What can communications professionals learn from the Gartner CMO spend report?

One of the best ways to identify key trends within the sector is to see where the money is being spent within a business. To such effect, when I found the Gartner CMO spend report, I thought there much be some things that communications professionals can take from it.

The report states that the majority of surveyed CEOs (57%) expect to increase investment in marketing, however this means that CMOs and communications teams will be under more pressure to deliver a customer-centric approach with a high return on investment.

If you want to access this report in full for yourself, then you can download it on the Gartner website. I’ve summarised the report within the article, but I’d advise giving it a full read!

What does the report tell us?

Marketing spend remains a fundamental part of business budgets averaging at around 11% of net revenues. This is a great metric because depending on your spend, you can identify how much importance is placed on the marketing function within your organisation or wider sector. Brafton have shared that by sector, retail stands well ahead of other sectors with the highest percentage spend. However, the automotive and financial services sectors are still above the sector average.

Within the Higher Education sector, some reports suggest that marketing costs per enrolment are around 1.5%.

“The Guardian notes, for example, that the University of Bedfordshire’s spend works out at £432 per enrolled student [. . .] A financial advisor would no doubt conclude that an investment of £432 to secure an income of £27,750 over three years, is an impressive rate of return in the current financial climate.”

HEPI (2019) – Why universities are spending millions on marketing

The report also shares that one sixth of CMO spend is aligned to innovation alongside marketing technology (martech), which now accounts for nearly one-third of marketing budgets. Notably, the only area year-on-year that grew in percentage spend was marketing technology. Agencies, paid media and labour expenditure all saw a decline in overall spend share.

© Gartner: CMO Spend Survey 2018–2019

This suggests for communications professionals, that if you want to secure more budget for your area, you should be considering how technology can enhance your work and making financial bids or proposals to such affect. You should be thinking about:

  • Where can you invest in marketing technology?
  • How can you improve processes to decrease reliance on human intervention?
  • How can you use analytics and customer insights to improve the customer experience?
  • How can you utilise automation, martech and AI to improve the customer experience?
  • How can you sustain staff morale as technology starts to replace actions usually undertaken by communications professionals?
© Gartner: CMO Spend Survey 2018–2019

I think what we can see from this report is that we must think about technology as a positive tool in our industry, however it does throw up some challenges that we will be facing over the next ten years.

Changes that you should be considering as a comms professional or manager

The report identifies many of the changes that are occurring in the field. However, looking through the CMO spend report, there are many things that communications professionals should be considering as part your strategy and departmental development.

In-house expertise

Firstly, as the report suggests there is a downward trend of using media agencies. Therefore, it is important that as a professional as well as a department, you build up your knowledge of media strategy and planning.

Embedding strategy across communications, media relations and marketing is the most effective way to run successful campaigns cutting across many channels. Even if you still plan to use a media agency, the better informed and savvy you are as a client means you’ll have a deeper understanding of the chosen media mix, hopefully getting better value for money.

Mapping out the journey

In order to provide a customer-centric approach, you must first map your media and channel mix to the customer journey. This should not be the job of the comms team or the marketing team alone, this should be a cross-business activity to see how each element affects the journey.

Your choices should be completely aligned to your customers needs which should be feeding your departmental strategy. Communications and marketing leaders should be thinking about the media investment and channels used so that customers are receiving the most appropriate message, on the most appropriate channel and the most appropriate time.

Getting this right will not only improve your customer experience but should also improve your ROI as you won’t be wasting investment on ineffective channels and messaging that don’t resonate with your target audience.

Understand audience trends and key metrics

Alongside your deepening knowledge of the media mix, you should be starting to consider how your customers spend their money and time. Both of these factors will be having an impact on your brand, therefore the quicker and more effectively you can understand this, the more prepared you’ll be to mitigate threats and make the most of upcoming opportunities.

Embedding robust innovation metrics, pipeline, return on objective and eventual ROI into your daily routine will allow you to constantly measure the effectiveness of your work. By embedding this, it means you can fine tune your activities to have the greatest impact but also enable you to easily report on and justify your work to senior managers looking for increasing ROI.

Benchmark and understand where you’re at right now

There is nothing better than taking stock about your digital commerce capabilities from the inside and outside the business. Understanding what you do well and where you can make improvements will give you and your management team a good direction of travel of where you want to be.

Alongside your digital capabilities, you should invest some time in undertaking an honest appraisal of your metrics and KPIs. Given the demand to become more technology driven and customer focussed, your existing metrics and KPIs may be outdated. When doing this, think about what the c-suite executives within your business will care about, but also consider how these KPIs should be supporting your long-term strategic goals to become more customer-centric.

© Gartner: CMO Spend Survey 2018–2019

Think about what your team should look like

Finally, think about what your organisation or team looks like. Take an honest look at the resources your marketing and communications team use including those undertaking by staff, agencies, and technology partners.

You should be ensuring that your team and agency partners are able to support your objectives in the short and long term. You should be working with c-suite executives to develop a talent roadmap that will allow you to up-skill your existing workforce and attract new talent into the business that will improve your capabilities.

Technology can be scary for employees as there is often a fear of redundancies, however, engaging them in a conversation about the changing marketplace and the opportunities to up-skill can bring staff on board with the increasing use of marketing technologies in their work.


If you have any comments or areas that you think I may have missed, please do let me know.

Follow me on Twitter for more updates . . . @BradTheCommsGuy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: