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Assessing the disconnect between email and wider marketing teams

Sam Holding is head of international at SparkPost.

It is estimated that around 80% of businesses use email as their primary communication tool, especially when it comes to external communications. Virtually every sector, over the past year, has found themselves being forced to make changes and implement new technology in order to adapt to the effects of the pandemic. And in response to the shift to digital, how companies choose to implement and use email marketing has become even more essential to drive revenue.

Yet, despite knowing that effective email marketing is critical to driving significant value for the business, marketing leaders are still out of touch, with many not feeling the need to understand the details of their email marketing program.

In fact, in a recent study from SparkPost nearly half of marketing leaders (44%) that were interviewed admitted their organisation hasn’t yet developed a way to estimate the value of an email address. This lack of interest by leadership in understanding the effectiveness of email demonstrates a true disconnect between email practitioners and the organisations they work for. While there can be countless reasons for hiccups in communication at companies, in the case of email marketing it appears that the fundamental gap in understanding starts at the data level– from management to measurement. Marketing leaders must begin to take a more active approach to understanding email data so they can better understand the needs of and empower those who lead their email programs.

The data dilemma

Data is one of email marketing’s greatest assets, and by the same token lays the foundation for some of email marketers greatest challenges. In SparkPost’s aforementioned study, 46% of practitioners cited data management as their leading issue, specifically email deliverability (38%). The overwhelming amount of data associated with email marketing can be hard to make sense of and therefore communicate out to leaders and key stakeholders in marketing departments and beyond. Dashboards and reporting tools make it easier for email practitioners to show their wins and concerns to leadership.

However, this presents a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg problem wherein practitioners can’t get the tools they need to help leaders understand the importance of email marketing, because leaders don’t understand the importance of email marketing. Even at larger organisations where email intelligence tools are more readily available, the onus is on email practitioners themselves to communicate the importance of email marketing – something that can be incredibly invalidating to those who work on email day-in and day-out. Simply put, leaders must take an active interest in those who run their programs to ensure that their email practitioners don’t face isolation from doing a job nobody else seems to care about.

The knock-on effect of a divided marketing team

This unintended schism between marketing leaders and email practitioners can also cause serious issues around staffing. If leaders are unable to understand the importance and ROI of email they will be less likely to properly staff email teams. This can lead to even more data issues if a team lacks the amount of technical and deliverability focused members needed to make the right email decisions. Additionally, this can actually lead to a lack of creativity amongst marketing team members as well. If teams aren’t staffed with the proper amount of “creatives”, email teams will stick to email design and copy that is easier to execute, repeat and scale. And what’s more demotivating than a job where leaders do not understand what their employees do? One, where employees are stunted by this misunderstanding causing them to create work that feels uninspiring to them.

No one-size-fits-all approach

It would be easy to try to suggest an easy fix solution to this email marketing misunderstanding so many organisations face. But, the fact is, before any real solutions can be put in place Marketing leaders must take the first step in taking interest in email marketing. More than that, in light of the reasons mentioned in this article as well as the COVID-19 crisis, leaders must view their email marketing teams with an empathetic lens that accounts for the burnout they might feel from doing a commonly misunderstood job during one of the most critical moments in history. From there, leaders should take a more active role in understanding email data management and measurement. The disconnect between email teams and marketing leaders is one that can only be broached with care, understanding and a commitment to the importance of data.


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Assessing the disconnect between email and wider marketing teams