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Marketers have traditionally been famous for not being mathematically-inclined. However, without an understanding of statistics and economics, marketers will be less effective in their work. In this post, we’ll explore why macroeconomics matters to marketers.

Macroeconomics is Marketing’s Precursor

What is macroeconomics and why should marketers care? Macroeconomics is the study of (and the corpus of data for) the big-picture economy. Investopedia defines macroeconomics as follows:

Macroeconomics is a branch of the economics field that studies how the aggregate economy behaves. In macroeconomics, a variety of economy-wide phenomena is thoroughly examined such as, inflation, price levels, rate of growth, national income, gross domestic product and changes in unemployment. It focuses on trends in the economy and how the economy moves as a whole.

Thus, an understanding of macroeconomics – the big-picture economic engine – lends understanding of the conditions that will impact our marketing. Macroeconomics is all about how much money is in the economy and how that money is moving around.

Let’s look at a few examples of how macroeconomics translates into marketing insights.

Macroeconomics and Marketing Precursor Example 1: Unemployment

Suppose we track the unemployment rate, a major macroeconomic indicator. What do we know from it?

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If we’re B2C Marketers, this directly impacts our business. The fewer people unemployed or underemployed, the more money consumers have to spend.

If we’re B2B marketers, unemployment rates may inform our talent pool, but will impact our customers (typically B2C companies). The better the overall population does, the more revenue our customers have, and thus the more we will be able to increase our own fees and revenues.

Macroeconomics and Marketing Precursor Example 2: Gasoline

Suppose we track the price of gasoline, a commodity. What economic impact does the price of gasoline have? Every penny a consumer spends on gasoline is a penny the consumer can’t spend elsewhere. In a 2015 study by JP Morgan, when gas prices fell, consumers spent up to 80% of the savings on discretionary purchases like dining out, entertainment, electronics, and other consumer goods.

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If we’re marketing in the hospitality industry, we’d want to track the price of gasoline closely. If prices shoot up, we should expect and forecast a decline in our revenues. Likewise, if prices consistently fall for a period of time, we should anticipate improved revenues from macroeconomic conditions.

Macroeconomics and Marketing Precursor Example 3: Baltic Dry Index

Suppose we track the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), the price of shipping goods via cargo container ship. BDI is an obscure index, one most economists don’t pay much attention to, but it’s a good indicator for determining the health of the economy.

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BDI only moves when companies rent space on cargo ships; no one buys space speculatively. Thus, when prices go up, space has gone down, meaning companies have more stuff to ship. More stuff to ship means more economic activity – if customers aren’t buying stuff, shipping prices go down due to reduced demand.

If we’re forecasting business revenues and productivity, we should watch BDI. At the time of this writing (September 2017), BDI is at a 3-year high, indicating that companies are moving lots of stuff. That bodes well for B2B marketers and B2C marketers alike.

Pay Attention to Macroeconomics to Forecast Marketing

By combining our understanding of macroeconomics with data science and predictive analytics, we will add greater insight to our forecasts. We’ll predict more accurately and plan ahead better.

Your next step, your homework, is to find macroeconomic data and/or indicators to watch that are most impactful on your customers. Do your research, determine what impacts the finances of your customers, and start forecasting.

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