Majority of CMOs under pressure to prove short-term ROI

Almost a third (30%) of marketing leaders believe the current uncertainty will force them to become more reactive, while 31% fear the need to curb their creative campaigns, according to new LinkedIn data.

ROIMarketing leaders are coming under increasing pressure to deliver short-term solutions to cope with the macroeconomic uncertainty, as scrutiny of budgets continues to ramp up.

Some 77% of CMOs globally feel under pressure to prove their campaigns are providing enhanced short-term return on investment, according to new research from LinkedIn.

The global survey of 2,929 C-level executives – including 494 CMOs – found marketing bosses are concerned the current uncertainty will force them to curb their creative campaigns (31%) and operate more reactively (30%).

Indeed, 41% of the businesses surveyed – organisations with 1,000 plus employees and annual turnover of more than £250m – say they are preparing financially for tough times ahead, which is putting heightened pressure on marketers to prove their business impact.

The statistics are reflected in Marketing Week’s exclusive Language of Effectiveness data. More than a third (36.9%) of the 1,610 brand-side marketers surveyed say the tracking of ROI has increased in emphasis in recent months.

The Marketing Week research found almost half of marketers (48.4%) report ROI is the most important metric for their CEO, CFO and board members, followed by delivering business outcomes (39.9%) and new customer acquisition (35.8%).

‘Marketers need to get real’: Addressing the significance of ROI

This rise in the influence of ROI is being experienced by 32.7% of marketers within SMEs (companies with 250 employees and under), second only to new customer acquisition (36.4%). Within large organisations, return on investment is the number one metric (40.4%) growing in importance.

However, 17.5% of marketers strongly agree their employer is too focused on the ROI of marketing spend when examining effectiveness. A further 28.2% slightly agree with this statement, making a combined total of marketers who feel their brand is too focused on ROI of 45.7%.

Despite the interest in ROI demonstrated by CEOs, CFOs and boards, just over a quarter (28.4%) of the sample surveyed by Marketing Week always measure the return on investment of their campaigns when conducting effectiveness analysis.

B2B brand building

Looking specifically at B2B marketers, a separate LinkedIn and YouGov study of more than 1,700 marketing leaders found an overwhelming majority (90%) say improving the CFO’s understanding of marketing ROI is key to strengthening future budgets.

A further 78% of the B2B sample believe companies which maintain or increase their marketing spend during periods of uncertainty recover faster.

According to LinkedIn’s B2B Institute, cutting back on marketing spend in challenging times could prove “devastating” for brands. The study found when advertisers paused advertising for a year or more, sales for brands of all sizes – whether small, medium or large – dropped by nearly 50%.

Despite evidence of the long-term damage potentially caused by pausing ad spend, senior director for EMEA and LATAM at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, Tom Pepper, acknowledges marketing budgets are often the first to be scrutinised and tightened in times of uncertainty.

“Maintaining existing budgets and strengthening future ones is dependent on marketers’ ability to speak the language of the CFO, ask the right questions and pull the right strategic levers that ladder up to business objectives,” he adds.

“By turning data into information which demonstrates business impact, and nurturing relationships with important leaders like the CFO, brands will put themselves in a much stronger position now and in the future.”

In a bid to stay top of mind, 67% of B2B marketers plan to maintain or increase spend on brand building over the next six months. This marketing cohort do, however, cite the measurement of campaign effectiveness and the ability to prove the ROI of their investments as their biggest challenges.