In April of 2022, Adverity commissioned a survey of 300 CMOs from small and midsize businesses (SMBs) across the US, UK, and DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).
Respondents were interviewed over the telephone, and represent a wide range of industries, including Technology, Marketing Agencies, and eCommerce.
Respondents came from small and midsize businesses as defined by Gartner; small businesses are defined as organizations with an annual revenue of between 20 million and 50 million USD while mid-sized enterprises are defined as organizations with an annual revenue of between 50 million to 1 billion USD.
Adaptation has always been an essential skill for CMOs. As the pace of change increases, however, it’s getting harder to adjust quickly enough. In recent years, we’ve seen privacy regulations transform operations, followed by a pandemic that re-wrote the rulebook for modern marketing. In the current climate of social, geopolitical, and economic uncertainty, another potential storm is looming: this time in the form of a global recession.
All of which means honing strong resilience is key. CMOs need the capacity to power quick and informed decisions that help their teams effectively navigate each emerging shift, while maintaining steadily robust performance.
As this report shows, most CMOs at SMBs already recognize the hugely important role data plays in supporting these abilities and securing business survival. A majority of 85% agree that the ability to make data-driven decisions is a critical competitive advantage and 29% plan on upping budget for data ops this year. At the same time, however, many are struggling to manage the constantly growing mountains of data they collect.
More than two-thirds of CMOs (67%) say the volume of data available to them has become increasingly overwhelming, with 33% pointing to rising numbers of channels and platforms as the biggest external factor impacting marketing today, and half (52%) using 14 data sources or more. Although feelings of data overload are understandable, CMOs must find ways to eliminate data silos, and integrate this growing volume of data into a single source of truth if they are to succeed and thrive in an unpredictable climate.
Lourenco Mello, Product Marketing Lead, Solutions, Snowflake
Despite the tumultuous past few years, 75% of CMOs at SMBs say their team was resilient enough to adapt to periods of unpredictability.
Recent crises have catalyzed a focus on using data to make marketing budgets go further, by rewarding those who have invested time and resources into their data strategies, while many of the less data mature have failed to survive. And for those who have successfully ridden out the storm, data is now front of mind as another hurricane forms on the horizon.
In fact, among the CMOs at SMBs we surveyed, a staggering 85% agree that being able to make data-driven decisions is a critical competitive advantage. As the global economy teeters on the edge of recession once again, marketers can look back to draw on a couple of lessons from recent economic crises.
An encouraging number of CMOs are allocating more resources to bolstering their data operations and capabilities. As found in our recent study on the evolving role of the CMO, 73% have committed to investing in a marketing ops role, with 33% having only introduced this role in the last year. Combining management of the martech stack, data quality control, and analytics at once, the position is a smart addition to help eliminate internal silos and drive team efficiency by ensuring easy access to connected data, whenever it’s needed.
Our latest results also indicate growing interest in further enhancing data mastery, with 29% of CMOs increasing their data ops budget for 2022. The shift towards bigger spending, however, doesn’t run across the board. Almost as many (27%) say their budget has decreased while 44% are working with the same spending pot as last year.
Although unchanged budgets might simply reflect steady costs, other findings indicate there could be additional issues at play. An overwhelming 70% of CMOs name money, not time, as their most stretched resource. With finances already a significant concern, many may be under strain that’s leading them to tighten purse strings and cap their data ops spending.
“Up until the last century, the biggest technological changes we’ve had to adapt to have largely been singular — iron, plastic, electricity even. But now the biggest change isn’t any one particular technology, it’s the rate at which we’re advancing, and how quickly those new technologies are coming around.”
While pausing investment might bring some short-term gains, allowing spend to stagnate will cause multiple issues over time. As analytics tools and practices evolve, teams will fall further behind and be less able to squeeze as much as they can out of marketing budgets. Continued underinvestment also makes it more likely they will battle with further inefficiencies that add to already unwieldy workloads and impact productivity. Businesses, therefore, need to balance costs carefully, running calculations of how much they can save from stalling data ops investment, versus the benefits a well-supported team can drive.
