CEOs still don't see value in B2B marketing for business strategy

New Forrester, ITSMA and VisionEdge report finds fewer than 10 per cent of top executives rely on marketing input when making significant business decisions or setting strategy

B2B marketers are gaining proficiency in measuring their impact on the business, yet most top corporate executives still aren’t relying on marketing's performance results to make strategic decisions, and half don't even see the financial value of marketing.

That’s the top-line finding of Forrester’s latest research in the B2B marketing sector, B2B Marketing Measurement Needs and MBA,which found fewer than 10 per cent of top executives rely on marketing input when making significant business decisions or setting strategy.

This is despite the fact that 86 per cent of marketers either ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that the connection between marketing activities and business goals at their firm is clear today, and 72 per cent see company leadership recognising marketing’s impact on the business. In addition, 61 per cent of CMOs surveyed said their ability to measure and report the business contribution of marketing programs in the past year has improved.

The findings are based on a recent survey by Forrester in partnership with the IT Services Marketing Association and VisionEdge Marketing of 174 marketing leaders in the US in May.

The report tells a story of strong focus on ROI and operational success, but equally reflects the long way CMOs still need to go before marketing is recognised for its true business worth. Two-thirds of respondents are confident of their ability to better report on factors such as the rate of new customer acquisition, market share and lifetime value, for example. However, just 45 per cent feel as confident they know which metrics and business outcomes matter most to stakeholders, and 40 per cent are neutral. Only 51 per cent believe the business sees the financial value of marketing.

Another noteworthy statistic is that only 40 per cent of marketers surveyed believed measuring marketing’s value and contribution to the business is very important or critical.

Given the huge attention placed on data analytics in marketing today, it’s less surprising to see 60 per cent agreeing marketing has become more adept at using data and analytics to make mid-course corrections or more strategic recommendations.

According to report author, Forrester vice-president and leading CMO analyst, Laura Ramos, B2B CMOs must move past measuring reporting outputs and towards predicting outcomes. She pointed out B2B marketers are using analytics to defend new resource requests based on past budgets, measure brand health on traditional factors, and are still more likely to manage marketing programs using campaign-centre metrics derived from past performance, rather than looking at ways to predict future results.

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Of those surveyed, 24 per cent claimed to be using data analytics to predict customer buyer behaviour, and 25 per cent are using analytics to increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

“We found the most successful CMOs use marketing analytics and dashboards to connect marketing metrics to cross-functional outcomes, increase decision-making agility, and show business peers where the market is heading,” Ramos stated.

“Executive management needs to know precisely which activities expand the business, capture new opportunities, and keep existing customers in the fold. CMOs that fail to demonstrate how marketing’s performance is meeting this higher standard will find their teams relegated to the role of creative cost centre or operational sales support – and themselves out of a job.”

As a way forward, Forrester provided a list of recommendations, including focusing on leading business and market indicators, setting more specific performance goals, and reporting on business consequences, not operational statistics.

It also promoted investment into marketing technologies such as better customer databases, data analytics and mobile reporting dashboards.

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