Here’s how to build a successful email marketing team


Will Pearson

Every brand knows that email marketing is important, but it never seems to get the proper attention that it deserves. Brands receive an ROI of 42 times their initial investment when properly managing their email marketing campaigns, yet companies remain reluctant to commit to it.

As a founder or senior executive, you have a lot of options when it comes to how best to build your email marketing program. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is figuring out when you need to hand management of the program over to another person or team. You might have been able to manage it yourself at first, but other projects will inevitably get in the way, and you’ll no longer have the time. What then?

Know when to take email off your plate

Most early stage founders manage email themselves. They send emails whenever they want to announce a promotion or a new product update and don’t think about it otherwise. As your brand grows and scales, however, failing to invest in email marketing has costs. You’ll miss opportunities to continually nurture your audience, offer personalized recommendations, and better understand your customers, among other things.

If you feel like you’re missing out on these kinds of benefits, it’s time to take email off of your plate and make a bigger investment in your program. But how do you do that?

Consider an agency or freelancer first

You can easily find countless digital marketing agencies, and many will offer email services. Some agencies even focus 100 percent on email marketing. Between agencies and freelancers, you should be able to source a low-cost, low-commitment way to really get started with email marketing.

Although giving up control of a highly visible channel like email to an outsider may be stressful, hiring an expert should actually ease your mind. They will ensure your emails are on-brand, and as long as you’re helping to provide direction on content and timing, you should instantly see an uptick in activity from your customers.

Some agencies and freelancers charge monthly retainers, while others may charge on a per-project or per-hour basis. Do some research and speak to a few well-regarded options before locking yourself into a contract, allowing yourself time to understand the pros and cons of the different structures. For example, if you need someone constantly on-call, devoted to thinking about your business, perhaps a monthly retainer is the way to go. If you just need some very specific work done a few times a month, perhaps an hourly freelancer would be best. Whatever your needs, you should be able to find a freelancer or an agency that can provide a range of services.

Know when to go in-house

If you’ve been outsourcing your email program, you may find that your freelancer setup is no longer sustainable as your company scales up. It’s possible you hired a freelancer or an agency that can only take you so far. They aren’t in internal meetings, and they’re only working a few hours a week for you.

Perhaps you hired a full-time designer to revamp your brand and your website, and you realize the emails are still using the old branding. When you ask your freelancer to update email templates accordingly, you find they just cannot match the branding efforts your own internal designer made. The issue is that your designer is working so hard on the new website and new products that they don’t have time to update all of your emails. Maybe now is the time to explore some full-time email help.

No matter how strong your outsourced solution is, eventually you will need to put together an in-house email marketing team. Keep an eye out for a couple of signs it’s time to think about making a full-time, internal email marketing hire:

  1. Projects are being stalled by internal delays
  2. Website branding and content are being updated, but emails aren’t
  3. Email metrics are decreasing

In the cases above, it is likely your outsourced solution is not receiving enough information about internal priorities to be able to make an impact. They may rely on your engineering team, for example, to push some data into the email service provider, but engineering has dozens of priorities and is not reminded of the email because they’re not in internal meetings. Or, new designs and logos are not being communicated to the team.

When these things are happening, it’s time to explore hiring an email marketing generalist, whose main responsibility is to project manage internally in order to keep the email program moving. This person should have some previous email marketing experience and, though they’re not necessarily a designer or developer themselves, they can at least update some email designs and templates occasionally. If you find the right person, she can then update your existing emails to be on-brand while also moving other projects forward.

You hired the generalist. Now what?

Now that you’ve brought on someone who is managing the program effectively, you may realize it’s time to scale up your program. Some signs to indicate that scaling is necessary is when you start seeing some new email tests working in converting new users and retention, but your one-person team doesn’t have the ability to add as many initiatives as you have planned. When you know there are initiatives that are going to work, but you can’t implement them quickly, it’s time to add to the team. If you’re trying to build a scalable email marketing program, consider adding designers and developers that are 100 percent focused on email marketing.

Watch the growth

As your email program grows, it’s important to ensure the team has the resources necessary to succeed. Because email is often so undervalued, it’s easy to miss the signs that your team is understaffed and not able to focus on the right things. Follow the above steps, hire slowly and thoughtfully, and you’ll see your program thrive.

This piece was originally published on Built In.

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