The top useful and free marketing research insights for small business

Critical Quantitative Marketing Research

Get big business marketing research insights from Gartner, a global research powerhouse. My blog recaps three significant Gartner research study results: (1) brand trust- what matters to customers; (2) the annual CMO spend survey results; and (3) optimizing marketing technology tools.

For those not familiar with Gartner, they are the world’s largest research and advisory company, which I had access to at my previous W2 organizations. At my fingertips, I received top-of-the hour research and on-demand access to analysts to help drive business results. It is quite pricey, although incredibly valuable to be a Gartner client. But for most small businesses, this is out of reach with their tight budgets. Fortunately, Gartner offers a lot of freebies including webinars, PDFs, toolkits. Learn about the challenges and successes that big company Chief Marketing Officers are facing and leverage in your own businesses.

Gartner Research Survey Recap #1

Leading Through COVID: Brand Perception and Trust – Meet Higher Customer Expectations

Gartner brand trust survey

The first piece of Gartner marketing research I want to share is about brand trust and what matters to customers. Without a doubt, everyone holds brands to a higher level of expectations today. Not surprisingly, brand trust has declined significantly over the last five years, as 81% of customers refuse to do business with brands they do not trust. In fact, 89% would take action to disengage from a brand that breaches their trust. (see inset image)

What drives brand trust?

But what is fascinating and statistically significant, are these next numbers reported by Gartner on what drives brand trust. Compared to a warmth-focused communication approach, which was incredibly important early in the pandemic, brands trust is only one times as likely to improve. It grows to nearly three times when the brand has clear values and stays true to itself. However, the predicted change in customer trust improves nearly four times when brands are dependable and deliver on their promises. It matters to be caring. It matters to be authentic. But it matters more to be dependable.

So yes:

Be true to your company values

Be human


And do what you say you are going to do.

You don’t have to be a well-known brand, with oodles of money to experience brand trust success or failure. It’s more important than ever during the pandemic (and recovery), as people are making buying decisions based on how YOU have handled yourselves. Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, prospective employees will ask – what did you do to support your staff during COVID? What are you doing this year? Longtime customers will ask – tell me what steps you’re taking to impact diversity and inclusion. This isn’t just about selling widgets and services!

Gartner’s Definition of Brand Trust

“A customer’s belief or perception that a company will consistently follow through on its stated intentions and provide support over time.”

My favorite example that best reflects earning brand trust is from another women-owned, women-certified business called Windy City Travel, a full service travel agency in Chicago. Talk about challenging times! The travel hospitality business has been and will continue to be brutally challenging. Early on, the owner was very clear that clients may not get a full refund, only a credit. This was an incredibly tough message to send and difficult for customers to receive. But it was necessary for her business survival. So what else did she do? She created a promotion thanking front line healthcare workers, specifically Illinois nurses, with a gift of travel called the “THANK-ATION.” She gave away 12 free trips – a finite amount – with her own funds and funds donated from others. Human. Caring AND Transparent. Now that’s a company you can trust and want to do business with.

Do you have a brand trust story to share?

Gartner Research Survey Recap #2

The Annual CMO Spend Survey Results

2021 budget for Chief Marketing Officers

The second piece of Gartner marketing research I want to share is from their annual CMO spend survey. They’ve conducted this survey annually since 2012. Every year, we marketers look forward to hearing how behemoth brand CMOs are spending their time and money. What do they know that we don’t? What are they doing that we should be doing or not be doing? Over 400 marketing leaders responded at companies ranging in revenue size from $500K to $20 billion in North America, the U.K., France, and Germany. Eighty-four percent of the respondents came from organizations greater than $1 billion in annual revenue and from a variety of industries including financial services, high tech, manufacturing, consumer products, media, retail, healthcare providers, IT, business services, travel and hospitality. There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’m covering three notable results that small businesses can benefit from. Gartner even broke it up into two different webinars. (access both here: Part 1 and Part 2)

What are the most important marketing capabilities this year?

2021 calendar

Gartner asked Chief Marketing Officers to rank their most vital marketing capabilities. Not surprisingly, brand strategy is #1 and #2 was market data which has been in the top 3, for the last few years. This means using marketing analytics to deliver data insights that influence marketing operations and brand strategy.

Even Big Brand CMOs are Struggling

Even big company CMOs are struggling

What was startling about the research was that even Chief Marketing Officers from big companies are struggling. Gartner analysts admitted that while marketing analytics are still critical, CMO’s are having difficulty proving the value of their marketing analytics programs. Many companies even have rudimentary analytics capabilities. (Geez, what the heck are you spending your millions of marketing dollars on?!) So SMB folks, don’t for one minute feel bad that you don’t have a fancy marketing analytics infrastructure, data behavioral scientists, ethnographers, or even a market data intern on staff. Even the biggies don’t have it figured out.

My SMB Tip for you: Pick a couple of tools (and become super users) that will meaningfully impact sales and the customer experience, avoiding the temptation to buy the latest gadget-of-the-day.

Digital Marketing Personalization is Being Abandoned

Marketing personalization

Marketing personalization has been a strategic focus over the last few years for many Chief Marketing Officers. Personalization is a marketing strategy that is one-to-one marketing or individual marketing in which companies leverage data analysis and digital technology to deliver individualized messages and product offerings to current or prospective customers. Yet, 80% of CMO are abandoning personalization due to lack of ROI.

My SMB Tip for you: Make sure your digital house is in order first, i.e. mastering technical fundamentals, SEO, SEM, campaigns), but keep in mind that people are experiencing digital fatigue. They’re “Zoomed out” and email boxes are simply overflowing with messages invitations, preventing small businesses from effectively connecting digitally with their customers. B2B companies can’t expect to close deals doing everything digital. Try “old school” marketing channel activities such as picking up the phone and talking to prospects.

