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Market research: A survey or crystal ball?

My friends say I’m odd. It’s unusual, they say, to become animated when talking about business. It was with a resigned sigh that they accepted my invitation for an ‘end of recession’ drink. There was also grumbling at the last minute nature of the invite. A sensible precaution I thought. The October celebration was hastily repositioned as a commiseration drink when figures failed to back up economists’ estimates of an early exit from recession. I suspect you are also starting to think I’m a little odd so I’ll cut to the chase. At this celebration I was asked: Can a survey forecast the beginning or end of a recession? 

There are many variables which can cause recession, some of which are unforeseen, such as hidden ‘toxic debt’. This means that there can never be a clear cut predictor (as October’s experience illustrates). However, surveys are a useful indicator.

Economies are based on confidence. Banks lend to companies if they’re confident the loan will be repaid with interest. Companies invest in assets, employees and marketing if they’re confident that profitable sales can be made. Consumers spend if they’re confident their job and home are safe. Remove confidence and you remove economic growth. Surveys are good at measuring confidence which makes them good predictors of economic health. 

An economy can also be seen as a number of microcosms defined by industry sector or specialism. B2B marketing is one such microcosm and we have our own confidence survey in the form of the B2B Barometer conducted by Circle Research, The IDM and ABBA. Good news is that the latest findings are positive:
• 73 per cent of client-side B2B marketers expect their marketing spend to increase over the next 12 months
• 45 per cent of B2B marketing agencies report revenue decline in the last 12 months but 79 per cent anticipate growth over the next 12 months
Time to plan the next party perhaps…