The Secret Marketer on internal bureaucracy


One of my direct reports moaned to me this week that he is spending too much time on internal bureaucracy when he should be out there winning business. I think he was referring to the fact that we have spent the past three months agreeing this year’s marketing plan; introducing new governance around marketing business cases; jumping through the usual hoops to get procurement on-side; not to mention, of course, the dreaded budgeting process.

I tried to point out that these are all normal business practices, symptomatic of the time of year, but his point was still well made.

As you get more senior in a business, you get promoted away from the customer, the frontline, the action

In my first job, I was assigned to a retail bank’s branch in the East End of London, as part of its graduate management programme. The nature of this programme involved people ‘getting a flavour’ of a number of roles within the business – cashier, enquiries clerk, standing order processing, foreign exchange – until you moved into the ‘back room’ lending teams and, eventually, to head office, where I began my marketing career.

I realised then that as you get more senior in a business, you get promoted away from the customer – away from the frontline, and progressively – physically as well as mentally – away from the cut and thrust of the action. Images of Blackadder Go Forth’s General Melchett and Captain Darling rallying their troops from the French chateau 35 miles from the front spring to mind!

And this is what I relayed to my colleague this week.

He has recently been promoted and now manages our entire product/service portfolio, and so naturally gets less involved in the nitty gritty of every campaign to spend more time planning, coaching and getting all of the new marketing activities signed off internally – activities which until a few months ago, he was delivering himself.

But I share his concern – is it right that a company’s biggest brains and most experienced people are tied to their desks? They are focusing their efforts on internal protocol, when the people who are tasked with growing the business – engaging with customers, putting together campaigns, working closely with agencies – are much earlier in their career, and by inference less experienced?

Makes you think…

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