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12.15.2021

A Strategic Mistake 36% Of B2B CMOs Made In 2021

Highlighting three insights from Gartner’s annual report CMO Spend Survey that reveal a trend in global marketing leaders’ 2021 budgeting strategy trends.

Attila Tóth

Digital Strategist

In their annual report, The State of Marketing Budgets in 2021, Gartner points out some troubling trends that made me raise my eyebrows. But let’s start first with some background.

Each year, Gartner runs a survey called the CMO Spend Survey, where they gather insights from global marketing leaders on their budgeting strategy. Considering that Gartner has been collecting and examining information for the last seven years, we can say without a doubt that they have consistent and relevant data to build trends on.

Connecting The Dots

Here are three highlights from this year’s report that I consider worth pointing out. I believe that they show us an unexpected new trend in budgeting strategies, trends from which we can learn regardless of our future approaches and experimenting.

The first emphasis is on CMOs that increased their focus to Performance Marketing, specifically on Social Marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and Digital Advertising, with the latter focusing on videos and display ads.

There is nothing unusual here. 

What I can add is that – based on our data – a proper video content strategy still outperforms all the other digital channels in terms of short-term engagement and long-term value. For example, in 2021, we had cases where we saw a considerable increase of 700% in video channels’ performance.

Video alone, however, is far from enough. The circle has to be completed with an increase in budgets for Social Media and Search Engine Marketing.

The second and third takeaways that I want to touch base on are interconnected and require looking at B2B and B2C trends separately. On the one hand, we see that B2C marketing leaders have increased their spending on two key channels: Digital Advertising and SEO; and have strongly decreased expenses on Offline Advertising. 

While, on the other hand, we see something strange. B2B marketers don’t strictly follow their B2C counterparts. Some of the budget increases occur in the same segments for both actors. But what is troubling is that 36% have decreased their display and video advertising budget, even though these two kinds of platforms own the top-performing channels in B2C.

So does that mean B2B buyers don’t watch more videos?

Well, it might look like that for those who don’t have hands-on experience. But the reason is more complicated, so here’s my view on why this is happening:

2020 brought a massive shift in terms of digital ad spend like in so many other areas. And it’s needless to say, not everybody was successful. Brands that started their digital brand development before COVID-19 were dominantly B2C brands, and most of them leveraged the pandemic in terms of further digital growth. However, before global lockdowns started, B2B marketers focused their activities on ABM (Account-Based Marketing) and physical events. 

So, with close to 0 experience in digital brand building, most B2B CMOs were forced to double down on something they haven’t done as a primary activity. 

But doubling down wasn’t the right way to go, even if they did everything on their plates. Without proper knowledge and data, hoping to reach the same success as B2C marketers did in 2020 was useless. Quite a few brands failed, and honestly, they had false expectations to achieve similar results as those using digital before the pandemic. The more critical issue is that 36% drew the wrong conclusion, thinking that these channels don’t work for them.

The Takeaway At Hand

If the situation elaborated above seems familiar, maybe you even find yourself in the same shoes, I have a piece of advice that can help you out before it’s too late. Here is my recommendation: don’t try to copy-paste the strategy that others follow and succeed with. Not only won’t it be the answer for your own business, but it’ll leave you with frustration and disappointment, in addition to the amount of unnecessarily invested resources.

One of my recent blog posts may answer why copy-pasting doesn’t work in digital transformation. You can check it here.

So, back to my reasoning. Instead of copy-pasting, you should try two different things. Firstly, learn how a brand can start its digital journey in the current circumstances. This approach demands you to see the dynamics (all the shifts, all the changes, failed and successful attempts) that shaped the digital world into becoming what it is today. Taking these into consideration will clarify why starting today is not the same as it was two years ago. 

Secondly, it’s crucial to lower your expectations. Nobody expects you to reach radical and glorious transformations overnight, from the very first try. The heights you see others have achieved have at least five years of strategic work behind them most of the time.

Are you confident whether you’ll be heading in the right direction in 2022?

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