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Marketers are optimistic about the economy for the second half of the year: Even in the midst of a recession, 42% of nearly 1,000 global business leaders polled say they plan to increase marketing budgets in 2009, and 43% say they plan to maintain current levels, according to the June "2009 Marketing Trends Survey" by StrongMail Systems.

Moreover, only 15% of polled businesses expect a decrease in customer sales in the second half of the year—a dramatic improvement over the 37% who responded similarly in StrongMail's December 2008 survey, "2009 Marketing Outlook Survey."

Businesses project that 34% of customers will spend more in the second half of 2009, versus only 19% who said so in the December survey; an additional 31% now project that customers will spend the same as in the first half.

Planned investment in email marketing has also increased, with 81% of businesses planning to increase budgets saying so, versus 73% in December 2008. In addition, social media has emerged as a significant focus for increased investment, according to 58% of those increasing budgets.

Advertising and tradeshows were again singled out as the top targets for budget cuts: 78% of businesses decreasing budgets are targeting advertising, and 58% of them are also looking at tradeshow cuts. Those are steep increases from the December survey results of 29% and 19%, respectively.

Increasing email relevancy and personalization remain top priorities for the second half of 2009 for 77% of the businesses polled. The top three email marketing initiatives identified for the remainder of the year reflect a desire to improve relevancy:

  • 66% of respondents are looking to increase the performance of their campaigns
  • 52% are looking to improve segmentation and targeting.
  • Growing their opt-in list attracted the third highest response at 45%.

"The fact that planned investments in email marketing have actually increased in the past six months at the expense of more traditional marketing channels speaks to email's status as the most economical and effective tool in a direct marketer's tool box," said Bill Wagner, EVP of business operations at StrongMail Systems.

"Email marketing's ability to attract investment in tough economic times will only increase as companies leverage solutions to improve the relevancy of their messages and tap the power of social media."

Survey-Highlights Summary

  • 85% of businesses plan to increase or maintain marketing spend in the second half of 2009.
  • 34% expect customers to spend more; 31% expect customers will spend more; 15% say customers will spend less.
  • 81% of companies that are increasing budgets are doing so in email; 58% in social media.
  • 78% of businesses decreasing budgets are cutting advertising; 58% of them are cutting tradeshow spending.
  • 77% of businesses plan to increase email relevancy.

About the survey: The StrongMail "2009 Marketing Trends" survey was conducted online by Zoomerang on behalf of StrongMail Systems. The poll, which gathered feedback from 979 business executives in a wide range of industries, was conducted from May 21 to June 1, 2009.

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