Research Reveals B2B Marketers’ Demonstrating Bravery in the Face of an Economic Downturn
David van Schaick, CMO at The Marketing Practice
Ask the average B2B marketer who inspires them and you might not expect to hear the name Napoleon Bonaparte. But recent research carried out by The Marketing Practice suggests that Napoleon’s assertion, “Other men are made by circumstances; I make circumstances!” is the battle cry of today’s most successful B2B marketers.
Since the pandemic broke out in 2020, the only constant has been change: in relation to public health policy, geopolitical events and the economic climate, to name but three. As a marketing community – let alone as human beings – we’ve had to become more comfortable with uncertainty. And it appears that in these anxious times, marketers are refusing to batten down the hatches and weather the storm below deck; and are, instead, shaping their environment to fit their goals.
This year’s Annual Effectiveness Barometer from The Marketing Practice surveyed 800 B2B marketers in the US, UK, Germany and Australia on the role of marketing in their organisations, responses to the recession, and secrets to success.
The findings highlighted three trends which reveal how marketers are adopting bravery as their watchword in 2023.
NO MORE MR KNEE-JERK
When the future is hazy, it’s tempting to resort to short-term thinking. Go for quick wins today and let tomorrow look after itself. That’s certainly what 2020’s Effectiveness Barometer report found, when only one-third of respondents were allocating more than 40% of budget to long-term goals – defined as those more than six months away.
Today’s picture looks very different, with 50% of leading marketers investing more than 40% of their budget in long-term goals. Binet and Field’s 2019 research on long- and short-term marketing investment in B2B suggested 46% of budgets ought to be spent on brand-building. The Effectiveness Barometer shows that today’s most successful marketers are taking the courageous step of shifting investment in that direction, despite the unsettled economic outlook.
A NEW BREED OF RISK-TAKERS
A whopping 77% of respondents said they are encouraged to take risks and experiment in order to try and improve results over time. Being able to test, learn and refine is vital for marketers who want to identify and do more of what works. It’s refreshing, then, to find that the majority of B2B marketers aren’t scared to fail fast and try again in the pursuit of more effective marketing. The appetite for experimentation has grown significantly over time, with 30% more respondents feeling empowered to test and refine than in the 2020 survey.
BOLD, STRATEGIC MOVES
When revenue projections are down, and the VP of sales is clamouring for pipeline, it might be tempting to increase bottom-of-the-funnel acquisition efforts. What the savvy marketer is doing instead is scoping out the areas of greatest opportunity. Just under half (46%) are turning their attention to existing customers as a strategic response to the effects of the economic downturn.
Customer marketing is being ramped up to increase revenue by growing existing customers or by moving them to more profitable products or services.
Another temptation in times of economic squeeze is to reduce or freeze budgets. The evidence from previous recessions wouldn’t support this as an effective approach, however; and we’re delighted to see that today’s leading B2B marketers are continuing to invest in their marketing plans as a route through recession. In fact, now could be a good time to spend more, as share of voice becomes cheaper when competitors reduce their investments. This year’s report found that 37% of leading marketers have increased their marketing budgets – 14% more than among other respondents.
To close with another quote of a military flavour, “fortune favours the bold”. Today’s leading marketers are signalling their willingness to deliver brave, creative, forward-thinking marketing which yields effective results, regardless of circumstances. And for that, B2B marketers, we salute you!
The full report can be found here.
 ‘Leading marketers’ defined as marketers from organisations which outperformed their competition and were twice as likely to grow by more than 10% a year.