Not Every Company is Ready for Customer Marketing

It’s just a fact: not every company is ready for customer marketing. In 2021 we saw an unprecedented number of new customer marketing manager positions created (#3 hottest job title posted on LinkedIn), and current program leaders change jobs! Customer marketing community members contacted us throughout the year asking for information about one of our clients or other companies we might be familiar with. Perhaps “you know someone” at a particular company who could provide some insight? Usually, the people asking had been in the customer marketing world for three or more years. They had enough experience to know what was important about the company or hiring manager and what they wanted to avoid based on previous experience.

For example, some people want very little oversight, while others seek a lot of collaboration and partnership with their manager. But, of course, the attributes of a great opportunity are particular to the individual program manager.

We took some time to distill what we’ve learned over the years, along with what program managers say are the attributes of an organization prepared to have a customer marketing/advocacy program. So here is a checklist of sorts for you to consult as you consider a new home for your talents and experience.

Good Signs
Bad Signs
Customer Reference Situation
  • Low customer attrition/churn
  • Plenty of evidence of happy customers (website, social, events)
  • Any manager interviewing you can easily cite success stories
  • A reference list exists, because there is a genuine need
  • Employees and managers say it’s hard to find references—because there aren’t many
  • Lots of energy spent trying to avoid reference requests
  • No reference list or database exists (i.e., it hasn’t been a priority)
Customer Marketing Maturity
  • Hiring manager has a good grasp of customer marketing (CM), perhaps has run a CM program
  • Top executive of your would-be reporting structure has a good grasp of CM and how their support will be needed
  • Company has a clear, logical vision for the program + justification OR No firsthand experience, but looking for a senior leader and will provide support and freedom to create a program
  • Hiring manager has zero CM experience
  • Exec has zero CM experience
  • Vision for program, as explained, is disjointed, without clear objectives
Catalyst for customer marketing function/program
(if a new initiative)
  • Not one, but multiple executives with solid CM needs that correlate to their goal achievement
  • If there’s a chief revenue officer (CRO), they’re not just aware of the initiative, but a driver of it
  • Sub-VP level initiative with exec-sanctioned budget, but nothing beyond that
  • Initiative doesn’t appear to be on the CxO radar
Executive support
(if a program exists)
  • Your interviews include executives from marketing, sales, customer success, plus the CRO
  • Exec overseeing CM understands and values the parts and whole of the domain
  • Strong evidence that IT is onboard to support the program’s system(s)
  • Execs commit to the support necessary to overcome common obstacles (e.g., change management)
  • Exec sponsorship mainly within the home department of CM, not much beyond that
  • No, or only home department executive in employment interview(s)
  • Exec overseeing CM has limited or no firsthand experience with CM programs
  • Securing IT support is unlikely due to ongoing projects/priorities (e.g., CRM system migration)
Vision for program
  • The vision aligns with your personal view of a CM program, or there is opportunity to modify it
  • The vision takes into consideration company culture, organization, politics, etc., which may constrain what’s achievable
  • There’s an ambitious plan, but without consideration to what is necessary to build such a program
  • The program vision is too limited to make a real impact (e.g., solely a case study “factory”), and there is little opportunity to influence a change
  • Realistic short-term budget securted to build the vision (i.e., scope), or a reasonable plan to ramp it up and put all the pieces in place with adequate bandwidth and budget
  • Long-term resource (people, technology, etc.) needs recognized and part of the plan
  • Budget, outside of your salary, is “to be determined”
  • The CM home department has a smaller budget than better-funded departments (e.g., sales), and isn’t likely to see an increase anytime soon
Leadership Perception of Customer Marketing
  • CM is considered strategic, an element of many company growth goals
  • Execs you interview with provide specific examples of how they expect your program to help them
  • CM is one of several customer-focused programs, part of a larger strategy
  • CM viewed as a discrete function with limited scope (e.g., reference “help desk” for Sales)
  • CM program leadership can be a junior hire, or perhaps even an intern
  • The CM function is not seen as a factor in support of corporate imperatives (e.g., entering a new market)
Program Goals & Objectives
  • They exist, they’re meaningful and thoughtful and correlate to overarching company goals
  • Your manager is open to your input into formulating different or additional goals that make more sense
  • They’re primarily quotas (e.g., create X case studies, add X reference accounts) that don’t correspond to company growth goals
  • Not particularly open to reconsidering goals, with your input, to be more meaningful
  • Little, if any, discussion about customer advocate relationship cultivation
Some company cultures will reject a customer marketing/advocate program like it’s a foreign body—the “immune system” attacks. If a company has significant service issues and expects that a customer advocate program will magically identify and secure customers for acts of advocacy, run!. There are bigger, deeper CX problems you won’t be able to fix alone. No one wants to find themselves in that position a month or two into a new position hired to create a first-ever customer marketing program.

Other companies are ripe. In general, B2B companies are maturing in their understanding of what a professionally launched and operated CM program can do. More and better opportunities are appearing each year. So seek fertile ground and thrive. We hope this post is useful in choosing your next customer marketing adventure.