One sign it’s time to hire an email marketer: reading email marketing reports gives you FOMO.
Email is one of the highest-ROI digital marketing channels out there, with an average ROI of $42 for every $1 invested, a Litmus report estimates.
The pandemic has only made it more powerful. Branded email sends and open rates jumped in 2020, according to a Campaign Monitor report: send volume increased 7%, and the average open rate jumped 13%, with some companies seeing open rates as high as 85%.
Those numbers beg the question: if you don’t currently have a newsletter with decent open rates, do you have a business at all?
We’re joking — but only because a robust email marketing strategy requires more than an email newsletter.
The brands that see the highest ROI from email marketing use CRMs with email capabilities — think Hubspot, or Salesforce — or high-powered email marketing software with sophisticated data analytics — think Mailchimp and Klaviyo.
They also use A/B testing to constantly optimize their email content, email design and any landing pages they link out to.
That’s more than most DIY email marketers can handle — so brands often turn to specialists to make the most of this complex channel.
But how do you know when to invest in an email marketer? We asked three experts in the field to walk us through signs it's time to hire — and their ideal hiring process.
- Tracey Wallace, director of marketing at MarketerHire
- Chris Johnson, a freelance email marketer who increased his revenue 5x in 10 months with MarketerHire
- Preeti Kelapure, an email marketer who started in email “before there were blog posts about it.”
- ...plus a cameo from Melanie Balke, founder of and CEO of The Email Marketers
Why it’s worth investing in an email marketing expert
Email marketing is often misunderstood. Some C-suite executives don’t want to pay a professional to write emails for their company — because we all know how email works, right?
“It’s one thing to be able to put some images together and hit send,” Johnson said. But “a good email marketer should be able to look at the results of that email, and… build off of good results and learn from bad results.”
"It's one thing to be able to put some images together and hit send. A good email marketer should be able to... build off good results."
Not only that — an expert email marketer has the skills to design email marketing automations, run retention campaigns that lift customer LTV, and even customize email templates with CSS and HTML edits.
Just by looking at an email catalogued on MailCharts, Wallace can usually tell who has a team of professionals and who’s writing their brand’s email marketing campaigns at home, after hours.
“It’s visually clear who’s doing well and who is doing not so well, who’s A/B testing things and who is not, who has really focused on copywriting,” she said.
Wallace learned email marketing on the fly, but she recommends that brands who take it seriously hire a professional.
“It’s like tapping into a hive mind of people who get it,” she said.
Signs it’s time to hire an expert email marketer
Most companies don’t want to spend money until they have to — even when it comes to a moneymaker like email marketing.
So… is now the right time to hire an expert?
Our sources pointed to the most common signs that it would be worth your while.
1. You’re starting from square one.
Many companies hire Johnson “because they have no idea what email marketing is,” he said.
If you work at a startup or small business that hasn't yet launched email marketing program, now might actually be the best time to talk with an email marketer.
Companies without an established email marketing program are able to start with best practices — whereas companies that have been dabbling in emails for a few years can be set in their ways, even if their ways are money pits.
A clean slate “makes doing [my] job a lot easier,” Johnson said.
2. Your open rates are low.
If you want people to read your emails, you need them to open them first.
Open rates are “a big thing,” Johnson said — because they’re one of the best proxies for readership available.
As you start to think about hiring an email marketer, it’s worth checking your open rates against industry benchmarks to know if your brand is in line.
Sites like Campaign Monitor can help you understand typical open rates in your industry.
The average open rate across industries is 18%, according to Campaign Monitor — but if you’re in media, financial services or the nonprofit sector, you should aim higher.
3. Your emails aren’t converting.
Done right, email marketing’s impact is easy to track, even on the privacy-first web.
That’s because it gives you first party data — customer data you own. You should be able to use that to ask subscribers relevant questions and measurably propel them through the customer journey.
The goal: “to get down to that truly personal, one-to-one message that finally gets that customer to take an action,” Wallace said.
In other words: Your emails should be powerful lead generation engines and translate, ultimately, into revenue.
Balke’s rule of thumb: If email marketing doesn’t account for at least 30% of your total revenue, something’s wrong.
4. You don’t know if your emails are converting.
If email conversion rates are a black box to you, you’re not alone.
At first, many of Johnson’s clients “have no idea how their emails are actually performing.”
See, the customer data that comes with email marketing is both a blessing and a curse. More data can translate into effective automations and personalization — but first, all that data has to be aggregated and tracked across different platforms, including your ESP and Google Analytics.
That takes time and analytical savvy.
Kelapure often notices that brands don’t collect all the data they could (and should).
“If you notice that a lot of the data to segment and target off of into personalization doesn't exist,” Kelapure said, “that can be limiting.”
5. Your emails are going to spam.
The spam folder is where emails to go die, unread and alone.
If your emails are going to spam, you might need to avoid spam trigger words and phrases — like “100% free” — or clean your contact list.
But the issue could go deeper. You might have an IP address problem that’s tanking your deliverability to one inbox — or all of them.
“[Different inboxes] have different algorithms for how they decide if your email lands in the inbox,” Wallace explained. “So you might be landing just fine in Gmail, but nobody who's using Outlook is getting your emails.”
