Do you have Thinkers or Doers in your marketing team? (The best have both)

Recruitment marketers tend to fall into one of these two categories: Thinkers or Doers.

What is a Thinker’s job?
These are your strategic people who outline the business’ vision as a marketing function.  They will either be leading the business, making decisions on what the direction the business should take, what it does and how it goes to market, or they will be distilling what the CEO’s vision is and translating it into a marketing strategy.

There are around 150 Marketing Directors in the UK working in the recruitment industry.  With around 12,000 recruitment agencies in the UK that makes a ratio of 80:1 agencies to marketing directors.

The average salary in London for a Marketing Director is between £60-150k with the average salary being £80k according to Michael Page.  This puts them in the top 20% of marketing professionals according to EMR.

What is a Doer’s job?
These are the people who get stuff done.  They will be the ones writing content for your website, doing email marketing, managing social media on a day to day basis.  They will implement the things set out by a Thinker.

There are around 1,500 people in the UK working in marketing in the recruitment space, so a ratio of 8:1 agencies to marketers.

Marketing executives and assistants in London earn between £23k and £40k with the average being £32k and £25k respectively according to Michael Page.

So what’s the problem?
The problem arises time and time again in recruitment when companies don’t hire enough people in marketing or they give Doers and Thinkers the wrong jobs.

Thinkers are paid too much be doing the day to day work within a marketing team.  Financial Directors and CEOs start to consider a Thinker expensive if they are working as a Doer.  And they get bored.  At this point they are either made redundant, fired or quit.

Doers tend to be junior.  It is unwise to expect them to come up with the complex strategies for your business or try to convince the board that their plan will work.  If you do, and your marketing doesn’t work these folks get it in the neck; but you can’t blame them.  They haven’t the experience to know better and they don’t have someone to direct them if you haven’t hired a Thinker to guide and mentor.

The solution…
Hire a Thinker in your organisation to be in charge of driving the strategy.  If you don’t have a big enough need for someone to continually focus on the high level stuff then rope in an expert on a contract or work with a marketing agency to put together your strategy.  Their plan needs to be actionable for the Doers in your business.  If you don’t hire a Thinker make sure the Doer in your business has a mentor who is a senior marketer in another organisation or that you invest in training and development for them.

Make sure you have Doers to implement the work your Thinker or your external consultant / marketing agency have done.  Again if you can only afford someone to look at the strategy then outsource your doing work to an agency.

“Your job is to hire the experts, give them the right direction and resources, and set the right priorities.”

The CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, on how to hire

Find the best people for your marketing team.  Hire the Doer or the Thinker or get both.  Don’t scrimp and expect one person to do both well.  Outsource which ever part you can’t get someone in-house for.


Footnote addition – 16th October 2014

According to Hays fewer than 15% of Marketing Directors regard their own digital skills as very good and 18% rate their team’s digital skills as at that of a high standard.  34% say there are skills gaps within their marketing team.  Unrealistic or over ambitious company objectives are another major professional challenge.


  1. An excellent post Alex – the balance and ratio of both is crucial.

    How many doers do you think a thinker needs?

    In my experience it’s not a simple process to balance this continually as talented (marketing) doers quickly become thinkers and a want to retain talented marketers means they are given ‘thinking’ scope but then they are their own ‘doer’ due to lack of resources.

    You nailed it with ‘recruitment companies do not hire enough people in marketing’.

    • Alex Charraudeau

      October 15, 2014 at 10:46

      The main reason I wrote this was because I was getting concerned with the amount of churn in people doing marketing in recruitment. To be honest it feels like the most upheaval I’ve seen since I started in online recruitment.

      Thinking about it though – it is probably because businesses are really taking recruitment marketing seriously now and there are more ways to market than ever before. Managing job boards and negotiating rates on CV databases isn’t what the main part of the role entails any more.

      With regards to the question of how many Doers to a Thinker… that is a really tough question. I don’t think there is an exact answer on that, and looking at what I would consider to be high performing marketing teams, there isn’t a set rule. That said; 4 to 1 feels about right.

      As maketers develop their skills and knowledge some will start to become more strategic in the way they work. As they do move in that direction, because recruitment firms don’t invest in enough people in marketing, there often isn’t room (or budget) for more than one Thinker, which is one of the key reasons people end up leaving.

      One of my next posts is going to be on the Starting 11 Skills you need in your marketing team.

  2. Fascinating stats Alex and no wonder most recruitment firms’ social media presence is so elementary if only 1 in 8 have anyone whose role it is to work on marketing the business! In most firms it’s just something that recruiters are asked to take care of “when they have a spare moment”, so no wonder the ROI is lacking for most recruiting firms…

    • Alex Charraudeau

      October 20, 2014 at 13:16

      Tony thanks for commenting! So true – when no one is tasked with marketing (or when they have no experience of marketing) to measure return on investment is just silly. ROI is never going to be good when what you do is poor. Great point.

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