We know several things really well in the email marketing space. It is a challenge to train and grow people into this role. Given the short tenure of an email marketing manager (two to three years), it's not surprising that this role is hard to staff and hard to retain; it's difficult to keep savvy marketers in that role. I've always considered it to be a burn-out job in some ways: rapid turnarounds, the constant pressure of deadlines, no forgiveness for mistakes; and a need for high ROI with minimal respect for what actually goes into managing the channel well.
Email is not the coolest channel in the marketing kit. It needs a PR agent. It's in every strategy in some form, but as I've said many times, email is managed in a vacuum in some respects. Since everyone has a personal mindset about email (we all get it and we all send it), it's often underappreciated, So, how do you motivate and grow an organization to be really good at it?
I wrote an article over a year ago on a similar thread, which I felt was important enough to revisit. But I don't want to write about how to staff the role or a tongue-in-cheek view of the role, but how you can support the growth of this role so it's not a burn-out.
Marketing organizations, write this down: Develop a career path for your email group, even if it's only made up of two people.
Don't expect them to immediately understand operational marketing, much less operational email marketing. There is a lot to learn, a lot to fail at, and it's difficult to think ahead when you are trying to QC 40 versions of an email and making sure all the links and typography match approved specs.
Making email a career path will force you to isolate the skills being acquired and put a premium on specialized and managerial skills. It also helps you recognize that by throwing someone into the pool, you won't develop a butterfly specialist, a backstroke specialist or even a good swim team.
In email there are several hierarchies to learning the trade (and I'm oversimplifying intentionally):
What goes into the email? (content formation),
How does it go out and did it get there?(delivery)
The List and who we should and are we sending to? (segmentation, communication strategy)
We sent it, now what did we really accomplish? (Measurement, Optimization)
What happens when we mix other channels? (Stacking Effect - direct mail, social, retail)
Career paths aren't just about the skills, they are about providing real paths so people can develop in an organization. Paths can have several different focuses: specialist roles that are technology- and operations-driven, market managers that aspire to be intimate with the business and market dynamics, channel experts that focus and integrate emerging channels. The choices are broader than you think, even if you have a small department.
I agree that Email does need a PR agent. Unfortunately, all of the PR agents are busy hyping social media.
This is a great perspective on email marketing and its burn-out rate. I've never really looked at it that way, especially from the perspective of a small firm that is trying to make email marketing a cornerstone of its foundation. But then, it's something I happen to be passionate about. From my perspective, any niche within any business that focuses so much on such a small area runs the risk of burning out staff. It's not limited to email and any business that hopes to keep good talent should have a career management plan. Unfortunately it's the achilles heel of many a small firm.
Email can be one of the avenues you take for a client. It shouldn't be the only "tool" used though. Never considered the burn-out of email. A comprehensive advertising/communications mix can indeed utilize email. Thoughtful piece on next generation email marketers.
David - so glad to see this topic getting attention. In my experience, the email team has frequently been relegated to primarily a production role (as in "just get the message out the door"). As boredom sets in, testing and analytics become relics of the past and the entire email program goes on auto-pilot.
Seems to me that an email marketer needs to become more storyteller than email guru. This would put a greater emphasis on content formation with tighter integration into the product side of the organization.
The beauty of the email marketing role is the combination of creative and analytical tasks encountered on a daily basis, allowing an analytical person to dip into more aesthetic topics and vice versa. Instead we've created drivers of email systems - and who wants to put that on their resume?
David, thanks for this insightful and (for me) timely article. I am curious as to where/how the email marketing role typically is structured in agencies -- as an account management function, or a technology/production function or a Creative function?
All great comments...
Krystina: to your comment, it VAries... isn't that the prudent response from an agency? :)... I've seen it as an extended project manager if the delivery is done through an ESP with a full service team.. If they are actually hands on the platform staging campaigns, it can be a web dev person or interface developer type role, but they should have HTML experience and ability to play with APIs.... I see the role in three veins: Strategy and Planning, Implementation and coordination and then delivery and support... so an email manager sometimes has all these responsibilities, but most times they have one or two..
and to Bill's point... I wrote a series of articles on telling the ROI story and he is correct you have to tell the story broader than clicks and opens or your'll never get budget or attention... that articles' over 3 years old, but still very relevant.. google it : Baker Telling the ROI Story...