Two-thirds of marketing leaders expect to boost spend in 2021

The finding from a CMO Council survey comes after a year marked by budget cuts.
Corporate Managers Working at the Table in Monitoring Room. Room is Full of State of the Art Technology. Computers with Animated Screens.

Global marketing leaders are showing some optimism towards growth recovery this year, with nearly two-thirds of marketers in a recent CMO Council survey saying they expect to boost spend in 2021. Meanwhile, 10% of marketers expect to cut budgets, and only one in four anticipate needing to downsize or restructure their teams, according to the research.

While many industry sectors have struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears most marketers have already cut or restructured their budgets and teams, allowing them to reprioritize growth over the next twelve months.

That’s one of the central findings in the CMO Council’s year-end “Getting It Done in 2021” audit of around 200 members across all regions worldwide, fielded in December and early January.

“We went into this thinking that likely folks are going to be recalibrating, restructuring or retooling marketing teams, budgets and programs,” Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the U.S.-based global executive network tells strategy. “What we’ve really found out is that a lot of that already took place in 2020.”

As a result, Neale-May says marketers, representing both B2C and B2B organizations, have adapted and are stepping up other areas of their marketing spend to compensate for one-to-one customer interactions that are needed in the new environment – one that is more digitally focused and geared towards growing value with existing customers. CMOs’ lower-risk strategic approach to growing business with existing customers was also a key finding in a Gartner CMO survey released last month.

In the CMO Council’s survey, 65% of marketers said they are going to spend more than last year, 24% expect to spend the same amount, and only 10% plan to reduce their budget. Those findings were consistent across companies of different sizes, regions and industry sectors, according to Neale-May.

Essentially, chief marketers have learned from the pandemic and are now focused on the areas that can help their businesses thrive in a digital-first environment. Forty-nine percent of marketers want to improve the performance of their organizations by working more effectively with other teams. Close behind on the priority list are lowering the costs of doing business (40%) and better targeting and localizing campaigns (36%).

“Folks have learned that they can get by with customer interactions in different methods, forms, ways and formats, and that you can reduce a lot of expenditure and wasted money,” says Neale-May. “The cost of doing conferences, trade shows, events, expos [for example] is massive – most of our members spend 25% of their budget on that type of thing. When you don’t have them, then look at hybrid ways to do things. And I’ve seen more targeted, more effective use of that money in other areas. [They ask,] ‘How do I generate more revenue or how do I keep and grow the value in the relationships I with my existing customers?’”

According to the research, 70% of respondents expect to find those efficiencies and improve effectiveness by investing in marketing technology. Their investments are focused on sourcing and using customer data insights (53%), executing campaigns more effectively (36%) and improving marketing operations and performance (36%).