Inspired by my recent reading of The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Ben Horowitz’s depiction of what makes a good product manager, I decided to take a stab at defining an email marketer in the same way. Here’s my take on things.
A good email marketer first works to understand the business they serve meticulously by understanding their positioning in the marketplace, unit economics, key metrics that drive eCommerce growth (CAC, CLV, MER, etc) before obsessing over channel-specific metrics. A bad email marketer first looks to optimise channel metrics and learns about the business reactively based on the impact of their strategy having not done their due diligence.
A good email marketer deeply inspects the businesses tech stack and integrations before making any sweeping changes to the CRM infrastructure that will lead to cumbersome development changes. A bad email marketer has preferred software out-of-the-box that they try to shoehorn into the ESP, irrespective of whether it’s a good fit or not for the business. In this sense, a good email marketer needs to be software agnostic, as the business needs to be well versed to succeed long after they leave the business, and success should not be dependent on their preferred tech stack.
A good email marketer will analyse the sending infrastructure and domain reputation before a single email is sent because they understand that if their messages don’t hit the inbox, then the proposed strategy counts for little. A bad email marketer dives head first into sending emails and scrambles to fix deliverability issues after the damage has already been inflicted.
A good email marketer creates an automation strategy that holistically covers the customer journey, from pre-purchase consideration, post-purchase onboarding to churn risk in a data-driven manner that’s qualified with research. A bad email marketer uses a templated approach that is not validated by data but instead follows “best practices” from other accounts they’ve worked on.
A good email marketer creates a messaging hierarchy for each stage of the customer journey that draws upon qualitative insights from customers and is heavily based on research. They then strategically insert key messages into all the relevant touch-points to not only maximise conversions but simultaneously provide a great customer experience. A bad email marketer defaults to “Welcome to the family” concepts in the Welcome Flow; “We Miss you” in the Winback flow; and “You left something behind” in the Abandoned Cart Flow. They do not craft contextual messaging based on the brand’s positioning but instead use generic soundbites that they’ve repeatedly used across dozens of other brands.
A good email marketer looks at list growth through the lens of quality over quantity. A bad email marketer looks for quantity over quality and then shouts about these vanity metrics without showcasing an ROI. In order to showcase their worth, expect the bad email marketer to deepen the discount incentive to expedite list growth even further, without an understanding of the damage this may do to a brand in the customer’s perceived value or the long-term implications for profitability of the company.
A good email marketer strategically builds signup forms to include zero-party data capture that can shape the whole customer journey and unlock meaningful insights to improve acquisition efforts and every single message within the welcome flow and future segmentation. They understand that capturing these insights as far as possible up the funnel gives them the best chance for success when progressively profiling customers to drive the brand forward. A bad email marketer offers a 10% discount code in return for an email and if they’re feeling bullish, SMS consent. They then try to progressively profile at low points of engagement which doesn’t move the needle in any meaningful way as the opportunity has been missed.
A good email marketer knows that the highest leverage they can get from A/B testing comes in signup forms, welcome flows, abandoned carts and post-purchase flows, as well as campaigns. They prioritise testing these elements as they know they have the highest volume of data to work with, can reach statistical significance and can genuinely impact the businesses bottom line in a meaningful way. They are diligent in their tracking and applying the learning in a way that leads to continuous self-improvement. A bad email marketer sets up far too many tests, can’t track them efficiently, and their tests seldom reach statistical significance due to overreaching or testing the wrong things at disengaged parts of the customer journey. They get frustrated with their tests so abandon the idea of utilising them in future or simply let redundant tests run indefinitely without any clear end goal.
A good email marketer works to increase revenue within the parameters of the client’s business goals holistically. A bad email marketer will use deeper discount incentives to increase revenue, irrespective of the consequences to the client’s business.
A good email marketer has a strong segmentation strategy that maximises the reach of their messaging to recipients within the database, while simultaneously preserving the sender reputation of the brand. They will expand the net strategically and only during key periods of opportunity, as they know the long-term consequences of overreaching can set the business back months and millions in lost revenue. A bad email marketer will either A) cast the widest net possible continuously, or B) over-segment to the point where they annihilate ROI, and double or triple resource allocation within the company, significantly increasing costs. This is a poor mistake that stems from a lack of operational understanding of business costs and resource management and is optimised for channel metrics and not business goals.
A good email marketer creates a marketing calendar that is aligned to the client’s omni-channel strategy. A bad email marketer creates a marketing calendar to maximise channel performance and is neglectful of other activities within the business. They work to optimise their own ego at the expense of the company’s gains.
A good email marketer understands the nuances behind seasonality, acquisition and unit economics when it comes to reporting on revenue, and despite the immense complexities in reporting on this accurately, do their best to add as much context as possible to account for fluctuations. A bad email marketer lacks business fundamentals to understand these variables, and instead will double down on creating offers at the expense of margin to ramp up revenue. They are enslaved to arbitrary numbers without meaning, so will see a dip in acquisition as a chance to drive up email revenue further and then pat themselves on the back for the job that they’ve done.
A good email marketer reports on objectives beyond revenue, including the results of their A/B testing, the qualitative research they’ve collected, zero-party data, and UGC. They are deeply integrated with the omnichannel strategy and consistently working to harmonise their strategy with other departments within the brick-and-mortar or eCommerce business. A bad email marketer reports solely on revenue and does not believe it’s important to become integrated with other channels and instead operate in a silo.
A good email marketer understands that when it comes to increasing campaign frequency, it should optimally be done with holdout testing to incrementally monitor the uplift. A bad email marketer works in reverse, immediately setting up a high email frequency and then holding the brand hostage to these deliverables without understanding the incremental lift they’ve provided or the opportunity cost to the increased volume of unsubscribes and disengagement that comes with the aggressive frequency. They struggle to come to terms with the fact that their frequency may be unnecessary as this would reduce the impact of their role, so prefer to wilfully be ignorant and not test this approach.
A good email marketer works to optimise the business they serve holistically. A bad email marketer works to optimise the channel metrics and tell everybody what a great job they’ve done.
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