Email marketing specialists understand the mechanics of email, and can teach you best practices for avoiding the spam folder.
6. Your email marketing program is growing.
The final, most fun reason to hire an email marketer: Nothing’s wrong, but you’re realizing that you need help on optimization.
“Some people have figured out what email is and can do the basics,” Johnson said. “But the next level of growth and expansion just is out of their grasp.”
"Some people... can do the basics. But the next level of growth and expansion just is out of their grasp."
This is a great reason to hire an expert. If your company is already on the upswing without an email marketing consultant, imagine how a professional could supercharge your growth.
How to hire an expert email marketing manager
If you’re already heading up a company or marketing department, you’ve probably written plenty of job descriptions and conducted plenty of interviews.
Email marketing is a specialized field, though, and adding a few key steps to your hiring process can ensure you get a hire who can hit your goals — and that your goals make sense in the first place.
Here’s what our experts recommend.
Prioritize your email marketing projects.
To start, Wallace recommends writing a literal list of the email marketing services you need the most.
Do you need to build out nurture streams? Untangle a deliverability snafu? Launch an SMS program?
Next, prioritize ruthlessly. Which projects are most important to your business? Which ones can wait?
This will help you sketch out a job description, set a realistic timeline for your email program, and figure out headcount.
Determine KPIs for this role.
How will you measure your email marketer’s performance? Establishing KPIs will help you build out interview questions and communicate your goals clearly.
Email marketers will likely have some data to demonstrate their success. They assess things like open rates and click rates on the job, and should be able to tell you how they impacted those metrics in past roles.
Over the course of her work, for example, Kelapure measures “the basics” for each send. Things like:
- deliverability rate
- open rate
- click-through rate
- unsubscribe rate
- spam rate
- hard bounce rate
However, it’s also smart for you to establish the bigger-picture KPIs you want to see rise over time. Think: a growing subscriber base, increased customer lifetime value (LTV), or improved deliverability.
Setting measurable goals, and discussing them up front with candidates, helps avoid mismatched expectations and general mess.
Land on a budget.
If you want to hire an expert, plan to pay $70-$150 hourly — MarketerHire’s typical range — or a salary of about $105k, per Glassdoor.
Decide on the type of role.
You could hire someone full-time, but you could also work with an email marketing freelancer or a marketing agency. Every company’s needs are a little different.
Can you afford a full-time hire? Do you feel confident you’ll need this role on your marketing team in six months — or six years?
“If your budget is smaller, and you have quick, specific projects that you need to get up and running, then [freelance] may be the way to go,” said Kelapure.
If you start with a contractor “assessing the lay of the land and putting together a roadmap,” she added, you can always bring them on full-time later, once you’re confident you have a long-term need.
Create a job description.
A lot of marketing job descriptions are too broad, and could land you a generalist with minimal email experience.
Experts know what they can and can’t do – and what resources they need. So before you post, run your JD past some experts to make sure it’s sufficiently specific.
For example: Make sure you include the ESP you’re currently using in the job description. “Not everyone has experience with all of them,” Wallace explained.
But how will you be able to tell if they know what they are talking about?
Platforms like MarketerHire pre-vet candidates for you, but if you’re doing the vetting yourself, here are a few questions to ask:
- What email marketing platforms and tools have you used before?
- What are your thoughts on email list cleanliness?
- How do you feel about cold outreach? (Only ask about this if cold campaigns are important to your business.)
- What do you know about email deliverability? How would you solve a spam problem?
- What email marketing workflows have you built in the past?
- How do you structure your reports? How often do you plan to report back on email performance?
Last but not least: Wallace recommends asking “What parts of email marketing are most important?”
If a candidate tells you A/B testing, email deliverability, or HTML isn’t important, that’s a red flag. “Any email marketer who says that that’s not important is wrong,” she said.
Test their skill set.
When Wallace interviews email marketers, she gives them a three-hour paid test where candidates have to design an email program and — very importantly — explain their process.
Ask for a skeleton. Wallace doesn’t have candidates actually write emails for her. Instead, she asks them to outline a series of emails to welcome new customers.
She wants to know: “Who is [the email] coming from?... What’s the CTA? What’s the point that you want to get across?”
See if they ask for more information. Wallace gives candidates some background information about the company and their list size — and says she’ll offer more upon request.
“Some people ask for a bunch more information, and that’s probably a good sign,” she said. The most skilled email marketers look for as many data points as they can get.
Have them explain why. The most important part of the test is to see how an email marketer thinks, and make sure they’re considering segmentation testing, and automations.
“I need to make sure they can logic through a problem,” Wallace said. “Their writing’s not going to matter if they can’t do that.”
"I need to make sure they can logic through a problem. Their writing's not going to matter if they can't do that."
If you’re on the fence about hiring an email marketer, it might make sense to have a consultant in and do an audit on your company’s email program.
This can kill two birds with one stone: You find out where the gaps in your program are, and find out if the marketer you’re talking with is right for you.
Most great email marketers start with an audit, anyway. It “quickly identifies areas that need work,” Kelapure said.
It’s easy to meet an email marketer through MarketerHire — get started today.