Email best practices

The ultimate guide to building your email marketing team

Looking to build your email marketing team? Here’s a detailed guide to structuring your team, the roles you need to hire, how much it will cost you and more.

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Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” The same should go for your email strategy.

Building an email team is never an easy undertaking, but get it right and it will let you tap into the full potential of your email marketing channel. You’ll be able to establish and fine-tune processes, nurture in-house talent, and build a list of email subscribers that help you generate revenue.

You’re probably thinking: but how many people do you need in your email marketing team? What roles should they have? Can you outsource the whole operation and see the same results? You can relax, because in this guide we’ll explore all these questions and run through the fundamentals of building an effective email team. 

Should you build an in-house email team?

Email marketing can generate £42 ($57.95) for every £1 ($1.38) spent. However, to start getting that kind of return on investment (ROI), you will need a great email marketing strategy and a qualified team to implement it. Before we get into the team’s functions, roles, and structure, let’s discuss outsourcing vs. having an in-house team.

When it comes to email marketing, 49% of organizations outsource part of their email marketing functions, 12% outsource the whole channel, and 39% depend on in-house teams.

Most Fortune 500 companies have in-house teams and outsource part of the work to agencies because they can afford to do so. Meanwhile, small and mid-sized companies often rely on agencies because of limited resources.

Just by looking at the numbers, you can see that those who can afford to build an in-house email marketing team do so. However, it’s not a bad idea to outsource if you don’t have the budget to build an entire team.

Should you hire specialists or generalists for your email team?

When building an email marketing team, you will come across two types of job candidates: generalists and specialists.

You can choose to hire generalists and then outsource specialized work or to build a team full of in-house specialists, or you might combine both approaches. But whichever route you take will impact your team’s ability to execute your marketing strategy, so it’s important to have a clear idea of your needs before making hiring decisions.

Hire generalists if you want to keep some email marketing functions in-house and outsource the rest

An email marketing generalist is someone who can do anything, from creating a strategy to making segments and templates in your email marketing tool.

Generalists are adaptable, can multi-task, and often turn into future leaders. However, they will need training from specialists if you want them to level up quickly and handle complex and technical issues.

If you are planning to merge some functions/roles together (such as the same person taking on the role of strategist and copywriter), or you want your in-house resources to work with an email marketing agency, hiring a generalist is a good idea. You should also hire generalists if you want to transition from a completely outsourced email marketing program to one managed internally. Generalists are also great in situations where you are just getting started with email marketing and/or your needs are fairly simple.

Hire specialists if you want to move all your email marketing functions in-house

An email marketing specialist is an expert in one aspect of email marketing. This could be a copywriter who specializes in writing promotional and educational emails or a strategist who specializes in creating and optimizing email strategy, for example.

Specialists help you avoid trial and error since they are highly skilled and experienced in their niche and know exactly what works and what doesn’t. They can hit the ground running and can help you tackle high complex issues from day one. You should hire specialists if you want to scale your email marketing program quickly. The downside of hiring specialists is that you will not be able to merge any email marketing functions together and will need individual resources for individual functions.

5 roles and functions to form your email marketing team

The structure will vary based on your requirements and preferences, but you will need to fill five roles in your email team: 

  • Strategist

  • Designer

  • Copywriter

  • Developer

  • Data engineer

All of these roles can be performed by one or more generalists. Or, you can hire specialists for each role or any combination of the two. It depends on your objectives and available resources. For an in-house team, we recommend hiring these five specialists:

1. The email strategist: to create an object-driven plan

The email strategist will devise the plan and the overarching strategy that helps you achieve your objectives. Generally, an email strategist is responsible for planning, organizing, leading, and evaluating your email marketing campaigns. They work with multiple stakeholders from within and outside the team to plan automated and manual campaigns.

An email marketing strategist must have the following skills:

  • Tech-savviness with the ability to adapt to new marketing automation tools

  • A data-driven approach and an analytical mind

  • In-depth knowledge of databases and segmentation

  • Proficient in local and international regulations related to email, including GDPR in the EU CAN-SPAM in the U.S. and CASL in Canada

  • Skilled in project management 

Some of the soft skills that email strategists should have include communication, adaptability, and creativity. If you are planning to hire an email marketing strategist, it will cost you between $61k and $110k, depending on their level of experience. You can also outsource this function to an email marketing agency, which will cost you $125 to $200 per hour, which roughly translates to $46,800 per year at 24 hours per month.

In most cases, outsourcing this role to an agency will be cheaper. However, your strategy will make or break the whole operation, so we recommend hiring an in-house resource for this role.

2. The copywriter: to craft engaging emails

The copywriter creates compelling copy to captivate and convert. The copywriter is responsible for writing emails that get your message across to your customers and prospects and get them to engage with your brand (such as clicking a link, signing up for a webinar, making a purchase, etc.).

