Marketing & Advertising

How to Become an Email Marketing Specialist (And What You’ll Actually Do)

How to Become an Email Marketing Specialist (And What You’ll Actually Do)
Email marketing specialists focus on creating and segmenting email lists, designing emails and writing content, and otherwise nurturing leads and driving sales via digital communications. Image from Unsplash
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Noodle Staff January 15, 2020

Email is a powerful marketing tool; some would argue it's the most powerful digital marketing tool we've got. Keep reading to find out why email can outperform social marketing, content marketing, and even word-of-mouth.

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Ever wonder why your inbox is bombarded daily with marketing emails? The answer shouldn’t surprise you: it’s because they work. Revenue from email campaigns made up an average of 21 percent of companies’ overall revenue in 2018. That’s a pretty significant return on a relatively small investment.

Email keeps us informed, puts us in easy touch with friends and family, and reminds us of financial assets and upcoming bills. It also sells us stuff. About 2.5 billion people use email worldwide. That’s 32 percent of the world’s entire population, all reachable with the click of a button.

Email marketing specialists are probably behind a lot of emails you look forward to receiving. They are the professionals who make a career of finding increasingly personalized ways not only to reach customers but also to keep them entertained, make them smile, and inspire them to click through to an article, product page, update, or coupon.

This article answers the question ‘what does an email marketing specialist do?’ In it, we address the following:

  • What is an email marketing specialist?
  • What do email marketing specialists do?
  • What are the types of email marketing?
  • What qualifications do email marketing specialists typically have?
  • What qualities distinguish effective email marketing specialists?
  • How much does an email marketing specialist make?
  • What is the value of email marketing specialists?

What is an email marketing specialist?

An email marketing specialist is a digital marketing professional who focuses on:

  • Creating and segmenting email lists
  • Designing emails and writing content
  • Nurturing leads and driving sales using written communication and compelling imagery

Email marketing specialists work for businesses, digital marketing agencies, and email marketing agencies, and on a freelance basis for smaller companies.

The best email marketing specialists do more than just send emails when a company has something to say or a customer has abandoned their shopping cart. They develop strategies for increasing brand awareness, customer loyalty, and conversations through proven email best practices. They help establish the brand’s voice and culture. And, perhaps most importantly, they help cultivate and maintain strong relationships between brands and customers.

These professionals are passionate not only about marketing but also about communication, customer engagement, and customer retention. They enjoy finding new ways to engage others and have a knack for making impersonal messaging feel warm and personal. They’re able to persuade without being annoying. In short, they have what it takes to unlock the full potential of email as a digital marketing tool.


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What do email marketing specialists do?

Email marketing specialists do a lot more than just write emails and hit send. The exact duties of any particular email marketer will vary, but in general, all email marketing specialists have to:

  • Create long-term email marketing strategies
  • Design email campaigns
  • Build and buy email lists
  • Clean and purge email lists
  • Design email layouts
  • Secure email databases
  • Identify target audiences and segmenting lists
  • Create copy for emails and proofread copy written by others
  • Test emails for optimization and device-friendliness
  • Perform A/B split tests
  • Monitor the performance of email campaigns
  • Create follow-up emails based on campaign performance
  • Design digital ads
  • Track and analyze campaign results

Email marketing specialists may also need to leverage technical skills to do things like:

  • Design and set the parameters for automated emails
  • Dig into audience analytics
  • Maintain several databases
  • Build email templates using HTML and CSS
  • Code the list segmentation for specific marketing initiatives
  • Report on the specific ROI of email campaigns

What are the types of email marketing?

Ask five email marketing specialists this question and you may get five different answers, depending on where they’ve worked and how they approach email marketing. Some may tell you that they never send the same type of email twice. Still, it is possible to categorize different types of email marketing broadly.

There are engagement emails, like:

  • Welcome emails: This confirmation that someone has become a customer or joined a mailing list doesn’t have to be boring. It can actually set the tone for the relationship between the customer and the brand.
  • Customer stories: These emails showcase real examples of a brand’s effectiveness, beauty, deliciousness, etc. In the best cases, the content comes directly from customers in the form of images, videos, and direct quotes.
  • Tips emails: Customers love getting a freebie. Educational emails with information or tutorials relevant to a brand fit the bill. They’re especially effective when the tip solves a common customer problem.
  • Brand stories: These emails showcase a brand in a way that helps customers identify with it. Brand stories include features like founder profiles and quick fun facts about the brand’s name or origins.
  • Re-engagement emails: Emailing customers who haven’t been receptive to other marketing campaigns is essential because their disengagement may not be the result of disinterest.

Then there are sales (or transactional) emails, like:

  • Order confirmation emails: These don’t have to be a rote reiteration of order details. Compelling order confirmation emails can drive loyalty (‘here’s a coupon for next time’) or ask for reviews.
  • Receipt emails: When businesses don’t bill immediately after a customer places an order, they may send a separate receipt email letting customers know they’ve been successfully billed. These represent another opportunity to share a coupon or show customers related products.
  • Order status emails: There are multiple opportunities to connect with customers between the time an order is placed and the time it’s delivered. Marketers can design automated emails that let customers know when a product has been produced, packaged, shipped, and delivered.
  • Promotional emails: These emails can be sent to new customers or customers who’ve been particularly responsive to promotions. Promotional emails are often time-sensitive and create a sense of urgency.
  • Cart abandonment emails: Almost 70 percent of shopping cart transactions are abandoned. Businesses can cut that rate by simply reminding customers to complete the sale or even giving them a good reason to reconsider.

