Signs of a Market Slowdown

There are a number of indicators signaling a slowdown in both the general economy and technology products and services:

  • The Gartner CMO Spend Survey showed a drop in marketing spend as a percentage of overall spend from 11.2% in 2018 to 10.5% this year.  The peak in marketing spend was in 2016 (12.1%).  The data is based upon a survey of 340 North American and UK marketing leaders.  However, 61% of marketers anticipate a rebound in 2020.  “While we’re not yet witnessing a precipitous drop in budgets, this year’s downtick presents a counterintuitive scenario,” commented Gartner’s VP of the Marketing practice, Ewan McIntyre.  “You could call this confidence in the face of adversity.  Or you could call it hubris.”

    MarTech budgets fell 3% to 26% this year.
  • The Gartner 2Q19 Global Talent Monitor indicated growing concern about the job market with fewer employees looking to change jobs.  53% of US employees are intending to stay put and only 12.5% are actively looking for other positions.  The US actively looking rate dropped in half in Q2 and the percent looking to stay put rose ten points.  “Over the previous several years, the clear story within the U.S. has been a robust economy, tight labor market and plenty of opportunities for growth and improvement from the employee perspective,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “With this quarter-over-quarter increase in intent to stay, we are now seeing a shift as employees hunker down, indicating concerns around available job opportunities and potential weakness in the labor market.”

    Gartner also noted a 2.4% decrease in global business confidence amongst employees and an increasing willingness of US employees to go “above and beyond the call of duty at their jobs.”  According to Kropp, “Workers appear to be putting more time and effort into their current positions with the hopes of solidifying their roles in case of a change in the economy.  This situation creates an opportunity for organizations to invest in internal training programs that capture this employee commitment to build a stronger, more productive workforce.”
  • Trump’s Tariff War is proving more difficult to win than he anticipated, resulting in inflationary pressures in the US alongside harm to the industrial and agricultural sectors.  Tariff rates are expected to increase at the end of the year.
  • Brexit remains a big question mark with dates, agreements, and new UK elections changing almost every day.
  • The US and UK governments are both very unpopular with Trump facing Impeachment hearings and Boris Johnson preparing for an election.
  • While the US unemployment rate is at a historical low point (3.6%), the economy only added 128,000 non-farm jobs last month and 130,000 per month this year, well below the 223,000 jobs added each month in 2018.
  • The preliminary US GDP Q3 growth rate came in at 1.9% compared to 2.9% in 2018.
  • US Hiring has slowed to its lowest rate in seven years.  A survey of economists by the National Association of Business Economists found that only one in five of their firms grew their headcount in Q3 down from one in three in Q2.  Capital equipment purchasing is at a five-year low and fewer firms are offering pay raises.  “The U.S. economy appears to be slowing, and respondents expect still slower growth over the next 12 months,” said Constance Hunter, NABE president and chief economist at KPMG.

    The NABE also reported slowing sales with only 39% reporting sales growth in Q3 compared to 61% a year ago.

If the US economy tips into a recession, there is little room for fiscal or monetary policy to slow a recession.  The Federal Funds rate (1.75% following three cuts this year) is historically low for an economy at 3.6% unemployment and the Federal deficit provides little room for expansionary fiscal policy.  Trump lowered personal and corporate tax rates when the economy was strong instead of waiting for a recession.

SalesTech Spend Continues to Increase

SalesTech adoption rates and spend continue to increase according to a recent SalesTech study of 268 B2B sales and marketing managers conducted by Smart Selling Tools.  Only 3% of respondents are planning on reducing their SalesTech spend in 2020 while 6% plan to spend significantly more in 2020 and 41% slightly more.  Expanded spending will be focused on the top and middle of the funnel followed by management and reporting.  Skills Development, Onboarding, and Bottom of the Funnel expenditures have a lower priority.

Over the past year, SalesTech spend per user has increased significantly.  In 2017, only one-third of respondents spent in excess of $150 per user, but two years later, 65% spend more than $150 per user.  As the average number of sales tools in use rose only modestly from 4.5 to 4.9 over the past two years, the spend per product has likely increased.  The number of applications that are used by a majority of respondents trebled to six (CRM, Online Meetings, Lead List/Database, Social Selling, Account Targeting, and Skills Training & Reinforcement) with an additional four at 47% or higher.  CRMs are used by 75% of respondents, lead/list databases by 65%, and social selling by 60%.  The one category that dropped in usage was online meetings.

Adoption rates of technologies were fairly even by company size with large firm (500+) employees more likely to have adopted Sales Enablement, Skills Training & Reinforcement, and Sales Performance & Compensation.  Conversely, firms with fewer than 500 employees were more likely to have adopted Prospect Engagement (Sales Engagement) solutions.

Account targeting tools for ideal customer prospecting grew from 4% to 51% over the past year, a clear indication that ABM strategies have been adopted.  Lead Engagement (communicating at scale with early-stage, unqualified leads) grew from 11% to 49%, while social selling grew from 10% to 60%.

“The significant increase in usage of sales tools across the board indicates a trend (likely irreversible).  If your organization is slow to take up the use of sales tools, you could get left behind. Even so, we don’t recommend adding new sales tools without considering what’s required to keep them up to date and who will be responsible, having a plan for measuring success (what does “Good” look like?), and deciding what’s required to establish and grow user adoption.”

Smart Selling Tools founder Nancy Nardin.

The top three industries represented in the study were technology (42%), Financial Services (9.3%), and Manufacturing (8.7%).

Gartner IT Spend Forecast

Gartner forecasted 3.2% growth in global IT spend in 2019, with turnover hitting $3.8 trillion.  Growth will be driven by Enterprise Software (up 8.5% this year and 8.2% next year) and IT Services (up 4.7% this year and 4.8% next year).  Slower growth segments include Devices (1.6% growth in 2019), Communications Services (up 1.3% in 2019), and Data Center Systems (growing in 2019 but retreating in 2020).

“Despite uncertainty fueled by recession rumors, Brexit, and trade wars and tariffs, the likely scenario for IT spending in 2019 is growth,” said John-David Lovelock, research VP at Gartner.  “However, there are a lot of dynamic changes happening in regards to which segments will be driving growth in the future.  Spending is moving from saturated segments such as mobile phones, PCs and on-premises data center infrastructure to cloud services and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  IoT devices, in particular, are starting to pick up the slack from devices.  Where the devices segment is saturated, IoT is not.”

“IT is no longer just a platform that enables organizations to run their business on.  It is becoming the engine that moves the business.  As digital business and digital business ecosystems move forward, IT will be the thing that binds the business together.”

David Lovelock, Gartner Research VP

The shift to the cloud and SaaS will continue to benefit Enterprise Software spend with global expenditures hitting $466 billion in 2020.

“Cloud shift is not just about cloud.  As organizations pursue new IT architectures and operating philosophies, they put in place a foundation for new opportunities in digital business, including next-generation IT solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT),” said VP Ed Anderson earlier this year.  “Organizations embracing dynamic, cloud-based operating models position themselves for cost optimization and increased competitiveness.”

Lovelock warned that companies are failing to upskill their internal staff quickly enough to support newer technologies such as IoT, AI, machine learning, data science, APIs and services platform design.  Gartner was concerned that “nearly half” of the IT workforce is in “urgent need” of upskilling to “support their digital business initiatives.”  The risk for businesses is that emerging technologies “are changing faster than we’ve ever seen before.”