Tips for Hiring E-Mail Professionals

It was inevitable. Your quarterly e-newsletter is now monthly. A lone e-mail promotion to test the waters has mushroomed into a weekly event. Your opt-in list is growing by leaps and bounds. E-mail marketing no longer can be left to your administrative assistant or a junior advertising staffer. It is time to dedicate resources to this burgeoning function.

Where to start. Though it is typically part of an overall marketing strategy, e-mail marketing requires skills and thought processes that are a little different from the norm. Even the lingo is different, with e-mail marketers communicating with terms like data mining, viral marketing, rich media, spam and opt-in lists.

To get the most out of your e-mail marketing, think about how it interrelates with other departments before deciding on reporting structures. If your e-mail campaigns are largely driven by product offers and promotions, perhaps the e-mail function should be housed in product marketing. If you use it primarily for branding and image building, you may want to consider it as part of advertising. If e-mail is strictly a public relations tool, it may belong in corporate communications.

Once you have given your e-mail marketing function a home, you can focus on finding the right person or people to staff it. The first step is to determine the level of expertise you need — now and in the future. Try to anticipate how your long-term e-mail strategy will evolve and start building the team you will need to support it.

What to look for. Generally, the role of an e-mail marketing manager or coordinator is to create, execute and manage all aspects of outbound e-mail campaigns and be the primary contact for others involved in the process. Though the job is bound to evolve over time, many of the same talents will apply to any configuration you end up with. Look for people with these minimum requirements:

· Internet/PC literate.

· Excellent organizational skills.

· Attention to detail.

· Ability to handle deadline pressure.

· Ability to manage multiple projects at once.

Job candidates with experience in e-mail marketing should have a strong working knowledge of most of these core functions:

· Ability to write and/or recognize good copy.

· Familiarity with HTML and online design.

· Knowledge of databases and data mining.

· Direct marketing experience.

· Good grasp of e-mail and viral marketing concepts.

· Knowledge of e-mail industry best practices.

· Understanding of spamming issues in the United States and abroad.

People who have been project or marketing managers at high-tech companies make good candidates, as do direct mail managers from agencies or corporations.

Where to look. Since e-mail marketing is a relatively new career option, you may have to get creative to find what you are looking for. It is always good business to consider internal candidates first, particularly if you have a direct marketing or Web site staff to draw from.

External searches can include typical recruiting vehicles such as newspaper classified advertisements, but since most Internet-savvy candidates use the Internet to job-hunt, postings on the major search engines are musts. A few of the biggies are, and

Companies that probably know the kind of people you are looking for — and are worth networking with — include:

· Direct mail/direct marketing agencies.

· Advertising agencies.

· Online recruiters.

· High-tech companies.

· Catalog production houses.

Look for people with titles like broadcast e-mail coordinator, Internet marketing manager and coordinator or manager of customer retention.

Finally, local colleges that offer courses on new media, Internet marketing or other high-tech subjects are good sources for energetic entry-level candidates as well as more experienced professionals with updated skills.

How to structure. Company size is not all that important in structuring your e-mail marketing function. What does matter is the number of campaigns you send.

If you are doing only a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter, you can outsource the HTML and look for a good writer who can also be used in other areas.

If you are generating multiple campaigns daily using sophisticated list selection, testing and tracking, you likely will need both a manager and a coordinator. An experienced manager can develop objectives and strategy, oversee execution and monitor results, while the coordinator handles daily activities such as list management, queries and production.

What to beware of. E-mail marketing is new territory for many companies, but when it comes to setting up new functions and hiring people, there is no room for mistakes. These tips can help you avoid the most common pitfalls:

· Be realistic. Do not expect the same person to manage the database, maintain the database and lists, write reports and design graphics for dozens of daily campaigns.

· Know your priorities. If your focus is on fine-tuning the inhouse opt-in list, hire an e-mail coordinator with strong database marketing abilities.

· Do not scrimp on content. E-mail marketing should look and sound just like other company marketing messages. Look for a writer who can establish and cultivate a tone of voice for e-mail campaigns.

· Look ahead. Some skills may diminish in importance over time while others become more critical. Try to anticipate future needs and hire accordingly.

The e-mail evolution. As e-mail marketing makes its way above the line as an established part of every marketing strategy, best practices in staffing structures, job descriptions and performance measures will emerge. Even in these recent times of layoffs and job cuts, companies that develop e-mail expertise and processes will be richly rewarded.

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