Chief marketing officers expect to spend on organic search, content marketing and email marketing, according to Chief Outsiders' "Market Trends 2020" report. Plus, marketers say tariffs and the ongoing U.S./China trade war will only have a negligible or a slightly negative impact on company goals.

Spending on digital marketing is expected to increase for 80% of chief marketing officers, according to the “Market Trends 2020” report by Chief Outsiders, a strategic marketing and management consulting firm specializing in executive insights.

The February 2020 report surveyed more than 50 chief marketing officers Chief Outsiders works with, all of which had experience with Fortune 500 companies and are now working at mid-sized businesses. 

Marketers said they will prioritize their digital marketing spend on organic search, content marketing and email marketing, according to the report.

Dollars allocated to email marketing specifically is a familiar trend, as a February 2020 survey of 105 online retailers by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights stated the importance executives and advertisers place on email marketing as a method of reaching shoppers, with 82% of retailers saying that email marketing was in the two top most important strategies for improving conversion rate.


When it comes to what kind of emails are successful for brands, personalization is key, says Deana Thornton, director of commerce marketing for marketing automation and email marketing provider Mailchimp.

“Email marketing continues to be a consistent, driving force in conversion due to the low barrier to entry and high return on investment,” Thornton says. “With an average ROI of $52 for every dollar spent, email marketing allows any retail business to drive visibility of their brand and build customer loyalty with a one-to-one conversation.”

The Chief Outsiders study also found that “growth-minded” CEOs are using new technology, trying to innovate and beginning to outsource marketing in an attempt to beat economic headwinds. This is one of the most important takeaways of their findings, says Pete Hayes, chief marketing officer and principal of Chief Outsiders.


“Marketing is not just about solving customer engagement problems anymore, but it’s about overall company growth,” Hayes says. “And for private equity, one of the biggest challenges—even bigger than a recession—will be finding growth-minded executives focused on strategy.”

According to Chief Outsiders, some of the greatest challenges chief marketing officers are facing when it comes to deploying digital marketing strategies include technical knowledge of in-house teams, resource constraints in implementation and organizational inertia, which Chief Outsiders describes as “changing the way things have always been done.”


The survey also found that chief marketing officers believe advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) will help them target and segment customers, as well as assist them in the qualification and prioritization of new leads.

AI and automation are helpful when it comes to digital marketing, because these tools can increase conversion rates, Thornton says.

“Automating marketing campaigns or messages based on factors like behavior, demographics and interests increases brand exposure and drives sales while decreasing the time business owners have to spend managing marketing,” Thornton says.


Automations specifically have helped marketers increase their average monthly revenue, according to Thornton, who says that Mailchimp clients who set up automated abandoned cart emails generate an average of $619 in extra revenue each month.

Finally, the Chief Outsiders survey found that chief marketing officers were not worried about the impact of tariffs and the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, with most respondents (47.3%) saying that any effects would be negligible.