15th Mar 2013
What are the skills and roles your email marketing programme must possess if it is to prove a success?
Having gone through the laborious process of identifying the most appropriate email marketing vendor and tool, it would be easy to assume that the hard work is done. But your email marketing programme must focus on technology at the expense of talent. To get the most out of your ongoing email marketing initiatives, your business needs to assemble a quality team of knowledgeable professionals.
While the number of professionals in the team is subject to change, as members can perform several roles, there are several specialised skills that it is necessary to ensure are covered within the group.
“One of the key factors that is eternally missing from the majority of large brands is an email marketing strategy,” says Kath Pay, co-founder of Plan to Engage, communications hub chair of the DMA Email Marketing Council. “If you think of all the channels that are available, most have a strategy – but email doesn’t. It’s still viewed as ‘hey it works so let’s just do it’, which is why you end up with so many ad hoc campaigns. But with email getting more budget allocated now, hopefully some of that will go towards more businesses creating an email strategy.”
A strategist will need to lay the foundation for a successful email program, and have a good understanding of how it will fit into the larger context of the business. Aside from creating the overall strategic plan and ensuring that this aligns with other channel strategies, duties could include producing more short-term tactical plans, formulating content of campaigns and managing ongoing campaigns in line with the marketing calendar.
For more on producing an email marketing strategy, see our earlier feature: how to build a better email marketing strategy.
Once the plan is in place, the email concept will need to be put in place, and a designer will need to develop templates for the email messages. This will involve ensuring that the messages will look good across multiple email clients, have a consistent style, and optimise the preview pane.
Steve Kemish, managing director at Cyance Limited and chair of the IDM’s Digital Marketing Council, says: “From a creative point of view, visually it has to be appealing. But the designer also needs to recognise that one of the big problems of email marketing from a spam point of view is that too many emails have more images than text, and there is an HTML-to-text ratio that a lot of spam systems will trap.”
“One of the things that I find isn’t allocated enough to email and is one of the biggest oversights is that it needs an actual copywriter,” says Pay. “Can you imagine a direct mail campaign being sent out and the receptionist writing the copy for it? It’s not going to happen. But it happens continually with email marketing - they’ll just get anyone to write the copy. And the copy is so very important - it is one of the key factors within the actual email itself.”
Kemish adds: “You need someone who gets marketing and the principles of communication. An email needs a subject line that recognises how to use communication, and has a call to action message that is clear and relevant.”
A good writer will reflect the company’s voice in every email, using the voice to engage and promote brand recognition.
Data administration and analytics
“In terms of priority, data has to come first,” says Kemish. “It is pleasing that data is becoming cool again, because it was very much a geeky subject and in the past the people who looked after it perhaps didn’t make it clear to everyone else in the business just how valuable it is. But data should run all of this.”
An administrator will need to manage the email subscriber list, keeping it clean of unsubscribes and duplicate data. But once a campaign has been deployed, stakeholders will also want reports analysing the results, including measuring performance such as open rates and clickthroughs, and identifying trends and anomalies. In addition, work can be done with the bosses to identify segments to better target future messages.
It is vital that all the software and hardware involved in an email campaign run smoothly. There are several components of IT management that concern a campaign: email marketing programs require a technician to manage the administrative functions and connection parameters; mail servers need to be properly configured by an expert, who will also deal with the likes of email-based unsubscribe processing and managing bounces; domain name system configuration requires a professional to ensure uninterrupted email delivery; network security issues also need managing to ensure protection of sensitive data, involving the configuration of separate database connections and mail server connections.
Quality assurance and testing
It is vital that every component of your email campaign is 100% correct before you hit ‘send’. As such, testing every aspect of a campaign, from concept to deployment, is critical. Test plans should be created to ensure that rigorous testing takes place on content, rendering, segments and dynamic components and successes and failures should subsequently be documented.
Usually an email marketing manager will oversee the other various job roles, creating a timeline for resources, collecting the campaign assets such as graphics and copy, and managing the schedule by enforcing deadlines. This person ensures that the project is efficient and successful, and as such is arguably the most crucial role.
Appointing an email marketing program manager is the most important decision you make according to Cara Olson, director of digital direct/eCRM at DEG. “As far as I know, you still can’t get a degree in email marketing, so finding someone solid to run your program can be a daunting task,” she says. In the next feature in this series, she'll explain who and how to hire the best email marketing manager for your business.