An email copywriter needs to have the following skills:

  • In-depth understanding of the conversion funnel

  • Expertise in creating content for users at each level of the conversion funnel

  • The ability to write both educational and promotional content 

Some of the soft skills that an email copywriter should have include communication, creativity, and time management.

Hiring an in-house copywriter will cost you roughly $62k per year. Outsourcing this function to an agency or a freelancer can cost you less (anywhere from $10 an hour to $60 an hour or more), but the total cost depends on the number of hours and the amount of copy you need.

3. The email designer: to create brand-appropriate layouts and templates

The designer takes the email copy and creates the layout and graphics to go with it. A professional designer ensures brand consistency by creating emails that reflect your style and can also increase engagement through eye-catching design.

Some of the technical skills needed for this role include:

  • Experience with Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign)

  • In-depth knowledge of the latest trends and techniques used in design

  • Ability to work with new technologies and adapt to all types of marketing automation tools

Besides being creative, a designer needs the ability to think like the user, so they can create templates that convert.

Hiring an in-house email designer will cost you roughly $61k per year. You can also outsource this role by hiring an agency or a freelancer for this role at $20 per hour to $100 per hour or more.

4. The email developer: to build responsive email templates

The developer takes the aforementioned design and turns it into an HTML version that’s responsive, i.e., it adjusts images, buttons, and other design elements to be compatible with different devices and screen sizes.

Some of the technical skills for email developers include:

  • Proficiency in HTML and CSS, and JavaScript

  • Proficiency in SQL and Python

You can hire a front-end developer for this role because email marketing is essentially a user-facing skill and doesn't require back-end development chops. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are a big plus for this role because the developer will often need to communicate with the designer and other members of the team. Our developer will need to  explain to them in non-technical terms why some things can work and others can’t.

Hiring an in-house email developer will cost you approximately $73k per year. Hiring a freelancer or an agency for this role will cost you anywhere between $50-$120 per hour. We recommend hiring an in-house developer for this role if  there will be multiple email campaigns every month, as the hours with the freelancer or agency will end up costing you more.

5. The data engineer: to create segments, evaluate performance, and identify trends

You need this role to maintain the integrity of your database of email subscribers and to keep an eye on different metrics, such as sender reputation, delivery rate, open rate, click-through rate, hard bounces, and unsubscribe rate. The email data engineer is responsible for creating algorithms that make data more useful for decision-making, as well as finding patterns and trends from your email data.

They should be proficient in:

  • Programming languages such as Python, as well as SQL and NoSQL databases

  • Business analytics platforms such as Databox to create visual representations of processed data

The email data engineer will work closely with the strategist to find solutions and tweak strategy as needed. Hiring a good resource for this role will cost you approximately $94k per year. Hiring a consultant for this role will cost $200 to $350 per hour. If you are on a limited budget and your strategist has a good eye for data trends, we recommend you use a consultant for this role.

How to structure an effective email marketing team

Having a team structure that works for your organization is important because it gives everyone clearly defined roles and objectives. Here’s what you can do to determine the structure of your email marketing team.

Determine your budget

Your budget will help you settle the in-house vs. agency debate and determine how many roles you can afford to fill. We have discussed the annual salaries for each role in the previous section. If we add things up, you are looking at $350k to $400k per year in salaries for a total of five new employees. These five employees will add tremendous value to your organization, but if you don’t have an additional $400k, you might want to merge some roles together or hire agencies or freelancers for some of the roles.

Decide whether some roles can and should overlap (or be merged together)

While we recommend hiring specialists, you can merge some of the roles together to make things work within your budget:

  • If your strategist can also write copy, you can merge the strategist and the copywriter functions in a new role.

  • If your copywriter can work with standard templates in email automation tools, you can give them the responsibility of setting up and sending out campaigns.

  • You can also use full-stack developers and data engineers from other departments of your organization for a few hours every week.

In short, even if you don’t hire five specialists, you will have to find a way to fulfill their roles by merging some roles, borrowing resources from other departments, or hiring contractors.

Determine reporting structures

For your email marketing team, you can use one of the following:

If you go with a functional structure, you can have the copywriter, data engineer, designer, and developer report to the strategist, and the strategist can report to you. This applies to an all-in-house team as well as a team where some resources are in-house and the rest are contractors (freelancers, agencies, or consultants).

Some of the benefits of a functional structure include better productivity, improved efficiency, and scalability. Some of the drawbacks include slowness in adapting to change and reduced communication with other departments.

If you go with a hybrid structure, you can pretty much borrow all the resources from other departments except for the email strategist. Your copywriter and designer can come from another marketing team. You can ask someone from the software department to help with development and maybe get the data engineer from accounts and finance.

Some of the benefits of a hybrid structure include speed, flexibility, and adaptability. The biggest drawback is that there will be conflicting priorities for shared resources. As a marketing leader, you may ask the developer to work on the latest email templates while their reporting manager asks them to work on something else that is equally urgent.

