Key Insights from The 2021 CMO Survey

Explore our take on the February 2021 CMO survey, where customer experience and digital spending seem to take priority.

A tumultuous year – marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and political and social upheaval – has accelerated change for many marketing leaders. As the results from the latest CMO Survey indicate, digital transformation, alongside social awareness and optimism for the economic future, are top-of-mind for marketing leaders. Marketers are responding to a consumer base that has dramatically changed the way they shop, work, and understand the communities they live in. With the return to ‘normal’ looming in a not-too-distant future, marketers are optimistic about the economy and investing money into customer experience and business growth.

From our perspective, the survey results come as no surprise. Digital transformation has been trending upwards for years, and B2B companies must step up their game if they want to keep up with an increasingly virtual world. Even with a return to “normalcy”, we can expect that many of our consumer habits will stay virtual whether we are B2B or B2C.

Let’s take a closer look at the CMO Survey and explore what its key findings mean for marketers in 2021.

Our Take on the CMO Survey

1. Digital Transformation is a Top Priority for Marketers

After a year of working from home en masse and purchasing everything online, it should not be surprising that digital transformation has become a top priority. The CMO survey reports that internet sales have rocketed to 19.4% of overall sales, the highest level ever documented in the survey’s history. Though marketing spending decreased overall last year, there was an 11.5% increase in digital marketing spending, and digital budgets are predicted to grow by 10.1% in the next year.

What do we make of this? The focus on digital for both consumers and marketers over the last year highlights the significance of a digital presence for companies – without one, you will simply be left behind. Digital growth has always been a consistent trend; the last year has simply accelerated it. If your company hasn’t kept up with digital transformation, there is no better time than the present to get started.

2. Customer Experience Rules

Customer experience is also critical for marketing leaders, with over a third of marketers prioritizing its importance over product quality, a trusting relationship, and superior innovation. Digital experiences are in demand, and companies are investing more into marketing to respond appropriately.

The emphasis on customer experience in the CMO survey is a strong reminder for marketers to focus on understanding the buyer journey. When we understand what kind of content our buyers need to make a purchasing decision, what their needs and pain points are, and who is involved at each stage of a purchase, we are able to enhance the customer experience. We strongly recommend that companies focus on their sales and marketing funnel, provide the kind of interactions their buyers want, whether that be content or meaningful sales conversations.

3. Digital Spending brings great ROI

When marketers make investments into digital marketing, they can prove their contribution to ROI and show the value of their efforts. As the CMO Survey reports, marketers have converted digital spending to returns with a “32.7% increase in contribution from digital marketing to company performance over the last year.” Companies are spending more time and money on their marketing, optimizing their websites, investing in digital media and SEO, data analytics, and marketing technology.

Increasing investments in digital marketing and martech with corresponding revenue increases show that marketing spending is essential for growth. Making clear connections between marketing investments and revenue will strengthen the voice of marketers at the executive table: processes like attribution reporting will show exactly what elements of your campaign are bringing in the most ROI. Check out our ebook on attribution reporting to learn more.

4. The Future of Marketing is looking Bright

Enthusiasm for a post-pandemic marketplace is running high, and marketers can expect to see more growth as the world bounces back toward economic recovery. As the survey indicates, 66.3% percent of marketers surveyed feeling optimistic about the overall economy, compared with just 50.9% in June 2020. Marketers have left survival mode and are starting to refocus on growth and profit, from “defense building to offense” as Christine Moorman points out. Companies are not only creating brand value that connects with and retains customers during the pandemic, but also investing more resources into growth and improving ROI.

Optimism for an economic rebound matters because the strength of an economy largely depends on the belief of future growth. If people believe the economy will grow, companies will spend money on marketing to capitalize on growth. The takeaway? Marketers need to be ready to take advantage of increasing consumer demand as the end of the pandemic comes into view.

Marketing Moves Ahead in 2021

The latest CMO Survey confirms what we have been predicting for years – that digital transformation is growing as the consumers increasingly shift toward an online marketplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital shift, and we can probably expect that many of the virtual habits people have acquired over the last year will be here to stay. Digital marketing tools are taking center stage as companies rely on a virtual environment to keep their brand relevant and connected; marketers will continue to place their efforts on optimizing their funnels for the best customer experiences.

Digital is playing a growing role and leading the way into 2021 – marketers can feel excited and ready to trailblaze new pathways into markets that have been profoundly impacted by transformation.

Maximize your MarTech Investment

Optimize your marketing automation for improved tactics, leads & measurement

Explore MarTech Capabilities >

Book a Complimentary 
Consultation with a 
Senior Business Consultant

Schedule Now>