Is B2B Marketing Fulfilling Its Revenue Growth Mandate?


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Many B2B company leaders now expect marketing to drive revenue growth, and B2B marketing has evolved in response to this expectation. But has it changed enough to meet the revenue growth mandate? Data from “The CMO Survey” suggest that more change may be needed.

Marketing has always played the starring role in driving revenue growth in the B2C world, but marketing was not viewed as a principal driver of revenue growth in most B2B companies until a few years ago. Sales typically owned the revenue line of the income statement, and marketing’s main job was to support the salesforce.

This started to change in the early 2000s with the appearance of B2B marketing automation software applications, which enabled marketing to take responsibility for a larger portion of the B2B buying process.

During the second decade of the 2000s, driving revenue growth became the “prime directive” of the marketing function in many B2B companies. In a 2016 survey of CMOs and other senior marketing leaders by the CMO Council and Deloitte, 33% of the respondents said the senior executives and board members of their company saw revenue growth as the primary mandate of marketing.

More recent research shows that the revenue growth mandate is still present.

  • A 2023 survey of CEOs by Boathouse asked respondents to identify the top five problems they wanted marketing to help them solve. The two problems most frequently selected by the respondents were “create new customers, retain existing customers, drive revenue growth” and “drive sales and grow market share.”
  • In a 2021 survey of marketing leaders by the CMO Council and Televerde, 63% of the respondents said they were under very high or extreme pressure to deliver on revenue targets.

Given the obvious importance of the issue, it’s appropriate to ask whether B2B marketing leaders have fully embraced the growth challenge and altered their activities to meet that challenge. There’s no question B2B marketing has changed in response to the revenue growth mandate. The question is:  Has it changed enough?

Data from “The CMO Survey” can be used to help answer this question. “The CMO Survey” is a semi-annual survey of senior marketing leaders at U.S. for-profit companies that’s been conducted since 2008. It’s directed by Dr. Christine Moorman and sponsored by Deloitte LLP, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and the American Marketing Association.

In every edition of the survey, respondents have been asked to identify activities and functions that marketing is primarily responsible for in their company. Many of these activities and functions contribute to or impact revenue growth. Therefore, how survey respondents answer this question can indicate the extent to which marketing has taken – or has been given – primary responsibility for driving revenue growth.

The survey includes responses from both B2B and B2C marketers. However, one of the survey reports (the “Firm and Industry Breakout Report”) makes it possible to isolate the responses from B2B marketers, and the following analysis is based on those responses.

The tables below are based on data from the Spring 2024 edition and the February 2020 edition of the survey. The Spring 2024 edition was released only a few days ago and therefore provides the latest available data. I used the February 2020 edition for comparison purposes because that was the last edition conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following table shows the ten activities and functions that were identified as marketing-led by a majority of the 2024 survey respondents. The table also shows the percentages of respondents who identified these activities or functions as marketing-led in the 2020 edition of the survey.

The following table shows the same information for the 15 activities and functions that less than a majority of the 2024 survey respondents said marketing is primarily responsible for in their company.

These survey findings suggest that marketing’s scope of responsibility has not significantly expanded beyond marketing communications activities in most B2B companies. More importantly, these findings indicate that marketing isn’t leading many activities and functions that play essential roles in revenue growth. Consider the following points.

First, only about a third (35.7%) of the 2024 survey respondents said marketing is primarily responsible for revenue growth in their company. 

Second, seven of the ten activities that a majority of the 2024 respondents said marketing is primarily responsible for (shown in red in the first table) are essentially communications activities. These are necessary for revenue growth, but they are not all that’s required.

Lastly, less than half of the 2024 respondents said that marketing is primarily responsible for the following activities or functions:

  • Customer Insight (47.9%)
  • Competitive Intelligence (47.1%)
  • Customer Experience (37.1%)
  • Market Entry Strategies (32.1%)
  • New Products or Services (28.6%)
  • Market Selection (21.4%)

All these activities or functions are essential for successful revenue growth initiatives, yet they still aren’t within the purview of marketing at most B2B companies.

These survey findings should prompt B2B marketing leaders to consider whether they are sufficiently involved in all the activities that are vital for developing successful revenue growth initiatives and programs.

Top image courtesy of Ryan Milani via Flickr (CC).

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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