Behind the Scenes with an Email Marketing Manager

By Ashley Paintsil 

Whitney Howell has been living in New York for 10 years and is the email marketing manager at Barneys New York. Before securing her job at Barneys, Howell was an intern at Esquire magazine as a market assistant and at Michael Kors in the wholesale department. The 28-year-old says the key to being a successful email marketing manager is having an eye for detail, a comfort level with numbers and creativity. Howell says she loves fashion because it has been a stepping stone to exploring other personal pursuits, copy writing and design.

FCN: What skills did you learn while you were earning your Bachelors of Business Administration in Design Management at Parsons?

WH: I had a very nice foundation of core business classes that you would get at any other type of university. What was unique in terms of Parsons, is that we actually were able to steer our courses along whatever design field we wanted to enter so I did a lot of trend forecasting and fashion product development and part of that also included management, working with teams and trend analysis.

FCN: What role did internships play in getting your job and what were the most important things you learned there?

WH: Internships are very important, and you should have at least two on your plate that are different. I learned about the publishing industry at Esquire and at Michael Kors I learned how a showroom operates.

Working in the showrooms with the sales team, I got an understanding of what happens after the fashion show is done. It was very crucial in seeing what happens for the buyers when they come to a showroom appointment, when they’re selecting what merchandise goes into their stores, whether it’s a small retailer that’s independently owned or a larger store like Bergdorf or Bloomingdales.

[At Esquire,] working with a publisher I learned a lot of office management skills, which I think is the most important thing and sometimes overlooked. When people are in school, it’s not a skill that they teach. You really do have to acquire it through your internships or part-time jobs, but I don’t think anyone should dismiss the importance of knowing how to fax, the proper way to answer a telephone, transfer calls, as well as learning to do expenses, because those basic office management skills are very handy and actually appreciated when you do move along in your career. It just shows that you’re confident to be in the workplace.

FCN: What exactly does an email marketing manager do?

WH: You oversee the production calendar, oversee what messages go out on a particular day to our subscriber list, decide which customers receive those emails— which we refer to as customer segmentation—and then the final part would be reporting and budgeting to figure out how well we are doing in terms of customer responses and sales.

FCN: What can be the most tedious part of your day-to-day activities?

WH: Making sure that the marketing messages are set up accurately, which deals with a lot of HTML. I’m on the backend managing the set up and production of the actual campaigns that deploy. You want to try to make sure it’s as flawless in execution as possible.

FCN: What’s the most creative thing about your job?

WH: Working with the merchants or the buying team to decide what products are placed. Once you have the products, you want to generate a marketing message around them. So that’s where a lot of the creativity comes in. You often need to be able to understand how to take a product and present it to your copywriter to position the product to get people to buy it. Sometimes I write the copy for our campaigns. I really enjoy the copywriting aspect and working with my designers. It’s fun. You’re making a little package each time.

FCN: What does the analytical side of your work entail?

WH: My job is analytical in terms of looking at the numbers and what’s a success or what’s a failure. I look at every campaign that deploys during the span of a business week. If you’re featuring a pair of shoes from a particular brand, you’re going to look at how well that brand’s sales were for shoes for the week prior and the week that you actually launch the email so you have a benchmark. In terms of understanding success for an email program, it’s always about the revenue for the week so we work with a lot of business counterparts in the company to always drive traffic and awareness to the website.

FCN: What kind of skills would you need to have to do this job effectively?

WH: An eye for detail, a sense for numbers (your basic arithmetic does come into play) and strong knowledge of Excel. Have a good eye for design in terms of what looks good online. Look at other companies constantly. Understand how buyers choose for their store. You want to have an eye for layouts. You need to be incredibly collaborative and work with other people. You have to be open to getting guidance and support and exchanging ideas.

FCN: What do you love most about your job?

WH: It’s an opportunity to constantly be creative, and it’s a unique opportunity to oversee a platform for a large retailer and help develop their brand voice.

FCN: What suggestions do you have for people who want to get their foot in the door?

WH: I would say intern as much as possible, take a part-time job just to get some skills in terms of what it feels like to actually work. Attend networking events. Create a LinkedIn account. If people have listed on their LinkedIn account that they’re open to inquiries, then by all means email that person who works at a company that you would love to work for and ask them if they would spare 15 minutes for a phone call or do an email exchange with you. And always be nice, because you don’t know who’s who in the industry. Also be incredibly mindful of what you say about brands and individual people in the industry online because that could come back to haunt you when you’re looking for a job.

Ashley Paintsil is a junior fashion merchandising major at the University of Delaware, with minors in entrepreneurship and journalism. She hopes one day to become a fashion editor at a major fashion magazine. You can see more of her work on her blog


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