Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey: Everything you need to know ahead of 2021

Go to work, don’t go to work. Go outside, stay indoors. Ah, yes – it could only be 2020 – the year of eternal uncertainty and confusion.

You’d be forgiven for imagining this year’s Gartner CMO Spend Survey as more of a marketing Domesday Book of budget cuts in the wake of the global pandemic – painting a bleak picture for the B2B marketing landscape in 2021. But whilst strategies understandably have had to adapt to an uncertain market, Gartner’s research has found that CMO optimism is actually rather high.

In fact, the survey – which fielded responses from 432 CMOs across the UK, North America, France and Germany – reported more than half (57%) of respondents across all industries believe that business performance will return to normal in 18 to 24 months.

Your peers and competitors are planning beyond 2020, our dear marketing comrade – and you should be too. From key survey highlights for B2B CMOs to our top tips for budget planning ahead of 2021, have your note-taking devices at the ready – we’re about to serve you some serious budget planning realness.

Key takeaways from Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey to fuel your 2021 marketing budget plans

Brand is back

Much like Hugh Grant post-Paddington 2, brand marketing’s about to undergo a renaissance. Gartner’s survey revealed that CMOs rank ‘Brand Strategy’ as their top strategic priority (33%) going into 2021, despite being way down in the rankings the year before.

On paper, it’s quite surprising to see brand strategy surpass the likes of previous heavyweights, such as ‘Marketing Analytics’ (29%) and ‘Marketing Technology Strategy’ (22%). But in the context of Covid-19 upheaval, it actually makes a lot of sense for marketers to trade short-term media initiatives for the bigger brand picture to nurture long-term value. This sentiment’s reflected in Gartner’s findings, as around half of the surveyed CMOs revealed they’d had to cut their budgets in 2020, with almost a third curtailing planned media spend. While the spending reigns have been tightened and media activity is down, marketers have instead shifted focus to deliver more authentic brand messaging and bolster their value proposition to engage both existing clients and new prospects alike.

Not only has brand jumped from the bottom of marketing capabilities pile in 2019 to the very top in 2020, the most valuable brand metric has also shifted. In the wake of the pandemic, brand health has overtaken brand awareness as CMOs look to sharpen their focus on what audiences know, think and feel about their brand.

OG pro planning tips:

The survey’s clear: brand marketing’s back in a big way. The uncertain climate means it’s so important for marketers to ensure all brand messaging aligns with their audience so as to drive brand loyalty; increase trust and credibility; and reach new, relevant audiences.

In your budget planning, think about:

  • How you’re measuring brand health

Are you investing enough compared to other strategic initiatives?

  • What methods you’re using

Are you using enough methods to gather data on your brand? Consider social listening, surveys and feedback to help you ascertain whether your clients and prospects both understand and connect with your brand message as you see it.

  • How to build brand awareness and trust in an uncertain climate

How you can focus brand investments on building trust and credibility by delivering informative, brand-led experiences and relevant messages.

MarTech: If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Despite the tough spending decisions being made by many CMOs as a result of economic uncertainty, Gartner’s report has revealed tech spend is likely to continue growing well into 2021.

MarTech came out on top as the largest share of marketing resource budgets (26.2%), with 68% of CMOs sharing that they expect to increase their investment in MarTech over the next 12 months.

So, when uncertainty abounds and budgets are tight, why the emphasis on tech? You need look no further than the intention to focus on existing customers and markets to fuel growth in 2021. MarTech has a key role to play here; not only can tech help to get relevant content to market more quickly, but marketing automation, client data platforms and workflow systems are key to driving customer loyalty and retention initiatives.

But a word of warning from Gartner: further investment in MarTech won’t necessarily deliver the short-cuts to success promised to you in countless slack channels if you don’t actually use it. In fact, the survey revealed CMOs confessed to using only 58% of their current tech stack, with the other 42% left unused and eating away at their bottom line – it’s use it or lose it time, folks.

OG pro planning tips:

We see this time and time again at OG: too many businesses invest in MarTech and don’t utilise it to its full potential – if at all. As we saw from the findings around brand activation, CMOs are pegging customer loyalty and retention as key focuses in 2021, so tech such as marketing automation and client data platforms can play a pivotal role here. MarTech has avoided the dreaded post-pandemic cuts so far because of the opportunity it presents, but you need to ensure that the tech you have is driving value for your business.

Ask yourself these questions prior to signing off your 2021 spend:

  • Are you leveraging your existing tech to its full potential?

Have a tech stack you’re neglecting? Why? Take stock and get it operating at 100% to see how it can support your objectives before investing in further MarTech capabilities.

  • Do you know how to use your tech in the best way for time and efficiency?

Where relevant, are you making the most of any free training, onboarding or demos offered by your chosen providers?

  • Are your MarTech investments driving value?

Do you have KPIs in place for MarTech investments (both old and new) to ensure you’re getting the returns you expected? Think objectives. Think value.

Digital dominatrix

 Another key finding from Gartner’s survey is the dominance of digital in the multichannel mix. It’s not that surprising really as the early months of the pandemic saw us counting our toilet rolls indoors and flocking online for almost anything from business to pleasure and all the Zoom quizzes in-between.

While marketers need to be prepared for the possibility of further cuts, the pandemic has accelerated the move to online for both businesses and their clients – and investment isn’t likely to slow down moving into next year. Gartner found that in 2020, investments in paid, owned and earned digital channels now make up almost 80% of multichannel budgets, with digital and search advertising (22%), social (11.3%) and website (10.4%) coming out on top.

OG pro planning tips:

It seems the world’s going online with a strong and growing focus on digital ads, so how are you going to stand out and get your brand seen?

Before planning your digital spend in 2021, think about:

  • How to make your digital ads stand out

Could an increased investment in creative be the answer to ensure your visual assets separate you from your competition?

  • Getting to know your existing clients better

We already know this is a big focus for CMOs in 2021 so learn from your brand marketing research and apply your findings about what drives value for your existing clients to your online initiatives to capture new and relevant prospects.

  • How bullish you’re being about using digital for lead generation

Are you exploring every avenue available to you? For example, 67% of B2B CMOs said they’ll be upping their email marketing budget in 2021, what about you? (Psst, find out why we think email marketing is the most powerful tool here).

Speak to us about how we can help you with your post-pandemic budget planning –