Marketing’s silent killer

I quit. You’re fired. Restructured or perhaps repurposed. 

It doesn’t matter what label you put on it or even which way the paper slides across the desk: turnover is an epidemic that’s destroying the marketing industry. 

Forbes’ is calling it a crisis citing record high turnover rates within marketing leadership. 

Harvard Business Review speaks about “The Trouble with CMOs” showing that Chief Marketing Officers have the shortest lifespan of any C-level executive 

And it’s not just a leadership issue: the ANA says that marketing has an average annual turnover rate of 30%. (that’s the second highest of all industries, trumped only by tourism)


No wonder 80% of CEO’s do NOT trust marketing. We’re too busy hiring and firing to spend any time developing marketers to deliver what actually matters. (More on that in a minute)

Let’s have a hard look at the COSTS:

The cost of turnover has all sorts of studies and reports but the best one I could put my hands on (and trust) was from SHRM. It shows that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary 

And yes, I’m going to gloss over the other obvious things: the impact to corporate knowledge, the affects on morale, the ability to sustain momentum, etc. etc. etc. 

If I’m losing 30% of my staff annually and it’s costing me 6 to 9 months salary per person to fix it…some serious action needs to happen. And FAST. 

(I’m starting to get queasy just writing this…but let’s press on)

Let’s put this into real numbers:

Average Marketing Salary: $60,000 per year 
Average marketing team size: 10

Average turn over @ 30% means I’ll lose 3 people per year. 

If I’m paying those 3 people $60,000 and it’s going to cost me 6 months salary per person to replace them…(I used the low end)

Monthly wage is $5,000 ($60,000 / 12) 

Multiplied by 6-month replacement cost ($5,000 x 6 = $30,000) 

Multiplied by 30% of my team (3 x $30,000 = $90,000)

$90,000 COST

I’m losing my mind!!!!

A 10-person team has to absorb a $90,000 blow EVERY year. That makes real profit generation extremely difficult (and again, I’m glossing over the other stuff like morale, knowledge gaps, momentum, etc.)

And sorry folks, it ain’t getting better…Marketing Week’s 2018 Career and Salary survey showed that:

81% of marketers are looking to leave their current role in the next 3 years

It’s no surprise, the #1 reason why people move is “more money” but, if you read the report, it astutely shows the #2 reason is “new challenge” and moreover, unpacks the desires of marketers to make meaningful contributions (vs. executional robots or merely cogs in the machine), to develop and to grow. 

It’s safe to say with 81% of marketers looking to move and, over 1,000,000 available marketing jobs available right now (597,291 posted on LinkedIn and 336,980 posted on alone), we have a problem.

This problem also speaks to how companies aren’t training people well (or are forcing employees to take “tactical” or “executional” training) and moreover, these training decisions are causing massive incremental costs to their own organizations via HR turnover. 

We have to stop the turnover crisis. 

If marketers want more money and marketing departments/agencies/brands are bleeding out because of turnover, more money for better pay just isn’t going to be available. 

Let’s say it again: We have to stop the turnover crisis. 

What should be spent and on what?

If marketing is to have any chance, we need to start investing in what matters. (remember I mentioned this earlier)

What matters:

“The aim of marketing is to know the customer so well, the product or service sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

Drucker, the grandfather of marketing kept it simple. Knew how to slice away all the jargon and point marketers in the right direction: it’s about customer knowledge, relevancy and return on investment. Drucker said that “marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Marketing is important. Really important!

But we’re getting it wrong. Really wrong!

And as we’re talking about turnover, we better stop thinking about professional development that is purely tactic based (that’s the stuff that doesn’t matter). Train people like this and I’ll guarantee they’ll feel like robots, they’ll tune out and they’ll be part of that 81% looking to move on.

(and yes, good professional development programs do exist…more on that in a minute)

And if we look deeper into what’s happening because of how marketers have been trained currently:

According to Harvard Business Review, 74% of CMO’s say “they believe their jobs don’t allow them to maximize their impact on the business.”

And Marketing Week says 61.8% of marketers believe their work is only somewhat understood or not understood at all by their business.

Those two points are simply another way to say marketers feel undervalued and under-appreciated. And it’s true, they are: when non-marketing business professionals were asked to comment on last year’s contribution from marketing, only 15% said “revenue growth”.

Marketing has lost its way. We’ve created an industry of doers and not thinkers. 

With this massive trend of unhappy, undervalued, under-appreciated, strategically ineffective and non-revenue driving outcomes, marketers are going to pack their bags and leave. 

Let’s say it again: We have to stop the turnover crisis. 

And because we’re talking about turnover, we better start thinking about professional development that is designed to keep marketers sharp, shape brand action around customer realities, align efforts into business growth, provide meaningful purpose and at the same time, provide professional recognition.

As marketing is a discipline of thought, we must train people to think about what matters, give them the tools to make it happen, align their work with business outcomes and purpose and then, watch them grow, get engaged and yes, STAY. 

That is the ONLY path if we want to see ROI 

Let’s yet again talk COST (but this time, it’s actually INVESTMENT) 

According to the 2016 State of the Industry report from the Association for Talent Development, organizations spend an average of $1,252 per employee for direct learning expenditures. 

What was truly insightful from the report was that organizations smaller in size spend more per employee and larger organizations spend less per employee. 

But on what training program?? 

There are endless options of tactical training (the “how to” robot-producing kind of stuff) but there are very few that force you to think and then enable you to apply strategy into practice. 

Moreover, I don’t care about your age, title, experience or position. I firmly agree with Harvard-educated psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy when she said: 

“Educating yourself does NOT mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.” 

In today’s digital-first world, there is MORE than plenty left to learn. If someone tells you they are an expert in digital, throw them out of your office. Student of digital? OK. It is changing so fast none of us can consider ourselves an expert. Besides, it always sounds better when someone else calls you and expert! 

To be clear the life of a marketer depends on them asking WHY? It is THE secret sauce to being a great marketer. Marketing = lifelong learning.

But as we select what we should learn, I give huge kudos to the board of the Direct Marketing Association of Canada (DMAC). They saw this massive professional development crisis coming and spent over a year reviewing of a host of training options to ensure they had the right solution. (if you’d like specifics, I’m happy to discuss that with you via a side-bar conversation. Send me an email) 

In short, here’s what DMAC did:

No more “more of the same”

If marketers need to deliver real value, let’s train them to do that (and by value, I’m talking about impacting business growth, shaping customer-centric strategies and programs and delivering ROI): 

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” - Peter Drucker

DMAC set a very firm criteria for its training program:
  1. Strategic focus with direct application 
  2. Relevant for today’s real issues
  3. Customer-centric to empower true brand-consumer engagement
  4. Developed and delivered by people who have actually done the work (real world vs. theoretical)
  5. Succinct vs. labour / time intensive 
  6. Online delivery to respect the schedules of participants and to enable going back, reviewing and studying (you just can’t do that at a seminar)
  7. Budget friendly 

DMAC listened to the market:

“Brands are looking for partners that focus on strategy and NOT tactical execution, especially in digital” – AdWeek 

“Marketers: Quit selling products. Sell a whole new way of thinking.” – Shift’s Mark Boncheck 

“We’re looking for marketers to challenge the status quo and bring a fresh perspective.” – Chartered Institute of Marketing

Let’s say it again: We have to stop the turnover crisis. 

DMAC’s answer brings power and influence back into marketing. It addresses the core issues causing the turnover crisis. It sets marketers strategically apart, focuses on what actually matters, gives them purpose and individually recognizes them and ultimately directly impacts business results.


You have a choice. 
The turnover crisis is very real. 

We have an answer. Check it out today


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