5 Key Skills Only The Best Email Marketers Have


By Jeff Haws

There’s a lot of advice out there about email marketing—how to write a subject line, how to incorporate images, and virtually any other facet of executing a successful email marketing plan.

Let’s shift the focus to email marketers, because you matter. A lot.

Just as with email marketing campaigns and technologies themselves, there are great marketers, not-so-great ones, and everything in between. If you want to be an email marketing superstar, you need to excel in a combination of skills or traits.

While there’s always room for variability and debate, there are five core areas where the best email marketers excel. Some marketing pros have two or three of these skills, but it’s when you develop the complete set that you become an all-star. While some people might have a natural knack for some of these areas, you can absolutely develop them if you don’t.

Skills to succeed as an email marketer

1. Creativity

Marketing is an inherently creative field, and email is no exception. In fact, it’s particularly critical with email, since customers receive so many messages.

The best email marketers are always figuring out a new way to get their message across, a new way to approach customers—to surprise and delight. Customers respond to inventive and innovative pitches and campaigns. Ordinary doesn’t cut it; you need to be constantly keeping things fresh and new.

Creativity can take many forms, too. It’s not just a clever turn of phrase or cool new campaign idea (even though it can be both of those things). It’s also how you leverage technology and data in new and imaginative ways.

2. Copywriting

This is another marketing mainstay with a specific iteration for email. Writing sales and marketing emails is a particular blend of art on the front end and science (in the form of data, testing, and so forth) on the back end.

Unlike some other written forms, there really are no rules for email, per se. We generally know that an email should be short. We know it’s going to need a subject line and some other common components. But that’s about it in terms of defined structure.

The best email copywriters these days also recognize that “writing” may just as likely entail a language broader than words. Sure, the words count—as data-driven marketers know, a single word can make a difference. But these days your vocabulary could include things like emojis, memes, and other elements beyond the traditional written word.

3. Testing

If you want to be a great email marketer, you absolutely need to know how to run a good test, how to analyze the results, and how to act on them.

Anything less than an enthusiastic embrace of testing is, well, less than. Testing is how you bring the creative side of marketing and copywriting into balance with the business reality. It’s also how you strip out subjectivity and quantify the tactical choices you make in any email campaign.

If you ask 10 different people to write a subject line for the same email, they’ll probably produce 10 different subject lines—and they’ll all have a reason why they think theirs is good. Testing is how you determine which ones actually have the biggest impact, from open rates to click-throughs to conversions.

Testing is a cumulative skill and knowledge base, too. Over time, your testing will produce more and more data, and you’ll begin to hone in on what works and what your customers respond to.

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4. Empathy and awareness

Empathy for other people is an enormously important quality for email marketers—if you can’t understand and feel for others, you can’t effectively communicate with them.

Empathy also needs to be paired with a strong knowledge and awareness of what’s happening in the broader world, even if it at first doesn’t seem relevant to your particular business or industry. We regularly see companies and brands that seem out of touch, or even insensitive, when they send emails without considering how particular issues or events may be affecting their audience.

The best email marketers ask questions like, how does this big event affect our customers’ day-to-day lives, and should we adjust how we’re communicating with them?

This also relies on a relentless effort to get to know and understand your customers and who they really are. That way, you can ensure you’re relevant without being intrusive or insensitive.

5. Deadline-oriented

Email marketing never stops, especially in e-commerce or any other B2C context. It’s a continuously rolling calendar of important dates and corresponding deadlines, and managing it all is a challenge.

Email marketing superstars rise to that challenge and defy the stereotype of the creative professional who can never quite get organized.

Whether it’s a sale or Black Friday—or any other event-driven campaign—you need to be able to hit your mark on the calendar because the emails have to get out the door and into your customers’ inboxes in a timely manner to have any chance of an impact.

Become an email marketing superstar

You can absolutely learn and build the skills on this list over time. Do so and you’ll become your organization’s indispensable email superstar.

About the Author

Jeff Haws is a storyteller at MessageGears driven by the challenge of executing content projects that are authentically helpful. Whether in the form of feature articles, white papers, webinars, research, one-sheeters, or blog posts, Jeff loves getting the chance to find new ways to use top- and mid-funnel content to drive leads and sales.

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