Why 2021 Saw Historic Customer Marketing Turnover

Customer Marketing functions experienced historic turnover in 2021. If you’re a customer marketing/advocate professional then you know of someone in the community who just changed companies this past year. Customer Marketing was the 3rd hottest job title posted on LinkedIn in 2021! We saw more than a third of our customers’ main points-of-contact change in 2021. They landed at new companies but stayed in our community. There are many factors that created the conditions for the Great Resignation, but in our customer marketing world, the fundamental reason we heard the most was “a better opportunity.” Digging into that a little deeper, we heard what made for a “better opportunity”:

  • “I think I’ll have better executive support at company X”
  • “I will be able to build a team to handle what I’ve been doing solo at company Y”
  • “Company Z has customer advocacy as a strategic priority in 2022, unlike my current company”

Our take on this is that serious program leaders want very much to see their visions come alive, but they’ve been frustrated or disappointed by their leadership time and again. If they can’t reach their potential in their current job, then they’re willing to take a flyer on a new employer. Hopefully, being wiser from the most recent experience, they know what markers to look for at the new company to improve their chances of professional success.

Experience Supply Low / Demand High

The demand for customer marketing/advocate program leaders in 2021 went through the roof. In our 19-year history, we’ve never seen so many job posts in our community. Corporate America, small and medium organizations, in particular, had an awakening. It clicked! Customer advocates wield more power and influence organically and programmatically than just about anything else a marketing organization can muster.

Customer marketing is not taught in universities. Many in our community found themselves in customer marketing by happy accident. They learned best practices from vendors and peers, bit by bit. In short, there isn’t an ample supply of seasoned practitioners to fill all the openings.

We help our clients find new team members by sharing their job postings through our social channels. In 2021 there were a few concerning trends—compromises really—that consistently jumped out.

  • With the limited supply, the required years of experience in customer marketing for a junior hire has dropped from 3-4 years to 1-2 years; and for a senior hire, we commonly see 3-5 years versus 6+ years.
  • What this means is that companies have to allow for on-the-job learning and lower goal achievement for at least the first six months. Competency may take 6-12 months depending on the job description; and headwinds such as unfavorable company culture, less than full-throated executive support, and scant budget.

Role Scope Creep

  • While the experience requirements have decreased, the customer marketing program elements have not. In some cases, there’s been scope creep. Expecting a single employee to cover customer reference management, customer community, customer reviews, and customer content, for instance, is not reasonable.
  • An individual with no hands-on customer marketing experience won’t realize they’ve signed up for failure until they’re in the position for several weeks, if not months.
  • In an earlier post, we described how each role under the customer marketing umbrella is a specialty, a discipline unto itself. All the automation in the world doesn’t eliminate the human relationship factor in creating and maintaining a successful program and elements (e.g., community) within a program.
  • We believe automation’s role is to help a program leader focus on strategic versus tactical activities, which is where true potential may be unlocked.

Why do hiring executives pile on so many job responsibilities? Most likely that have become aware of the different pieces and parts of a customer marketing program from peers, and having no firsthand experience managing a program, view them as a highly related collection of time slices one person can easily wrangle in a normal workweek.

The bad news is that once the limitations are realized, something has to give, priorities will have to shift. The comprehensive customer marketing/advocacy program will have to be scaled back and goals recalibrated.

To the highly motivated and capable customer marketing professional, this is hugely demoralizing. Their impact will not be felt as expected; their career will be stymied.

And if, at a minimum, expectations aren’t adjusted to that reality, experienced customer marketers will bail out and seek a situation where they can be successful, satisfied with their accomplishments.

So what are the signs, good and bad, that you should look for when assessing your chances of success in a company? Yep, there’s a blog post for that :-).

As the customer marketing/advocacy market expands and becomes a ubiquitous corporate function, the role, responsibilities, and resource requirements will be better understood. Executive leadership will have more learning experience to call on when defining their goals, the program components, and allocating resources and budget appropriately. Until then, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride for many pioneers in newly established customer marketing positions. If you can achieve balance and set reasonable expectations in your slice of the customer marketing world, you’ll find great personal and professional rewards. Wishing you great success this year!