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There is an excellent chapter in the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir entitled “Everybody Works.”  The authors state that “With a small team, you need people who are going to do work, not delegate work…Everyone’s got to be producing…No one can be above the work.”  The authors go on to say that “Delegators are dead weight for a small team.”  The authors did not target a particular function within organizations with their comments, which begs the question – Is the delegator a friend or foe in the marketing organization?   Of course, it depends upon the size and style of the company.

In my experience, marketing organizations tend to attract a specialized type of delegator – the vendor manager.  By vendor manager, I am referring to marketing personnel that focus on supervising the activities of various outside agencies and freelance consultants.  Vendor managers tend to thrive in larger organizations.  Most large corporations have massive marketing programs budgets that represent 2-3% of sales, but the majority of the dollars are spent on outside media buyers, PR agencies, design firms, research analysts and management consultants.  Consequently, there is a strong need to staff marketing organizations with vendor managers that can supervise and delegate activities to the outside agencies.

But not all marketers are delegators.  There is another group that I like to call “do-ers.”  These are the creators and thinkers that can generate differentiated messaging, powerful positioning, campaign ideas and compelling concepts.  Unfortunately, due to their dependency and focus on outside vendors for design, messaging and positioning, many big companies don’t attract creators and thinkers.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but in my experience most of the “do-ers” are attracted to either outside agencies or smaller companies.

Smaller companies cannot afford to have vendor managers (delegators) on staff.  While many small businesses do hire outside agencies for public relations, advertising or web site design they cannot afford to have full time staff devoted just to managing these firms.  The key difference is that smaller businesses typically have lean marketing budgets.  Consequently, small companies need small teams of highly-efficient workers.  Extraordinary, sometimes heroic, levels of productivity must be achieved for success.  Even the “managers” are typically doers rather than delegators.

When recruiting for smaller marketing organizations I recommend asking questions that help you differentiate delegators from “do-ers.”

Steve Keifer

Steve Keifer has led marketing and product management teams at seven different SaaS and cloud providers ranging from venture-backed, early-stage startups to multi-billion, publicly traded companies - including several that experienced hypergrowth, filed IPOs, and reached unicorn status. In Bantrr, Steve shares many of the best practices and lessons learned from building and scaling marketing organizations. Topics include new category creation, brand development, and demand generation.

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