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Staffing Your Email Team — 8 Key Roles
Well-run email marketing programs account for as much as 20 percent of a retailer’s online revenue. While some might view that as an aggressive number, I am of the opinion that a fully-developed program, complete with lifecycle messaging, triggered programs, segmentation strategies, abandoned shopping cart series, etc., will drive even more than that.
Whatever the percentage, there is no arguing that email’s contribution is significant, and with this level of revenue on the line it is critical that retailers have a solid team in place to manage and execute this aspect of the business. But what, exactly, should that team look like?
There are eight critical roles that the digital marketing aspect of a business should include. Depending on the size of your business, some of these roles may be shared with other departments or, conversely, some might require multiple associates for adequate execution. And in some cases, an agency or multiple agencies may also augment your team.
As with any other part of a successful business, correctly identifying and cultivating an overall strategy lays the foundation for a successful email program. A Strategist should not only have a solid understanding of the business of email, but should also have a holistic view of the business and be able to identify the proper short- and long-term strategies for your company.
A Strategist’s responsibilities include:
- Creating your company’s an annual strategic plan as it relates to email, while ensuring that it is aligned with overall company goals.
- Producing quarterly plans detailing tactics for that period of time.
- Recommending special projects, segmentation strategies, a testing plan for optimization, and key performance indicators to target.
- Managing ongoing campaigns by coordinating the email calendar with the overall marketing calendar, including monitoring to prevent over-mailing to subscribers.
- Formulating content for the campaigns, including working with merchandising to identify product selection, promotions/offers, copy/content, and subject lines.
- Ensuring the email program aligns with strategies and tactics across channels: social, mobile, web, search engine marketing, retargeting, etc.
After the plan is in place, a Designer will create the email concept, taking care to align it with strategy and larger company branding. Your Designer should be well-versed in designing for email, including optimizing for the preview pane, for images blocked, and the ability to build the campaign in “old school” HTML or in-line CSS styles.
- Designing the creative concept(s).
- Accommodating any variations for segments, languages, or testing.
- Optimizing individual graphics to build the campaign.
- Ensuring adherence to brand standards.
- Overseeing consistency in style across all channels.
3. Production Specialist
Once the concept is approved, the email is ready for production. Depending on the size of your organization and marketing team, your Production Specialist may also be your Creative resource.
- Building the HTML and in-line CSS of the email.
- Testing rendering across multiple email clients and ISPs (Outlook, Google, Hotmail, etc.).
- Performing quality assurance testing.
4. Business Analyst
Smart, relevant email campaigns require data — the more the better. A Business Analyst bridges the gap between a Strategist and the Developers to translate marketing goals into an actionable plan. Your Business Analyst should be well-versed in the Email Service Provider (ESP) platform, its capabilities, requirements, limitations, and data structure.
- Meeting with key stakeholders to understand the project’s goals and measurements.
- Estimating projects and writing project plans or statements of work for approval.
- Documenting the solution and data integrations via a functional requirements document.
- Interacting across departments and teams to ensure the project’s success.
Once the functional requirements have been written, you may need a developer to complete data integrations, write queries resulting for appropriate segmentation, or code dynamic elements. Depending on the size of your organization and team, your Developer may also perform the Production Specialist role or be closely integrated with it. Depending on the complexity of your digital marketing programs you may have a team of Developers.
- Executing the functional requirements document as part of the project plan.
- Performing quality assurance testing to ensure appropriate segments, content, and data are resulting in expected cases.
- Understanding and integrating with the ESP’s API and its technical capabilities.
- Coding highly dynamic content based on relational data from third party systems (eCommerce, analytics, CRM, etc.).
- Creating data flow diagrams to ensure data integrity and immediacy.
6. Quality Assurance
Perhaps the most critical component of an email campaign is ensuring it is 100% correct before it deploys. Unlike a webpage where an error can be corrected immediately and republished, the content of an email is forever.
Furthermore, with data integrity on the line and privacy practices under scrutiny, the dynamic components of a campaign must be accurate. Testing all stages of an email campaign’s development from concept to build to deployment is a necessity. Some organizations and teams will have a resource entirely dedicated to Quality Assurance, but at a bare minimum you should have multiple eyes from multiple functions on every message prior to deployment.
- Creating test plans for special projects and ongoing campaigns.
- Performing rigorous testing of the campaign, focusing on content, rendering, segments, dynamic components, and deployment efficiencies.
- Documenting the success or failure of a campaign’s testing and re-testing
- Identifying opportunities and proposing solutions to automate processes, eliminating the risk of human error
7. Data Analytics
Once a campaign has deployed, the Strategist and key stakeholders will want to know how it performed. Depending on the size of the organization and team, this role will likely serve more than just email, performing data analysis across multiple channels.
- Performing measurement against campaigns deployed in comparison to previously established key performance indicators.
- Identifying trends and anomalies for further investigation.
- Appending additional data and cleansing records as needed.
- Collaborating with the Strategist to define subscriber segments for better targeted future messaging.
8. Project Management
Email marketing is very often deployed quickly to meet a competitive opportunity or challenge. To execute campaigns effectively in a small window requires a Project Manager or Traffic Manager — someone to keep the process on schedule, keeping the project’s momentum and ensuring that no corners are cut.
- Scheduling the above resources for appropriate times.
- Collecting assets for a campaign (graphics, copy, links, etc.).
- Creating project timelines for all resources.
- Cross-function communications regarding project status and challenges.
- Scheduling meetings as appropriate.
- Enforcing timelines.
Wow. I Don’t Have 8 People On My Email Team.
Each role above varies in its volume of hours and is dependent on the sophistication and complexity of a company’s email program. In today’s economic climate, most companies are running a lean team, where one or more of the roles above are performed by a single individual or outsourced to an agency (most likely Creative and Production).
In some cases a Campaign Manager at a company may perform as many as four roles (Strategy, Quality Assurance, Data Analytics and Project Management). Maybe your Graphic Designer performs Creative and Production, or your Developer acts as the Business Analyst.
And not only that, but these folks are frequently also working on more than just your email program — they’re also covering website projects, banner ads, affiliate programs, social media, and more. That’s the reality of our business climate, and it’s workable as long as you have someone somewhere covering these key responsibilities specific to your email program.
Prove That Email Is Worth The Investment In Resources
Part of the Strategist’s role includes showing the return on investment of the email programs to justify additional resources. Email continues to be the most cost-effective channel for driving sales, with triggered programs continuing to drive the most value and revenue. That’s the goal, to drive value and revenue, but to get there it is important to get the time your team needs to perform in these roles and establish the program.
I’ll put it this way: Teams that neglect one or more of these roles will find themselves walking in place with their email marketing, focusing only on getting emails out the door and not taking the time to analyze, plan and measure, and missing opportunity after opportunity.
Teams that dedicate time to these eight roles will continually innovate and brings value through their email program. It’s the difference between thinking the aforementioned 20 percent is too high and knowing that it’s too low.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.