New Research: Despite Economic Headwinds, 84% Of Marketers Remain Optimistic; 72% Plan To Meet/Exceed Goals

Published: April 26, 2023

With rising interest rates, bank failures and more economic headwinds looming, the biggest challenges B2B marketers are up against include headcount cuts (40%), increasing growth targets (39%) and budget cuts (38%), according to Integrate’s new “2023 State Of Marketing Budgets” reportBut despite these challenges, 72% said their marketing team will meet or exceed goals in 2023.

The study — conducted by the precision demand marketing platform provider —revealed how marketing budgets, priorities and sentiments have changed in the past six months. Nearly 50% of B2B marketers cited difficulty using data to inform decisions and measure performance as their biggest challenge, suggesting an increasing need for marketers to “defend their spend” to finance departments and C-level executives.

However, 84% of marketers reported having a neutral to optimistic outlook for the remainder of 2023, up slightly from 80%.To adapt to these shifting (and contrasting) tides, 57% of B2B marketers are optimizing for growth in 2023 by leveraging customer marketing. In addition, 42% said they are building team skills and adding new competencies, while 36% are investing in existing verticals or markets. But leaders are cutting travel budgets (46%), consolidating teams/job responsibilities (41%) and relying more on contractors (36%) and agencies (34%). 

To help marketers better understand how to adapt to the current marketing landscape, Demand Gen Report spoke with Erica Perng, Sr. Director of Corporate Communications for Integrate, to dive deeper into the research.

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Demand Gen Report: We’re clearly in turbulent and uncertain economic times, so can you share how else the survey results have varied from six months ago?

Erica Perng: The first thing we noticed was that marketers are more optimistic compared to six months ago. Twenty-six percent of folks said they were very optimistic, while only 15% said the same last year. And that was surprising, considering that two-thirds (66%) said they’re experiencing burnout.

As for budget spend for specific marketing disciplines, the survey found that 40% of marketers are spending about the same on ABM, communications, content, demand generation, field/event marketing, marketing operations, product marketing and sales enablement. This is in contrast to the 2022 results, which reported starker changes to planned budget investments with nearly 50% planning to invest more in digital marketing, content creation and customer marketing, while 53% planned to spend less on ABM.

Today, the areas marketers are investing more in include customer marketing (38%), marketing operations/technology (37%) and product marketing/strategy (36%). Conversely, marketers are investing less in ABM (25%), communications (24%) and demand generation (22%). 

To put that all in perspective, we published our 2022 study in October, so we fielded the questions in September. That’s six months ago, and it’s not that long ago. The fact that we saw measurable shifts despite all the economic headwinds and challenges is fascinating.

DGR: A major area of focus for the study was how marketers are adjusting their budgets and working to justify their marketing spend. What advice do you have for marketers who need to defend their spend to their leadership teams?

Perng: C-level leadership is often numbers-driven — a CFO will want you to justify the cost of a particular budget item, and having the data to back up performance is powerful. We know that travel budgets are one of the top areas that being cut, so let’s discuss how to justify event attendance. When you attend a conference, you need to demonstrate how many leads you generated there and how they influenced your pipeline. That information can be the deciding factor for attendance at future conferences, and it requires strong data.

DGR: On the topic of data, the research found that 50% of B2B marketers are struggling to leverage data to inform decisions and measure performance. How do you recommend practitioners remedy that?

Perng: Good data is foundational to good marketing, so it’s important that practitioners have clean, compliant data that’s connected across their tech stack. For instance, let’s say you have the wrong email address or name — you can’t even begin to reach your buyer, much less measure your efforts. It’s a critical element of campaigns, but it’s something practitioners occasionally forget about.

DGR: An unintentional theme throughout the report was the contrast of marketers’ feelings against their performance. So, what do you think those findings say about marketers?

Perng: It was surprising that 72% said they’ll meet or exceed goals in 2023. Again, given the current environment, we thought that marketers would be much less optimistic about reaching their goals. And it’s just so interesting to contrast that with the two-thirds of marketers that are experiencing burnout. Pairing that with the ability to exceed goals is interesting because it suggests that marketers are burnt out because they’re working so hard to compensate for lower budgets, headcounts and more.

DGR: What picture does that paint of the B2B industry as a whole? Where do you see it going in the future?

Perng: Today’s B2B marketers might be overworked, but they’re optimistic — they’re a resilient bunch. They’re also finding solid footing and focusing on customer-centricity. But marketers’ greatest need is accurate, connected data to better understand their buyers, guide their decisions and defend their spend in difficult times. It’s time to invest in better data and adopt a buyer-driven, omnichannel, customer-centric approach.

There should be a blend of “back-to-basics” approaches alongside new initiatives. There’s a recent narrative around storytelling and making your customer the hero. Marketers must invest in customer marketing while also leveraging tried-and-true tactics to leverage existing relationships and promote upsell/cross-sell opportunities.

Want to learn more? Download “The 2023 State Of Marketing Budgets report to access all the findings.

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