Fall 2023 Edition of The CMO Survey: Key Takeaways for Healthcare Marketers

Today’s marketers often find themselves scrambling to deal with ever-evolving dynamics on the business landscape. Issues such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI); investments related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); and brand activism shifts are fueling marketing strategies to one extent or another. 

The recently released results of the Fall 2023 Edition of The CMO Survey covers topics such as these — as well as others that chief marketing officers (CMOs) across industries say are being integrated into marketing efforts to various degrees.  

Here, we’ll take a birds-eye view of the results and dig into specific areas to identify some key takeaways for healthcare marketers.  

The CMO Survey  

The CMO Survey has been administered biannually since its launch in 2008. Each edition includes three reports that summarize the results:

  • The Highlights and Insights Report — which “shares key survey metrics, trends, and insights over time”
  • The Topline Report — which “offers an aggregate view of survey results”
  • The Firm and Industry Breakout Report — which “examines results by company sector, headcount, and sales”

Sponsored by Deloitte LLP, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and the American Marketing Association, the Fall 2023 CMO Survey is based on feedback from 316 marketing leaders at for-profit companies in the U.S. Among those surveyed, 96% were either VPs or higher within their organizations. 

13 key survey results

In her analysis, Christine Moorman, PH.D, T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University summarizes 13 key survey results. 

    1. Marketer Optimism Rises, While Marketing Spending Dampens: “Marketing leaders are more optimistic about the U.S. economy, but inflation and its attendant uncertainty continues to dampen marketing spending. …”
    2. Marketing Performance Strengthens: “Marketing optimism may, in part, be buoyed by marketing performance, which remains strong relative to the pandemic. …”
    3. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Marketing Drops Off: “Marketing leaders report growth in DE&I spend slowing to 2.3% this year, down from 10.7% just one year ago. …”
    4. Brand Activism Shifts Toward Hot-Button Issues: “The top three social issues brands act for or against are LGBTQ+ equality (59.0%), Covid-19 (58.3%), and racial equality (53.2%). …”
    5. AI in Marketing is Young, but Pays Off: “While AI has been around for quite a few years now, it has only recently reached marketing use cases with 94.1% of marketers beginning to leverage this technology in the past three years and 60.4% for less than one year. …”
    6. Digital Marketing Transformations Progress Slowly: “Digital marketing transformations show progress post-pandemic as companies shift out of the nascent phase (from 27.1% to 8.8%) and into the emerging (from 52% to 54.2%), integrated (from 13.9% to 24.2%), and institutionalized (7% to 12.8%) phases of the transformation journey. There remains considerable opportunity for progress.”
    7. Impact of Influencers Continues to be Weak: “Despite…investments, influencer contributions to company performance remain weak, likely due to a mix of measurement and management challenges associated with this marketing strategy.”
    8. Mobile Marketing Spending Weakens: “Marketers continue to report mobile marketing as contributing weakly to company performance (2.9 on 7-point scale) with ‘difficulty tracking the customer across the journey’ as the top challenge. …”
  • Marketing Leaders’ Seat at the Table: “Marketing leaders report less pressure from CEOs and Boards over time, while indicating more pressure from CFOs. Consistent with this, ‘demonstrating the impact of marketing actions on financial outcomes’ continues to be the top challenge for marketing leaders.”
  • Customer Focus Increases: “Customer focus has increased in companies over the last five years with marketing leaders reporting a significant increase in the extent to which their companies are collecting, sharing, and using more customer information to shape and evaluate marketing strategies.”
  1. Marketing Job Growth Stalls and Outsourcing Increases: “Marketing leaders report that 20.2% of marketing activities are currently outsourced. Consistent with weaker job growth, the level of marketing outsourcing is expected to increase by 5% in the next year.”
  2. What Skills Marketers Expect to Hire Next Year: “In prioritizing the skills of future marketing hires, marketing leaders cited the ‘Ability to pivot as new priorities emerge’ and ‘Creativity and innovation skills’ as top priorities, while ‘Financial acumen’ is the lowest.”
  3. Direct-to-Consumer Marketing Intensifies: “Marketing leaders report a large decline in the use of channel partners over the last decade, which is consistent with a finding from the Spring 2023 CMO Survey that 24% of companies added a direct-to-customer (D2C) channel over the last year.”

For more details, please see the full analysis. 

Takeaways for healthcare marketers

Since this edition’s results are garnered from marketing leaders across various industries — including healthcare — they may not all apply to healthcare marketers. However, we picked out a few specifics from the Highlights and Insights Report that may be beneficial. 

