The results of the February 2021 edition of the CMO survey were published last month. The CMO survey is led by Dr. Christine Moorman directed 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 top marketing executives from US-based companies. Almost two-thirds (64.6%) of respondents were affiliated with B2B companies, and 94.5% were VP levels or higher. The survey was conducted from January 6th to 26th, 2021.
The CMO survey is conducted biannually and is a valuable resource for capturing US marketing executives’ views on the macroeconomic environment and key marketing trends. In addition to top-level results, survey results are reported by four economic sectors: B2B product companies, B2B service companies, B2C product companies, and B2C service companies. Unless otherwise stated, the results described in this post are based on responses from B2B marketers.
B2B marketers are optimistic about the economy
The survey asked respondents to rate their optimism about the entire US economy using a 100-point scale, with 0 being the least optimistic and 100 being the most optimistic. The following table shows how respondents to the B2B survey rated their optimism in the survey of February 2021 and the two immediately preceding surveys. As this table shows, the current optimism of B2B marketers exceeds what it was in February 2020 (before the pandemic).
In the survey, participants were also asked whether they were more or less optimistic compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. More than half of B2B respondents – 51.3% of B2B product company respondents and 58.8% of B2B service company respondents – said they were more optimistic.
Marketing became more important in 2020
A significant majority of B2B marketers believe that their marketing role has increased in importance in 2020. 69 percent of those surveyed from B2B product companies and 76.6 percent of those surveyed from B2B service companies said that marketing had become more important in their company in the past year.
It should come as no surprise that the marketing function has grown in importance in 2020. In a survey of B2B decision makers conducted by McKinsey & Company last April, 96% of respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic had already required changes to their go-to-market model. Many of these changes involved moving from face-to-face interactions with existing and prospects to content-based interactions, many of which were digitally activated. Hence the growing importance of the marketing function.
Pandemic-driven strategies will be permanent
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way consumers and business customers buy, learn and buy products and services. As a result, many marketers have made significant changes to the way they reach and connect with customers. The big challenge for marketers now is to determine which of the new customer behaviors will persist after the end of the pandemic and which of the new marketing strategies will therefore continue to be important.
An overwhelming majority of B2B respondents in the CMO survey believe that the marketing strategies implemented as a result of the pandemic will remain important even after the pandemic ends. The survey asked participants how much they thought the marketing strategies they used during the pandemic were important over the long term. Respondents rated ongoing importance on a 7-point scale, and more than eight in ten B2B respondents rated long-term importance a 5 or greater.
The CMO survey addressed several other important questions and I encourage you to read the full report. Here are some of the other important results.
- B2B product company respondents said their marketing spend decreased 6.5% in the twelve months leading up to the survey. However, in the twelve months following the survey, they expected spending to increase by 11.3%.
- B2B service company respondents said that marketing spend increased 1.6% in the last 12 months and expected a 10.3% increase over the next 12 months.
- B2B companies weathered the pandemic quite well. On average, B2B product companies were able to increase sales by 1.6% in the twelve months prior to the survey, while B2B service companies recorded an average loss of sales of only 1.0%.
- A large majority of B2B respondents (77%) think it is inappropriate for their brand to take a stand on politically charged issues. The situation is very different for B2C marketers, where 33% of respondents from B2C product companies and 42% of respondents from B2C service companies said it was appropriate for their brand to comment on such issues.