What qualifications do email marketing specialists typically have?

Most email marketers have at least a bachelor’s degree in one of the following:

  • Marketing/digital marketing
  • Business administration
  • Graphic design
  • Web design
  • Digital communications

The ideal bachelor’s degree program for email marketing specialists includes coursework that dives deep into traditional marketing concepts but also gives students a firm footing in digital technology. Marketing degree programs that don’t touch on data management and analysis, digital market research techniques, web development, and automation won’t cut it.

Aspiring email marketing specialists should look first at Bachelor of Science in Internet Marketing and Bachelor of Science in Digital Marketing programs. There aren’t many of these programs; their number should increase as the job market does. They tend to cover critical topics useful to future email marketers like:

  • Brand management
  • Building dynamic user interaction
  • Communications technologies
  • Content strategy implementation
  • Data-driven marketing
  • Digital media design
  • Digital media management
  • Integrated marketing communications
  • Lead generation
  • Marketing strategy
  • Market research
  • Scripting and programming
  • Search engine optimization
  • Web and marketing analytics
  • Writing for digital media

Email marketing specialists don’t typically need a master’s degree (at least not according to most job listings), but having one is always an asset. Options for aspiring email marketing specialists and email marketers who want to graduate to management include the Master of Science in Marketing and the Master of Science in Marketing Analytics, though a handful of colleges and universities also offer master’s degrees in digital marketing. These can go by many names, such as:

  • MS in Digital and Social Marketing
  • MS in Digital Business
  • MS in Digital Communication
  • MS in Digital Marketing Communications
  • MS in Marketing and Digital Media

Northeastern University, for example, offers a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications. If you want a firm grounding in business principles, New York University has an MBA in Digital Marketing program. On the other hand, Texas A & M University – College Station‘s Master of Science in Marketing program doesn’t include the word ‘digital’ but would be totally appropriate for an aspiring email marketing specialist.

Because schools do not adhere to a uniform set of principles in naming their degree programs, it’s always a good idea to read program guides instead of relying on degree names when looking for relevant degree programs.

Some email marketing specialists (and digital marketing specialists) pursue voluntary email marketing certifications (like the Email Marketing Specialists certification offered by DigitalMarketer) or marketing analytics certifications. Some also regularly take additional courses in email marketing and digital media to stay current with best practices. Having these types of ‘extras’ on a resume can go a long way when you’re hunting for work.

What qualities distinguish effective email marketing specialists?

The best email marketers are creative, analytical, tech-savvy, flexible, and especially receptive to new ideas. The world of digital marketing is continually changing; today’s best practices may not be best practices six months from now.

Email marketers are also good writers and careful editors because they don’t just craft email marketing strategies and delegate. They’re down in the weeds creating relatable content, working to develop a rapport with customers, and making sure content submitted by other writers is up to par. At the same time, they also need to be psychologists, digging into the motivations of their audiences so they can segment as effectively as possible.

Finally, email marketing specialists have to think like data scientists on a small scale. They have to analyze the impact of campaigns, identify trends in results, and generate reports for stakeholders.

How much does an email marketing specialist make?

The unfortunate reality is that although marketing is essential to business success, most businesses just don’t want to invest in it. Email marketing, in particular, is often an afterthought even though conversion rates from email are higher than those for traffic from search, direct, and social media. The average salary for email marketing specialists is around $65,000; the bottom 10 percent make under $37,000 per year. PayScale paints a bleaker picture for email marketing specialists, who, according to the site, make $53,000 on average. The top 10 percent of earners, according to their data, make just $69,000.

Earning more may be a matter of earning a master’s degree in marketing or landing an email marketing manager position, but don’t bet on it. Email marketing is just one facet of digital marketing, and specialization is often looked down upon by hiring managers who want to find a jack-of-all-trades.

The best way to maximize your earning potential in marketing is to learn all you can about digital marketing in general and then get some experience in email, customer relationship management, SEO, social media marketing, PPC, and conversion optimization. If you’re technically minded, see what you can learn about marketing automation. From there, you’ll have the skills and experience to step into a digital marketing manager position and potentially earn a lot more.

What is the value of email marketing specialists?

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably less interested in the value of email marketing in general and more concerned about the value you can provide by becoming an email marketing specialist. Before you can determine that, you need to consider whether this is a job you can actually do. Email marketers need to be tech-savvy, creative, and analytical.

Are you a great writer? This is important, because you may not always have a staff or contract writer backing you up. Are you comfortable working with not just existing technologies but also emerging ones? Can you not only find trends in open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, but also see how tweaks to your content, timing, and segmentation led to those trends?

There’s no question that email marketing has excellent ROI and that it’s one of the most effective customer acquisition and retention tools. The results of email marketing are highly trackable. There’s no guesswork. The conversion rates are excellent, and that means email marketing specialists do essential work. However, while employers typically acknowledge the value of email marketing, they may not see the value in hiring someone who has gone all-in on it.

If you plan to work as an email marketing consultant or a freelance digital marketer, calling yourself an email marketing specialist may make you appear more valuable. When you’re looking for staff positions, you may be better off referring to yourself as a digital marketing specialist, even if email is your jam.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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