After a very much needed almost 3 month hiatus, I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted a full-time job at Girl Scouts of the USA as their Senior Email Marketing Specialist. I’ll be spending my time helping to standardize their email programs across 112 councils all over the country, writing documentation, educating marketing teams about email best practices, and being their go-to person for my favorite ESP. While it’s obviously very much still in the email world, it’s taking a step away from mass producing emails every day, and it’s exactly what I want to be doing. I start next month, and I’m extremely excited about it! In all of the years that I’ve worked in marketing in various industries, I’ve learned that I’m much happier when I’m marketing a product or service that I genuinely believe in and care about. While that’s not possible for every job and every company, I’ve found that it’s something I need to be successful and happy in a job. That’s why I’m absolutely positive that this is the perfect fit for me. I’ve been involved with Girl Scouts since I was 5. I started Daisies when I was in pre-school, then I continued through Brownies and Juniors over the next 7 years. I remember making a point to sell 350 boxes of cookies one year so that I could go to a 13-day horseback riding camp for free. I loved being a Girl Scout. My mom was our troop leader, and most of my happy memories from when I was that age have to do with Girl Scouts. In the summers when I was a kid, I’d spend hours reading and re-reading my Girl Scout handbook, looking for fun craft projects to do and badges to work on. Twenty years and a bazillion moves later, I still have both of my uniform vests. In the last few years, living in NYC and not knowing any girls here, my involvement had been reduced to buying a lot of cookies (often online, pre-Digital Cookie, from friends in other states who have kids) and liking and sharing social media content. And, of course, being a Girl Scout cookie bakery hipster (according to my brother. I prefer “expert.”). Anyway, I’m really excited that my job is going to be with an organization that’s very near and dear to me. Plus, you know, there will be cookies. If you haven’t heard about it yet, Girl Scouts are making great strides in advancing their programming along with technology. With the recently launched Digital Cookie program, girls can create their own websites to sell cookies, allow customers to pay with a credit card, and sell cookies via an app. After working in techy startups the last few years, and seeing how underrepresented women are in the tech world – I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have the opportunity to contribute to a program that will get girls interested in tech and digital marketing at an early age. I’ll start the job in late March. I’ll be spending the next few weeks wrapping up some freelance projects, going on a vacation with good friends, shopping for professional clothes, and trying to teach myself how to organize an Outlook email account at the same level of OCD that I take with my Gmail accounts. (Any tips on that, pretty please? I haven’t used Outlook in a while.) The break that I’ve taken the last few months was an excellent choice for me. I knew I was burnt out and needed to take some time off, but I didn’t know just how badly I needed it until a few weeks in, when I was finally able to stop feeling guilty when I felt like spending an afternoon relaxing instead of trying to figure out my next professional move. But it also helped me realize that I actually really do enjoy working. I get more satisfaction out of doing something productive than watching five seasons of Friends on Netflix (but I’ve also learned to accept that it’s okay to sometimes count finishing a season of a show or clearing out a Tivo queue as “productive”). Re-charging is important and necessary in order to continue to do actual work, and sometimes we all need to take a moment and acknowledge that. I’m so happy that I’ve found a work environment that offers the level of balance that’s been missing from my professional life for a while and projects that I can’t wait to dive into. It’s been fun hibernating this winter, but now I’m refreshed, relaxed, and completely ready to go back to work full-time… in a few weeks.
Since Valentine’s day is this week, and I couldn’t bear to dig through all my emails from flower companies and write about them (but if you’re desperate to read about flower emails, you can read my Mother’s day posts here and here), I decided that I’d instead write about the most important relationship every email marketer has: their relationship with their ESP. More specifically, my long-term relationship with a certain ESP.
We first formally met when I was working in a boring corporate job. My office was in the same building as his. I saw him on the elevator, embodied by a different cool person every day, wearing his jeans and texting on his iPhone (in 2008, before everyone had them), while I was in my boring business casual with my Blackberry Pearl, thinking about how to write creatively about the recession for the millionth time that week. He seemed so happy, so bright, so… orange. I was intrigued.