Marketing Strategies Must Align with Key Performance Metrics

Watch out for too much data in one area and not enough data in others. Shows a full inbox (web visits) and empty box (customer satisfaction)

The next notable insight is that Chief Marketing Officers are conflicted over the importance of leads, whether marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs). Only 12% of CMOs cited demand generation as a top 3 focus for their marketing capabilities. Yet, they still have leads as their #2 most valuable metric. That is a huge disconnect. The metrics you focus on as a company help shape programs and experiences delivered to customers. You must focus on existing customers to strengthen loyalty, driving sales and profitability. However, if you still elevate acquisition metrics like MQLs and SQLs, then you risk diverting the attention of your teams from the real measures of success and revenue growth.

My SMB Tip for you: Ensure your strategic marketing goals are aligned with your key performance indicators (KPIs). Strengthen your cross-functional partnerships between marketing, business development, and sales. You all need to agree on and execute acquisition and retention efforts. Don’t get mired in reams of data and lose sight of customer needs.

Gartner Research Survey Recap #3

Optimize Marketing Technology in Turbulent Times

Optimize Marketing Technology Cuts in Turbulent Times

The last Gartner marketing research I want to share with you is optimizing marketing technology cuts in turbulent times. In a survey Gartner conducted in the early days of COVID, 76% of marketing leaders reported they would cut marketing budgets ranging from 5% to 15% or more. This data was certainly not notable news because marketing is typically the first to get cut in an economic downturn. Early in the pandemic, companies slashed marketing budgets as they watched their revenue get decimated. Even as we gingerly move towards recovery, many budgets are still tight.

Massive MarTech Marketing Investment and Underutilization

Opportunity to get to 10x ROI

But did you know that Marketing Technology accounts for 26% of their entire marketing budget? Remember, these are billion dollar organizations with massive marketing budgets. Gartner also reported that CMOs expect to continue investing heavily in their marketing stack. (See my blog on the overwhelming choices of over 8,000 different marketing technology tools) However, what is astonishing are these results – over 10% of their entire marketing budget is squandered due to NOT utilizing marketing technology that they’ve already paid for! In the inset graph, organizations with half a billion in revenue, invest nearly $13 million of their $50 million marketing budget and $5 million is completely wasted. That amounts to a 1.1% lift in revenue. What business would turn down an immediate boost in sales?!

“Are you wasting millions of marketing funds simply because you are not using the technology you’ve paid for?”

Beware of MarTech Vendor Dog of Pony Shows

Vendor dog and pony show presentation

Companies of all sizes must understand how to quickly evaluate their martech effectiveness and efficiently optimize costs. We can all relate to this image, (Pre-COVID, of course) sitting through tortuous vendor dog and pony presentations. Beware of the tech toys “shiny object” syndrome! With the continued exponential growth in digital sales and marketing, companies are still relentlessly pitching their wares:

“We can automate marketing tasks for you!”

“Our Artificial Intelligence does the work of furloughed staff!”

“We can make your teams more productive!”

“We will save you oodles of money!”

“We guarantee sales qualified leads!”

“Grow your business with our XYZ tool!”

Quantify Their Technology Product Offerings

Gartner grid to rate martech vendors

Gartner has an effective grid to quantify vendor offerings by rating, ranking, and scoring their technology. Don’t be afraid to call vendors on their claims. Push them to show how it truly will impact your business and benefit customers. Ask for a beta trial and if it’s an existing vendor, renegotiate their contract. Everything is on the table during these challenging business environments. Salesforce is a perfect example of this situation. Their technology can do it all, but it’s useless and a waste of money when you don’t have the people and resources to support it, especially if nobody uses it.


What Should You Do with Your Marketing this year and beyond?

Marketing success or failure

Although Gartner reported that Chief Marketing Officers are optimistic about the coming year and beyond, enormous uncertainty exists globally. Marketers must continue do more with less while also delivering and even exceeding performance expectations. Nonetheless, even in challenging times, marketing’s principles still remain the same – getting customers and keeping them satisfied. Be hyper focused on your customer journey, doing the basics extremely well, picking a few metrics that matter, and keeping at it month after month. Finally, deliver on your brand promises!

Strive for 10x Return on Your Marketing Investment

Get 10x return on your marketing investment

Whether you are able to increase your marketing budget and/or decide to add new technology, keep in mind a simple ROI measurement. My investment mantra that I use for all my clients is the 10x rule. For example, if you spend $1,000 on a marketing “thing”, is it possible to get $10,000 in revenue? Keep sharpening your pencils to drive results that matter for your business and keep customers happy. (:

In Closing…

Hopefully this Gartner marketing research was a worthwhile read. Use this data from behemoth companies to help justify decisions in your own businesses, whether it is for your clients, your bosses, your board, peers or, even yourself. Also, don’t forget to check out Gartner’s other free, on-demand webinar topics such as finance, sales, operations, customer support, supply chain, and legal.

Jessica Kelley is a seasoned leader with more than two decades of marketing and finance experience in B2B and B2C channels. She has worked extensively within healthcare, consumer, commercial, and software industries in diverse environments ranging in size from a $200 billion corporation to a startup firm. Her company, HPZ Marketing is an interim CMO and fractional CMO business and is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a Women’s Business Enterprise and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB). They provide interim and fractional executive marketing services to help businesses achieve marketing ROI with executable strategy and a relentless focus on customer acquisition and retention. Learn more about hiring a fractional CMO for your business.

Source: Gartner