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Anxious about the economy?

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Every conversation I've had with senior marketers in past few months has eventually turned to an assessment of the health of the U.S. economy and what 2008 will bring.

One oddity: While executives from marketing services companies—agencies, consulting outfits and vendors of analytics solutions—tell me their business is good, the perspective of client-side marketers is less rosy. These marketers are nervous about the broader economy, including continued fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis and its impact on liquidity.

How should businesspeople best prepare for an uncertain economic future? Here's an idea: Go to lunch with your CFO.

Legitimate worries about the economy are compounded by the fact that in too many organizations the marketing and finance departments are, at best, unfamiliar partners. Face time with your company's CFO during which you discuss his or her econometric model should be a regular event, not an annual PowerPoint performance.

The last economic downturn, the dot-com bust, spurred a welcome change throughout the marketing profession, which was driven to become more analytical, systematic and metrics-driven. This time around, I think marketing departments will be much better positioned and able to quantify their contribution to the business and, hopefully, work as full partners with their corporate counterparts.

Two stories in this issue of BtoB give a macro view of how marketers are thinking and planning.

First is BtoB's annual "Marketing Priorities and Plans" survey story.

The survey contains a bit of good news: 60.1% of marketers plan to increase their overall marketing budgets next year. That's only a bit off the 62.6% of respondents to last year's survey who said they planned to increase their marketing budgets in 2007.

Coming as no surprise, our survey shows online marketing will capture the biggest budget increases, with 79.1% of marketers planning to boost their online budgets in 2008. That's up from last year's survey in which 75.6% of marketers said they planned to increase their online budgets in 2007.

Further, our latest survey finds that, on average, a third of the marketing budget will be applied to online next year. That compares with about a quarter of the budget in 2007.

The second story to be sure to check out is our Page 1 look at the top 10 marketing trends for 2008. It likewise highlights the growth of digital marketing, particularly among technology companies, a number of which plan to devote at least 50% of their budgets to online in the next few years.

From the staff of BtoB, we wish you a productive and prosperous 2008.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business and can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.

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