We got to know each other, and started actually working together. He introduced me to a whole new world of careers I didn’t know existed. I went to his big annual party, which turned out to be a toooootal rager, even though I thought it would be a bunch of uncool corporate types. Who actually enjoys spending 3 days talking about nothing but email (apparently, a lot of people)? I was maybe just hoping to have a good reason to get away from the office for a few days. But after a few bright orange cocktails, a grey and black messenger bag filled with swag and autographed books, and tales of a cookie waiting in hotel rooms at the exact moment guests drunkenly arrived back from a free amazing They Might be Giants concert — let’s face it. I was hooked.
I left the corporate job, moved to a big city on the east coast, and our relationship became off-again, on-again. I was wearing my bag from the rager over my shoulder outside of a Starbucks in Manhattan, when a stranger with an alliterative name asked me if I worked there. I told him no, but I would like to someday. I was thrilled that I was passing off as one of them. He actually did work there, and was visiting from an office in another country.
Over the next few years, I spent time with others, but always went back to him, my quirky, strong, bright orange, ESP. He decided to go public, and when I bought a few shares of his stock, people close to me were concerned it might be considered insider trading since I talked about him so much, not realizing that I wasn’t actually with him in that way.
I ended up making major life decisions around when I would get to see him, and be with him. After spending a year at a job that worked with another ESP, I switched jobs as soon as I had the chance to go back to him. My actual wedding and honeymoon were at the same time as his annual week-long rager one year (and the wedding was even in the same city), and for a brief moment, I considered postponing the honeymoon to be with him – but only for a moment. There would be other ragers, after all. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a tear at the airport on Monday morning on my way to my honeymoon, as I saw the orange shuttle bus pull up to take people to the party. If only I had known his days were numbered, and this would be one of the last few.
And sure, when I told people about how much I loved him, and why – there were skeptics. He’s not perfect after all. People I worked with mocked my devotion, and threatened to start seeing other ESPs, but I knew nothing could rock what we had. I’m in it for the long haul. It wasn’t always easy to love him. Nobody’s perfect. And even if he had his flaws, I knew him so well that I didn’t even care, and just worked my way around them. And I only called him up to complain about his flaws to his face a few times.
But eventually, as what happens with most people and their ESPs, I woke up one morning, and suddenly, everything was different. He had some work done to his appearance, and was running with a new crowd, and going by a different name. He had changed. I know that even with all these changes, he’s still the same ESP I’ve loved all these years. I know that plenty of others have a crush on him too. That’s okay. I know what we had together, and he has plenty of love to go around. And I don’t think our story is over, even if things are a becoming a little too…cloudy. We can weather this storm, and shine bright orange again someday.
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.
…is leaving your email marketing job. Or even leaving email entirely.
This past year, I’ve read emails and blog posts from a few well-known email marketers who have decided to leave their awesome jobs and take a break from email for a while. I’m currently in the middle of the Email Insiders Summit, and there’s definitely talk of lots of people switching companies or leaving their email jobs.
It’s not totally shocking news. As much as we all love email marketing, it does cause a lot of anxiety. It’s easy to get really burnt out, really quickly.
And that’s why I’m joining the ranks of people taking a break.
While I’ve loved email for my entire career (and still do very much), it’s time for me to take a step away for a few weeks. At the end of the next week, I’m leaving my job at Food52 to do…something else. TBD.
Lots of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with my current job. I never expected to fall into email marketing as a career. I went to college to be a stage manager for theatre. But I graduated in a very difficult job market, and took the first marketing coordinator job I could get. I learned that email marketing 1) existed and 2) was something I really wanted to do. So I did it. The first few years were in B2B, which certainly has its own challenges for email. But I fell madly in love with this new career option that combined copywriting, coding, creativity, psychology, and analytics. Then, after I moved to NYC a little over 4 years ago, I discovered the joy of B2C email marketing. Suddenly I could attach a real dollar amount of value that my work brought to my company, and that was really exciting – at first.
