UK businesses are entering 2014 brimming with confidence and with growth firmly placed high up the management agenda. However, while this transition from recession to recovery is encouraging for all, businesses must resist the urge to revert to their pre-crisis way of thinking and instead learn to adapt to the new normal.
Our latest Marketing Confidence Monitor, a quarterly business barometer based on a weighted survey of more than 1,000 marketing professionals, has found real evidence of business confidence being translated into a commitment to growth and innovation in businesses across the UK. With over half of the companies surveyed reporting that growth now dominates the management agenda in their organisation and over 42 per cent describing their company as having a positive appetite for risk and investment over the next 12 months, it is fair to say we are seeing an encouraging shift in mind-set as businesses go for growth.
On the whole, marketers are ending 2014 with a positive outlook. Confidence in future business performance is at its highest level since our study began five quarters ago with almost half of marketers reporting an improving outlook for the year ahead. Looking back over the past 12 months, almost 50 per cent of those surveyed report that their organisation's financial performance has exceeded expectations and that there has been a fall of some 12 percentage points since 2013 in the proportion of marketers reporting above normal levels of financial uncertainty facing their organisation.
These encouraging signs of increasing confidence are set against a changing climate for many businesses and in particular marketers. Many marketing departments have had to reign in budgets and adopt more cautious strategies in order to weather the economic turbulence of the past few years, however this hasn't served to slow the pace of change within the industry. Technological and regulatory developments alongside changing consumer attitudes and expectations have contributed to shape a 'new normal'. Therefore, while many businesses are beginning to feel confident enough to move beyond their counter-recessionary strategies, they cannot simply revert to conducting business in the way they did before the crash. Just as customers and consumers won't necessarily revert to buying, trading or making choices in the same way they did before the downturn, marketers must acknowledge that the landscape has altered dramatically. Faced with this unchartered territory, it is essential for both marketing teams and their organisations to question whether they are equipped and ready for the 'new normal' or whether they need to adapt further to succeed in a changing landscape.
When seeking to adapt to the financial pressures of the last few years, many organisations have been forced to make tough choices: where and how to invest, how to reduce costs, how to minimise risk, and how to staff. These decisions were often difficult and painful, however they were in response to the challenging economic climate that few could choose to ignore. As the economic recovery gathers momentum, it is tempting to get caught up in the renewed enthusiasm for growth and to forget the lessons that are to be learnt from the difficult choices of late. Therefore we're encouraging all marketers, and their wider organisations, to find a window of time to reflect on which of these tough choices represent lessons worth carrying forward into 2014. After all, it is only through taking the time to learn from this recent chapter in economic history, that can we be expected to improve as we move into the next.