13 November 2023

At the tail end of 2022, the National Advertising Benevolent Society – a charity tackling mental health issues within UK marketing – partnered with MIND to survey 576 advertising and media industry employees.

This research intended to establish how well today’s UK B2B marketers are coping with the stresses and strains of their jobs. As you may be unsurprised to hear, the overall answer was: not very well at all, actually, thanks for asking. 

Of those surveyed: 

  • 64% say they’ve considered leaving the industry at some point because their wellbeing was being affected by their work
  • 36% say their mental health over the past 12 months has been either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’
  • 60% say work has had a negative impact on their wellbeing over the past 12 months
  • 46% say they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to their line manager if work was having a negative impact on their mental health

So, yeah. Not great. 

What this survey didn’t establish, however, is exactly what it is about modern marketing that’s fast-tracking people to despair and burnout. At Don’t be Shy, we wanted to know the specific issues, pain points and stressors that are pushing marketers to the edge right now. 

We didn’t want to second-guess participant’s responses with multiple-choice questions. So we opted for a qualitative survey over a quantitative survey, and asked marketers a single, straightforward question: ‘What’s the matter?’ 

We had responses from every corner of the B2B industry, including in-house marketing managers, freelancers, creatives, copywriters and client services workers. All the responses were unique, and ranged from hilarious to hair-raising. But recurring themes did soon come into focus – so here are three of the most pressing issues that marketers are currently dealing with.


Key stressor #1: Department versus department 

To quote one of our survey respondents: 

“EVERYONE ELSE IN EVERY OTHER DEPARTMENT THINKS THEY CAN DO MARKETING!...:-))  Marketers would never tell Finance how to run a P&L, Operations how to manage a Supply Chain or Sales how to close a deal, but they all seem to think they can tell Marketing how to do it and what is the best activity to do. LOL!!!!”

This issue – different departments within a business working competitively rather than cohesively – came up again and again. 

Misunderstandings and miscommunication leads to overstepped boundaries, blame games and simmering resentments. And when departments are misaligned on marketing activity, that activity will inevitably fail to reach its potential and be fully effective. Or, worst case scenario, it will fail to achieve anything much at all.    

At Don’t be Shy, we place a great deal of value on getting key stakeholders aligned on, and fully behind, any marketing plans. It’s why we don’t just speak to a business’s marketing managers during our rigorous insights process, but also members of the sales team, and sometimes even representatives from ops and finance.

We don’t do this so that everyone can get along more harmoniously, through a deepened understanding of each other’s goals and stressors (although, that is often a nice side-effect). We do because it has a profound and measurable impact on the ROI of marketing activity.  

Case in point: we ‘closed the loop’ for M&S Corporate Gifts, fully aligning marketing and sales through the introduction of a much-needed new tech stack that includes HubSpot, GA4 and Google Looker Studio. The results? Over £4m in revenue across the Christmas period – a 60% year-on-year increase – and a marketing ROI of 1,375%. 

Getting everyone on the same page pays off – with less stress and more money.


Key stressor #2: Jaded audiences 

From one of our survey respondents: 

“Most B2B marketing strategies have been exhaustively utilised, resulting in a sense of repetition and heightened discernment among the audience.”

On the same theme, from a different respondent:

“People are seeing more and more advertising and outbound messaging and their brains are more turned off to it than ever. They delete a newsletter or scroll by a post as soon as they see it's an ad. The old tactics aren't working anymore, but there are KPIs attached to them all. 

“I have pressure on me and honestly, I'm pretty worried every day I'm going to be let go because I can't deliver as fast-paced as they [employers] want. We all seem to be wearing 23 different hats but also with a fear of job security, and it's all just a bit much for one human.”

There’s no arguing with the basic premise of what these survey respondents (alongside dozens of others) are saying: the average person is now pummelled with marketing messages all day long – hundreds, if not thousands of them, each desperate for a half-second of our attention. 

This non-stop advertising avalanche has become background noise, to be tolerated or tuned out entirely. As such, cutting through audiences’ increasing indifference to any and every marketing message can sometimes feel daunting, if not damn-near impossible. 

But it is still possible to cut though, even in this ad-overloaded day and age. It’s just that, unfortunately, there’s no quick-and-easy way to do it. It takes time, thought and effort, and a number of different B2B marketing specialities working in unison. 

Your campaign needs messaging and creative that will speak – clearly, convincingly – to your audience on both a rational and emotional level. To get that, you’ll first need insights, and lots of them.

You also need pin-sharp planning that establishes exactly when, where and how you should be approaching your target audience with your beautiful words and images. You need a killer tech stack that allows all your teams to make the most of your marketing (not just the marketing department). 

And even when you’ve got all the above, you can’t simply ‘set and forget’: you’ll need to regularly and rigorously optimise your campaign to ensure it stays operating at absolute maximum efficiency.  

It’s not at all easy, but it is entirely doable. Just like all the best things in life.


Key stressor #3: Vanishing budgets 

Being asked to ‘do more with less’ is endemic in B2B marketing departments across every sector, if our ‘What’s the matter?’ survey is anything to go by. No other issue came up more regularly, and the strain of dealing with dwindling budgets (but rising targets) is palpable from the responses. Here are just a few: 

“My budget has been cut but the Leadership expect the same results.”

“B2B marketing can certainly be a challenging field. Stakeholders often have high expectations for results, while budgets and resources may be limited.” 

“We are so low on budget but the board is placing so much heat on us.”

“Extremely limited budget that makes it hard to action everything needed to get the results we want.” 

Obviously, doing more with, uh, more is always preferable. The bigger your available marketing spend, the more planning, strategising and researching you’ll be able to do, and the more perfectly calibrated your eventual activity will be. 

And the more budget you have available to get that activity out into the world – through purchasing data, harnessing tech stacks, buying social ads etc – the more effective it will be. There’s just no getting around the fact that it’s easier to win a race in a £50k car than in a £5k car. 

However, as with achieving cut-through in a marketing-saturated age (see above), it is still possible to have a big impact with a small budget. It just takes a little extra strategising to make up for the shortfall in spending. 

At Don’t be Shy, our proven four-stage process – insights, strategy, activation, optimisation – has been put to work for businesses both large (M&S Corporate Gifts, Uber for Business, TalkTalk Business) and small. 

And because every client gets taken through the same exact process, whatever their size and budget, we’re always able to achieve an impressive ROI on their marketing or branding spend, and get their targets smashed (no matter how intimidating those targets may be). 

So: don’t give up hope. Doing more with less is never ideal – but it needn’t be a nightmare, either. 

Tell us what the matter is in your world right now, and let’s discuss how we can get it sorted.