The care and keeping of your email marketing manager

I’ve been “fun-employed” (by choice, THANKYOUVERYMUCH) for about six weeks now.  And honestly – I don’t hate it. This has been the first time since college that I’ve actually been able to enjoy more than a week off without having to worry about checking work emails and if everything was running smoothly without me. (Okay, full disclosure – I thought about that last part a little at first. But the great thing is, I could remind myself that it wasn’t really my problem anymore, and that things were probably just fine, because my replacements were fully capable and trained really well).

Since my last post, I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me about job opportunities. Normally, on any given week, when I haven’t just made a big announcement that I’m on the market for new opportunities, I get at least 3-4 LinkedIn requests from recruiters about email jobs. But there have been quite a few more lately. Almost all have been for full-time roles, and several are for email marketing manager roles that I “would be perfect for!!!” — because they’re exactly what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

I’ve talked to my email friends who have the same experience level as I do, and this is pretty common. A lot of us have been doing email marketing for about 7-10 years, and we’ve been in email producing roles where we’re the only one in our company working on email. We get very good at it because we have to – there’s no one else to do it, and no one else in our company has any experience with email. Our jobs are very demanding, and come with a very special degree of stress and anxiety. Because of this, we get burnt out really easily, and some of us end up switching jobs every year (or even more frequently than that in some cases). Recruiters lure us away with a cooler startup, more money, or the promise of change. This job will be different – we’re looking for someone who can take our email program to the next level, and you’re perfect for it. We work hard, but we play hard too. We have unlimited vacation as long as you get your work done! (LOL) It’s fun to work for us – we have a ping-pong table! (I’ve heard all of these lines more times than I can count.)

The thing is – we’re really not doing all this job hopping just because we’re entitled millennials. It’s because a lot of these email marketing manager roles are set up for failure from the start, and honestly – we have options. A lot of email marketing managers, especially at startups, are entering roles where they’re the first person to build the email program, and have to deal with not only the workload of building an email program, but also educating the team about IP warming, welcome emails, and why you shouldn’t build that email as one large jpeg. While this can be an exciting challenge, it can be a very exhausting uphill battle.

After I interviewed for (and declined) an email marketing manager job recently, the HR person asked me for feedback about how they should structure the role. I told her that in my experience, especially for companies with high frequency sends, it’s ideal to have at least two people on the email team – one focusing on planning, strategy, reporting, and operations, and one to actually execute and produce the emails. That way, there’s always a back-up person to help out with the crazy weeks, and the strategy side actually happens. The last two email teams I’ve been on started out as just me, and were structured that way by the time I left. Anyone looking to start an email marketing program at your company – PLEASE keep this in mind. If you don’t have the budget to hire two people, please read the next paragraph.

There’s a project management concept that’s illustrated with a triple Venn diagram with three words on it: Fast, Cheap, Good. The idea is that it’s nearly impossible to have all three of those in any given project, so you have to decide which two you want:

I think something similar could be applied to an email marketer’s workload, only replacing Cheap with “A lot of emails.” If you want a lot of emails, and fast – they may not be very good. If you want emails fast and good – you’re probably not sending very many of them. If you want a lot of good emails – it’s going to take some time. I’ve been in a position at several jobs where I’ve been pressured to do all three, and “Good” was always the first one to go. Not a situation I ever want to experience again. If you want all three of these – build a team.

If employers want their email marketing manager to stick around, they need to be realistic about workloads and expectations. Email Marketing is a VERY small world. I don’t know the most tactful way to put this, but – we know that we have a rare, desirable skill set, and it is easy for us to walk away from bad situations. Many of us have recruiters knocking down our doors. We know that our work can generate significant revenue and site traffic. If you want to keep your email marketer – let him or her build a team. Or at least, train other people in the company to help out with email so vacations can actually happen. Email marketers spend a lot of time thinking about how to retain subscribers, and it’s time for their companies to think about retaining email marketers.

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4 comments

  1. Can relate to “educating the team about IP warming, welcome emails, and why you shouldn’t build that email as one large jpeg. While this can be an exciting challenge, it can be a very exhausting uphill battle.” this statement a lot.

    Email marketing feels like a sector that a lot of people will know of, but very few really understand it. It’s over simplified. There’s a lot of good work happening around the web to change that, which is great. But getting that information to the people who need to see it is the tricky part.

  2. Amen for saying it! Although I suppose I should be grateful since this very problem is why companies hire a strategic email consultant like me; their “producer” is so in-the-weeds deploying the person can’t come up for air to ever plan anything.

    Great Venn diagram btw – I’m stealing it for my preso for eec Email Evolution next week. Will you be at the conference?

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