How marketing money is being spent 

When asked what makes up their marketing budgets, the top five categories selected by the leaders polled included: 

  • Direct expenses of marketing activities (92%)
  • Brand related expenses (89.9%)
  • Social media marketing (87.4%)
  • Marketing employees (81.4%)
  • Marketing analytics and marketing technologies tied at 76.9% 

Spending on traditional advertising

Among the industries included in the survey, Education and Healthcare reported the steepest decline in traditional advertising investment (Education: -6.67%, Healthcare: -6.56%).

The use of AI for marketing

When it comes to integrating AI into marketing efforts, content personalization (52.8%) and content creation (49.2%) lead the pack. For the latter, top uses for AI include blogs and website content, social media, and email marketing. 

Although not as popular, one of the many other ways AI is being used relates to news stories (26.1%) — and the top industry doing so is Healthcare (70%). 

The role of influencers

As noted in the summary, the use of influencers is apparently waning. However, the report notes an expected jump of 109% in the next three years. 

“LinkedIn, Company Blogs, and Instagram continue to be the top three influencer activities, matching the June 2020 report with important differences in B2B (which favor LinkedIn and company blogs) and B2C (which favor Instagram and Facebook),” the report says. “…marketers report influencer contribution to company performance as low (2.4 on 7-point scale). This meager contribution is likely due to a mix of measurement and management challenges associated with this relatively new marketing mix strategy.”

Mobile spending dynamics

After a recent drop in mobile spending, the report says 70% growth is expected in five years. The top five factors cited that inhibit mobile marketing success include:

  • “Difficulty tracking the customer across the journey” (40.0%)
  • “Weak link between our mobile strategy and our broader marketing strategy” (38.0%)
  • “Insufficient in-house mobile expertise” (36.6%)
  • “Unclear objectives for our mobile marketing strategy” (31.7%)
  • “Our content is not sufficiently personalized” and “Difficulty identifying our mobile customer audience” tied at 30.7% 

DEI in marketing

Although the overall marketing focus on DEI has apparently decreased, certain industries are still making related efforts a priority — including healthcare. The top three sectors expecting DEI to be a marketing priority over the next five years are:

  • Banking / Finance / Insurance (70.4%) 
  • Healthcare (53.3%) 
  • Professional Services (52.4%)

Challenges for marketing leaders

Marketing leaders face plenty of challenges, and clearly demonstrating return on investment (ROI) is one of them. The top three responses to “Which activities does your senior marketing leader find challenging to implement on a regular basis?” were: 

  • “Demonstrating the impact of marketing actions on financial outcomes” (61.2%)
  • “Communicating the role of the brand in business decisions” (45.3%) 
  • “Focusing data and analytics on the most important marketing problems” (41.6%)

Marketing jobs and desired skills

When it comes to marketing jobs, the leaders surveyed indicated that currently, 20.2% of marketing activities are outsourced — a dynamic which is expected to increase by 5% in the next year.

However, the report also says that “marketing hires are predicted to grow at a faster rate in the next year (5.3% vs. 3.9% growth estimate in Spring 2023).”

The good news for healthcare marketers is that while marketing organization size growth increased by 5.5% across all industries included in the survey — healthcare marketing growth shot up by 13.5%, outpaced only by the energy sector (14.6%). 

The bad news is that, in response to the question, “Compared to the number of marketing hires last year, by what percentage will your company’s marketing hires change in the next year?”, Healthcare is expected to experience only 0.2% growth.  

In the context of dynamics like those, it may be wise to pay attention to the kinds of skills marketing leaders are prioritizing when it comes to bringing new hires on board. 

When asked, “Thinking about future marketing talent needs, what skills would you now prioritize?,” the marketing leaders polled ranked their priorities like this: 

  1. Ability to pivot as new priorities emerge
  2. Creativity and innovation skills
  3. Navigating ambiguity
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Curiosity
  6. Natural leadership abilities
  7. MarTech platform experience
  8. Data science background
  9. Financial acumen

Results like those in the report can help healthcare marketers benchmark their efforts against competitors and learn from those in other industries about what’s working and what’s not.

Additional details about the Fall 2023 Edition of The CMO Survey are available in the Highlights and Insights Report, the Topline Report, and the Firm and Industry Breakout Report

Contact us today to find out how we can help level up your healthcare marketing strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Published On: November 21, 2023

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