Stretched finances could soon result in budget cuts. CMOs need to use their resources and invest in key areas now if they want to tackle the recession armed with better insight.
There is a strong correlation between prioritizing data maturity, and being resilient during times of recession. Recent research has found companies that invest in building data maturity tend to have a greater tolerance for absorbing economic shocks.
Comparing the performance of multiple businesses across recent recessions, the 2008 crash and COVID-19 downturn, against key measures of data-driven culture reveals clear links between these factors. Organizations scoring well on their culture and leadership, data operations, technology investment, and automation advocacy consistently drove high pre-tax earnings; with the correlation coefficient coming in at 0.817.
During a crisis, avoid focusing exclusively on short-term pressures and savings. Keeping the long view in mind and continuing to fuel compelling marketing will ensure your business not only weathers the storm, but also comes out stronger.
Fast escalating digitalization is bringing a mix of opportunities and challenges for CMOs at SMBs. Where new platforms and channels bring more scope for audience engagement, they’re also seeing an exponential rise in data and complexity.
Keeping on top of sprawling multi-channel activity is getting harder and harder; pushing up time to insight and making it difficult for teams to achieve the real-time performance view they need to guide quick and informed decisions. With demand for frequent and granular reports from the rest of the C-suite growing, it’s easy to see why CMOs are feeling pressured. One-third (33%) cite multiplying channels and platforms as the biggest external factor impacting marketing today.
In contrast, there is a much lower level of concern around data regulation, such as the GDPR. Previously high on every CMO’s priority list, the European regulation is now seen as a major external impact by just 8%, relegating it to last place. Despite increasing fines for rule breaches, marketing leaders are more comfortable with regulations they know and have already adjusted to than the varied complications emerging channels and platforms create; highlighting the urgent need for them to adapt in line with rapid digital evolution.
As might also be expected, both capturing and using the data generated by increasing channels and platforms is proving a challenge. Nearly all (99%) of CMOs say their marketing team is working with at least 10 data sources, 52% say they’re working with 14 data sources or more, and 32% say their teams use external data sources for marketing analytics.
While similar research from 2019 revealed that nearly half (47%) of respondents had 6 or fewer data sources, three years on we couldn’t find a single respondent reporting so few data sources.
As more and more data streams in from different directions, teams are reaching their limit; with 67% of CMOs admitting they have been overwhelmed by the quantity of marketing data available in recent years. This may also explain why the unpredictability of black swan events and the growing complexity of audience behavior rank second and third in key external impacts on marketing, at 26% and 17% respectively.
As marketers struggle to deal with infinitely increasing data sources, effectively tracking and responding to unpredictable events is becoming more difficult. The expanding variety of platforms and channels that consumers engage with is also creating similar problems for understanding audience behavior, with marketing teams struggling to achieve a clear view amid a relentless influx of disparate data.
Tellingly, for respondents who cited a lack of resilience and difficulty adjusting during black swan events, reports of data overload soar to 92%, and jump to 100% for those decreasing their data ops budget this year. For marketing teams that have not invested in strengthening data handling capacity and implementing streamlined processes, keeping pace with digitalization is a tougher task.
Marketing is going to get more complicated as digital development presses on. CMOs that ensure teams can handle the rising data tide will have the best chance of staying afloat and steering their way to optimal outcomes.
“The amount of data for marketing teams—and its complexity—continues to grow, and it isn’t just limited to social media, SEO platforms, sales data, or other customer touchpoints. Data for marketing teams can be anything from weather reports to traffic data and even census reports.”
Optimism about company prospects is crucial, especially when it comes to thriving through a recession. But it’s also important for businesses not to view data capabilities with rose-tinted glasses.
In our recent Marketing Analytics: State of Play 2022 report, 68% of respondents self-identified as data mature, despite lingering dependence on outdated practices and spreadsheets.