Last week, with our long-time partner Doug Anderson of DCA Live, we gathered a group of B2B CMOs to chat about what’s keeping them up at night. All the participants head up Marketing for growth-stage, investor-backed companies, which brings a unique set of expectations and challenges.

Here are the key takeaways from our conversation.

Doing more with less.

This is a theme we’ve heard consistently this year from all the “Cs” (CMOs, CFOs, CEOs) of VC- and PE-backed companies that we’ve met. Gone are the days of “growth at all cost.” Investors want to see profitably – or at least a clear path to profitably. What this typically means, unfortunately, is cuts. Cuts in marketing budgets, and in many cases, cuts in marketing staff. As one marketing leader said, “CFOs are looking to cut costs, and Marketing is usually the first step on their journey.”

Budget challenges can mean opportunity.

With the pressure to reduce expenses comes the opportunity to dig deep into your marketing spend and do “ruthless ROI analyses,” as one participant said. Marketing leaders aren’t just looking at reducing program expenses (hint: tradeshows have taken it on the chin), they’re also looking more strategically at shifting their sales motions, reprioritizing verticals, and finding opportunities in adjacent markets.

Doubling down on ABM.

One CMO said he cut his “experiment” budget (money he typically sets aside each year for testing) and is going “all in” on Account-Based Marketing. This is another theme we’ve been hearing from B2B marketers this year – they’re putting a surgical focus on account strategy and are developing customized marketing programs, along with investing in ABM tools, to develop 1:1 and 1:few campaigns. For more on this, read this 6sense article on how to solve common ABM challenges.

ChatGPT – love it or list it?

Most of the CMOs on the call see value in AI tools and have incorporated them into their marketing practices to differing degrees. Almost all are using AI to draft content – web copy, blog posts, pitch decks, press releases, search and social ads, etc. In fact, one said their best performing ad was 90% generated by ChatGPT. Many of these leaders are encouraging their teams to take online courses on the use of AI in marketing tactics. However, not everyone is sold on the value of using AI tools for things like copywriting; one participant called ChatGPT the “dumbest assistant you could have in Marketing.

For many B2B marketing leaders, and their teams, 2023 has been a rough year when it comes to budgets. But pressure to reduce costs can have an upside – it forces you to really look at your marketing spend and do the painstaking analysis necessary to figure out what’s working, and what can be left on the cutting room floor.

That said, we’re sure everyone would love to go back to having an “experiment” line item in their budget.

Editor’s note: We asked ChatGPT how it would feel about being called “the dumbest assistant you could have in Marketing.” It’s response:  “I appreciate your honesty and would love to hear more about your thoughts on why you see ChatGPT as not suitable for marketing. Understanding your specific concerns will help me provide more accurate information or address any misconceptions. Is there a particular aspect or functionality you find lacking, or are there specific expectations that ChatGPT is not meeting for your marketing needs?”

Touché, ChatGPT. Touché.

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