Business leaders look to marketers to support return to growth in 2021

Feb 3, 2021 | Skills

Business leaders look to marketers to support return to growth in 2021
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of UK C-level executives believe customers now expect greater innovation from them than before the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds (65%) are focused on creating new revenue streams.

New research from LinkedIn finds that as COVID-19 continues to challenge businesses in every industry, leaders are looking ahead to find new ways to adapt and return to growth.

Over half (56%) are rethinking their marketing strategy to stimulate customer spending, the report found.

The LinkedIn study of 300+ UK C-level executives, including Chief Marketing Officers (CMO), in organisations with 1,000+ employees and annual turnover of £250+ million, explores how leaders are navigating the global pandemic, and their business and marketing priorities for 2021. It finds that more than two-fifths (44%) are increasing marketing spend to help them adapt.

Key findings:

  • Nearly three-quarters of UK C-level executives say customers now expect greater innovation from them
  • 65% are prioritising creating new revenue streams
  • 68% are focused on delivering products and services with a social or environmental purpose
  • 70% believe customers have more trust in their brand since COVID-19

Marketing set to help businesses evolve

With COVID-19 accelerating digital transformation, 40% of leaders say it has given them the chance to reimagine how their organisation operates in the future. In the next six months, leaders anticipate that marketing will help their companies evolve by: shifting from in-person events to virtual events (41%); adapting content, messaging and tone of marketing assets to reflect the economic climate (38%); and focusing on reaching new customers (30%).

Marketers redefine their role

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of UK CMOs expect their role to change as a result of COVID-19. Fifty-eight percent believe they will increasingly support other functions, such as employer branding, internal communications and learning and development; over half (53%) say technology and data will play a greater part in their role; and 48% expect to have greater influence at board level.

Marketers facing a difficult balance between agility and strategy

With the pandemic requiring businesses to act with greater speed, 87% of CMOs say that it has increased the need for marketing agility. However, this could reduce focus on the long-term marketing objectives. In fact, the majority (60%) of CMOs feel since the pandemic they are now more at risk of over-prioritising agility over strategy.

Companies focused on reinforcing purpose

Business leaders say that their approach to innovation has changed due to COVID-19, with 68% now focusing on delivering products and services with a social or environmental purpose, and another 68% believe doing so will help them to connect with customers on a deeper level. Furthermore, 73% acknowledge that there is now greater expectation from customers, employees and investors to take action on the big issues of the day, with over half (59%) looking to support initiatives that have a direct impact on local communities over global causes.

Impact of COVID-19 on reputation and trust

Three-quarters (75%) of business leaders say that the way they have responded to the global pandemic has improved their reputation. Furthermore, 70% say customers have more trust in the brand as a result.

Tom Pepper, Head of Marketing Solutions for LinkedIn UK, Ireland & Israel, said: “COVID-19 has caused severe business turbulence and CMOs have been called upon to navigate the challenges ahead and fuel the return to growth. The vast majority believe the pandemic requires increased agility, but at what cost? Undoubtedly this year has shown the need for flexible marketing plans but CMOs must balance this with staying focused on their long-term strategy and vision.

“CMOs have always required a diverse skill set but it appears they’ll be taking on even more responsibilities in 2021. Upskilling will be an important focus for CMOs this year as they look to redeploy employees and plug potential skills gaps, but the savviest will also know when to bring in extra talent.”

Methodology

LinkedIn commissioned YouGov to survey 300+ UK C-level executives, including over 60 Chief Marketing Officers, from organisations with 1,000+ employees and annual turnover of £250+ million during August 2020 and January 2021. Interviews were conducted online.

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