But that came with a cost. I was responsible for making sure that my emails made money. Online retail brands really depend on email for revenue, and I’ve had to send a lot more emails than I’ve ever wanted to send. As a consumer, I actually barely read promotional emails (but as an email marketer, I read ALL OF THEM). I’d rather get fewer emails that were really, really good, than daily emails that weren’t. As an email marketer, that’s what I want to send. I think that’s what most email marketers want to send. The trouble is, email marketers work with other digital marketers. And product managers. And CMOs and CEOs who don’t understand email and think the “send” button is a magic bullet that prints money, and it can be pressed constantly.
For my last two jobs, I was hired to be the one person running email. While my background and interviews indicated that I was hired to do strategy and day-to-day email operations, in both cases, my role ended up being a very busy hybrid of producing emails, managing ESP transitions, educating co-workers about email, arguing with designers about whether emails should be built as images or hard coded, and figuring out that whole responsive design thing. There was no time for strategy or advancing myself as an email marketer. I couldn’t often leave for conferences (or vacation days…), because someone had to be there to send the emails, and I was the only person who knew how. Working at startups can be exciting, but in both jobs, I found myself in a position where I was both overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my work, and completely bored with it at the same time. Since there was no one who knew more about email than me to challenge me to do more, I wasn’t really growing as much as I wanted to – I was just trying to get everyone to a level where we could work on emails together.
In both jobs, however, I was able to build up email teams. I have taught several junior level people a ton about email, and they’re now self-sufficient email marketers who are capable of running email for high-volume brands, (gasp!) without my help. I’ve educated a lot of designers about why we can’t just make an email one large image, and I’ve taught front-end developers how coding email is different than coding for the web. And I discovered I really like teaching people about email. In fact, I’m developing an Intro to Email class for General Assembly in NYC, and in January, I’m going to teach more people about email. Anyone who has met me at an email event or conference, or has worked with me in the last few years, or follows me on Twitter, knows that I get really excited when I talk about email.
When I left Warby Parker, the social media team put this up on their daily white board. My geeky ExactTarget fangirl behavior was a running joke in the office, and for good reason.
Like I mentioned above, there were other factors in my decision. I’ve lived in NYC about four and a half years, and – it’s exhausting. I had wanted to live here my entire life, and I really did love it – at first. But startups have long hours. I have a long commute. Pair that with smart phones becoming a lot more common in the last few years, and I feel like I’m ALWAYS working (or at least on call).I never have time to actually enjoy living in the city. Many of my co-workers in recent years are exhilarated by this kind of life, and thrive on it. They love having a fast-paced, open office setting. To that, I’m going to have to quote Amy Poehler, “Good for you, not for me.” In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what kinds of work environments I thrive in, and it turns out, “fast-spaced scrappy start-up” isn’t one of them.
So what’s next?
The solution I came up with was to press “pause” for a little bit, and regroup. I’ve taken VERY little time off over the last few years, and my plan is to spend the next few weeks recharging and planning my next steps. I’m going to enjoy spending the holidays with my family and actually be fully present, without having to worry about whether an email is converting enough, or if the customers received their e-Gift cards. And then I’ll look for something else to do. I don’t want to jump into another startup that leaves me just as burnt out as the others, and find myself frustrated, exhausted, and wanting to leave after a few years or even a few months. I want to work with other people who are as passionate about email as I am, and who are better at email than I am. I want to help other people become as passionate about email as I am, and I don’t want to resent my workload so much that I feel less passionate about email. For now, I’m going to focus on finding something that balances my passion for email with my need for work/life balance. I’m going to keep my options open. And I can’t wait.