A recent survey of chief marketing officers (CMOs) offers a mixed bag of predictions for the U.S. economy in general – and for the B2B market in particular.
First, the bad news: According to the Duke University Fuqua School of Business CMO Survey of 528 marketing executives, just 29% said they were optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy. That's down more than 34% percentage points from the previous survey in February, 2012.
The number of respondents who said they were pessimistic about the economy grew from 8.5% in February to 36% in the current survey, taken during July and August 2012.
"The greatest pessimism lies among business-to-business companies. These companies have not seen their markets rebound," said Christine Moorman, Director of The CMO Survey and T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. "Furthermore, for the first time in the history of The CMO Survey, pessimists, optimists, and the 'no change' group are nearly equal, indicating a great deal of uncertainty and no strong consensus about the direction of the economy."
CMOs More Optimistic About Their Own Firms' Prospects
A closer look at the survey results, however, reveals additional findings that might temper this pessimistic outlook.
First, according to the study, most CMOs are still optimistic about their own companies' individual prospects. On an "optimism scale" of 0-100, CMOs gave their companies an average score of 69.6, compared to 58.4 for the U.S. economy as a whole.
Many CMOs said that their companies plan to take more business risk during the coming year in order to target new markets, and launch new products and services.
The survey results also show that CMOs expect their marketing organizations to play a major role in helping their companies navigate this uncertain economic climate. Marketing employment is on the rise, from a 5.2% increase in marketing hires in the previous survey to a 6.5% increase in the current survey. Most CMOs also expect to receive a growing share of their companies' budgets during the coming months.
Social Media Integration Remains A Challenge
Finally, the study shows that marketers still struggle to integrate social media with their overall marketing strategies: Less than 7% of CMOs say that social media is "very integrated" to their marketing strategies, while nearly 17% say social media is not integrated at all.
"Unless the social media integration gap is closed, social media spending will ultimately lose its luster," Moorman said. "CMOs will have to tie social media to the rest of their marketing strategies activities. Making this happen takes both organizational and technical systems that help transfer insights, actions and learning between social media and marketing strategy."