We recommend using a functional structure, but you can also make a hybrid structure work as long as you get other stakeholders from the company on board.

Identify gaps and explore options to outsource

There are always new things happening in the world of marketing, and even specialists have to keep their skills up to date through certifications and training. You can identify skills gaps by creating a list of skills needed for each role and then comparing those skills with the ones your employees have.

If anyone on your team is lacking in some skills, you can sign them up for the relevant courses and certification training.

If you need to, you can take any of the five roles and outsource it, or you can hire contractors to audit your strategy, design, copy, etc., and give you advice for improvement.

The standard email marketing workflow

Having a workflow is important because it helps you streamline regularly repeated tasks. You can use the following as a template and develop your own workflow with time.

Integrate your email marketing tool with your CRM

Your customer relationship manager (CRM) serves as your centralized customer database management system for all teams that interact with customers. This means your marketing, sales, customer support, and any other customer-facing team uses your CRM in some capacity and interacts with it daily.

Integrating your email marketing tool with your CRM is a one-time task that you’ll need to do when you start using new email automation software. This will help you maintain data integrity across all channels.

Assess historical data

Once your email marketing software is integrated with your CRM, it’s time to come up with a strategy. Studying historical data and identifying wins and missed opportunities will help you predict what will work in future campaigns.

For example, your historical data may show that your plain text emails had a better delivery rate compared to your HTML emails or that subject lines with certain keywords got a better open rate. This knowledge will then help you form the strategy for the future.

Develop a campaign strategy

From your segmentation and messaging to the design, everything depends on your strategy. Here’s how you can develop a successful email marketing strategy:

  • Define your objectives and determine KPIs.

  • Build and segment your email list.

  • Create a message map for each segment.

  • Conduct A/B tests for each segment.

  • Map automated user-triggered campaigns.

  • Craft  automated drip campaigns.

  • Plan manual campaigns.

  • Create an email marketing roadmap.

Some of these bullet points are tasks that you will do maybe once a quarter or once a year. For example, your objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) will rarely change during a quarter, and maybe you will identify new use cases for automated campaigns when a new product is launched. You will, however, keep making changes to your templates, messaging, and sending strategy as you continue to learn from your ongoing campaigns.

With your email automation tool integrated with your CRM and a strategy in place, your team will have everything they need to start creating templates and copy for every email.

Create a style guide and make a few basic templates

At this stage of the workflow, your designer needs to work with your strategist to create a style guide. Your style guide will contain information on the typography, colors, and images consistent with your brand. Your designer should also make a few basic templates for newsletters, webinar invites, and other emails that will go out every month.

Write the copy

The email copy, starting from the subject line to the body of the email and the call to action, will determine the engagement rates you will get. Your email copywriter will need information on your buyer personas and segments, your unique selling propositions, and the objectives you are trying to achieve with every email to create copy that converts.

Develop the HTML version of the email

With most email automation tools, you can build templates within the tool without any need for coding and development. However, in some cases, you will need your developer to jump in and place custom code in your emails.

Test and validate your email campaigns

Before sending out email campaigns to any segment, it’s a good idea to send them to a test group within the company to get their feedback. There’s always that one typo or image that doesn’t load properly. Testing your email campaigns before sending them out to the masses helps you make sure your email subscribers see the email as intended.

Approve your emails and start sending

After getting feedback from the test group, your email strategist will approve the email, and you can go live with the campaign.

Once the email is live, you can monitor your open rate, click-through rate, etc., and go back to assessing historical data when planning new campaigns.

Essential tools for email teams

Your email marketing team will need communication tools, production tools, and project management tools in addition to your email automation tools to accomplish their tasks. For communication and project management, your email marketing team will use the same technology stack that’s used by the rest of the company.

Tools for creation/production

These tools are needed to write emails, create designs and custom images, and maybe even workshop the structure and ideas for nurture campaigns. Some of the common tools used for this purpose include:

  • Microsoft 365

  • Google Docs

  • Adobe Photoshop 

Your designer, developer, and copywriter will inform you about the tools they are most comfortable with to accomplish their tasks. Your data engineer may also need access to Apache Hadoop, MS SQL Server, MongoDB, and similar systems, as well as data visualization tools such as Power BI and Tableau.

Email collaboration and automation tools

This is where you house your email templates and test, set up, and launch campaigns. Everyone from your email marketing team will need access to your email marketing automation software. There are plenty of options in the market, you can sign up for demos and free trials and see which one suits your email marketing team.

Give your email team a competitive advantage with Mailjet

No matter how you choose to structure your team, they will need an email marketing platform for all the automated and manual campaigns. Mailjet by Sinch is a user-friendly, feature-rich platform that you can integrate with your CRM, maintain a clean and segmented email list, design templates, create and send automated and manual campaigns, and monitor analytics. Mailjet makes life easier for your entire marketing team.

Mailjet

Advanced roles and permissions for your team members

Whether your team is big or small, you can work from the same Mailjet account.

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