The latest Business Barometer from Sapio reveals a resilience in marketing
Marketers have always been pretty resilient. Anyone who works in marketing will tell you there’s a need to be flexible whilst juggling the best laid plans alongside activities reacting to events beyond your control.
But it’s the best laid plans part that really makes the difference between those who are good at their jobs and those who are great. That’s why Sapio’s latest Business Barometer makes such interesting reading for all B2B marketing professionals - and where senior leaders should take heed!
About the report
Published in July 2023, you can download a copy here - and trust us, it’s worth it. The report explores the state of marketing and content, with findings based on an extensive survey of marketers working at everything from SMEs to international conglomerates, based in the UK, USA, France and Germany.
Key findings of the Sapio Business Barometer
Almost half of all marketers are increasing their spend in the next financial year, by an average of 10%
Digital marketing is the preferred area of spend, particularly social media, digital advertising and SEO
LinkedIn is the key social channel and should be a pillar of your content strategy
Retail Media Networks (RMNs) are tipped to dominate marketing plans in the immediate future
Making your marketing budgets go further
Despite a continued gloomy financial climate, 49% of respondents intend on increasing their marketing budgets, compared to 23% anticipating a cut to their spending pot. For those with more cash to allocate, it’s anticipated around 10% growth.
Given many third party costs have risen by double digit inflationary pressures, this 10% growth may not be as promising as it sounds; it could easily be absorbed by repeating the same activities as the previous year. To ensure you’re getting the best ‘bang for your buck’, you need to make sure your budget requests and activities are aligned with key business objectives.
With so many demands on a marketer’s time and the continually growing number of channels available for communicating your business messages, it’s no surprise that many teams feel stretched to breaking point. That’s where agency support comes in: just 1 in 5 teams are left to tackle the full breadth of their marketing campaigns using just in-house resources. A combination of in-house and external teams - whether marketing, PR, advertising or digital agencies, media buyers, designers or other resources - is used by 77% of marketing departments.
Amongst respondents with decreasing budgets, 37% actually expect to outsource more, tapping into specialist skill sets to minimise the time it takes to get tasks completed and maximising the use of expertise to drive plans forward.
Marketing remains important for an organisation’s future success, but marketers are getting creative in how their budget is managed including what channels to prioritise
85% of people are focusing on digital marketing, an avenue that makes it easier to track return on investment
Usual social media to get conversations started and content seen
One of the great debates in most organisations is what business value does social media provide. For some types of business - particularly in low-cost, high-volume retail - it’s easy to see an almost instantaneous return on investment, but for other businesses, particularly B2B companies, it can be a slow burn, with social media more a gateway to your brand than a direct shopfront.
Furthering the opposing views, 63% of respondents said they’d be spending more on social media, reflecting the importance of this channel - whilst for those facing decreasing marketing budgets, it’s first on the chopping block, with 41% reducing their current spend (rising to 52% in the USA).
However, one thing that B2B marketers agree on is that LinkedIn is the dominant social channel, particularly for content marketing. A staggering 93% of respondents use LinkedIn, with 75% using it at least once a week, but its uses are varied:
Connecting with colleagues and peers - 36%
Connect with clients - 34%
Recruitment - 32%
Keeping up to date with business news and industry trends - 31%
Reading valuable business-related content - 26%
With more than a quarter of people using LinkedIn as their primary source of business content, it’s important marketers utilise LinkedIn’s full tool kit to help raise the profile of your company - and yourself. You can learn more about how to make the most of LinkedIn here.
Technology in Marketing
AI dominates tech discussions, including in marketing departments. But all the buzz seems to not yet have resulted in action - only 23% of companies currently use AI tools such as ChatGPT for marketing purposes. Popular ways AI is being used include:
36% use AI in their email marketing campaigns
32% use AI to enhance existing content
31% use AI to generate new content ideas
There’s (an arguably healthy) scepticism around producing content solely by AI - 21% use AI to write blogs, with only 18% use it for generating whitepapers and reports.
Given the questions which have arisen around how AI prioritises and quality controls sources and reference material - and companies rushing to implement a code to prevent AI data scraping - the power of AI may still be some time away from dominating marketing content generation.
New channels on the horizon
Apologies to the seminal 1980s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for corrupting one of their best lines, but marketing moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss the next big thing. Sapio’s report found the Retain Media Networks (RMNs) could very well be that next big thing.
With almost 1 in 10 people unsure as to what an RMN is - to put it simply, it’s when a brand sells advertising space on their own website or app - RMN world dominance may be a few years away, but with 74% dedicating budget to this channel in their next financial year, it’s definitely a boom area.
Globally, Amazon is the master, selling their space to usually smaller retailers, while in the UK Tesco and Boots have set up media platforms to create and grow this new revenue stream. Benefits for marketers include the ability to target based on first party data, providing greater defined audiences. But do RMNs work? Those using them have greater confidence that they will generate significantly (50%) or slightly (29%) higher revenues with them.
Like all early adopters, there’s a high correlation between those using RMNs and other technology and trends, such as AI users (46%) and companies which have achieved net zero carbon emissions (55%).
Sapio’s report always throws up interesting questions around the direction of marketing, and this issue is no different. A mixed picture is presented with some companies increasing their budgets to capture greater market share amongst potentially tricky operating circumstances, while others are cutting back, which is most likely hitting social media spend.
Yet, even in the face of potential recessions, marketers - both in-house and external agencies - remain a vital part of a business’ strategic team.