rated the continuing importance on a 7-point scale, and more than eight out of ten B2B respondents rated the long-term importance at 5 or above.
The CMO Survey addressed several other important issues, and I recommend that you review the full report. Here are a few of the other important findings.
- Respondents from B2B product companies reported that their marketing spending declined 6.5% in the twelve months preceding the survey, but they expected spending to increase 11.3% in the twelve months following the survey.
- Respondents from B2B services companies reported a 1.6% increase in marketing spending over the preceding twelve months, and they expected a 10.3% increase over the following twelve months.
- B2B companies weathered the pandemic reasonably well. On average, B2B product companies grew revenues by 1.6% over the twelve months preceding the survey, while B2B services companies sustained an average revenue loss of only 1.0%.
- A large majority of B2B survey respondents (77%) do not believe it is appropriate for their brand to take a stance on politically-charged issues. The picture is quite different for B2C marketers, where 33% of respondents from B2C product companies, and 42% of those from B2C services companies said it is appropriate for their brand to take a stance on such issues.