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Email Snob Interview: Jeff Ginsberg

For this next installment of the Email Snob Interview Series, I talk email with Jeff Ginsberg, publisher of The Email Guide.

JeffGinsbergScottWritesEverything.com: Thanks for joining me, Jeff. Let’s talk about how you got your start in email marketing.

Jeff Ginsberg: I got my start in 1998 long before email was ever “The Cinderella of the Internet.” Paul Westhorpe, former VP of Yesmail, had a start-up called e-max. We were selling multimedia email (attachments) and were one of the first companies in Canada to offer email marketing as a hosted service.

Little did we know that the boom was going to bust and that executable email attachments were “not cool.”

As a result, e-max imploded and I took what I thought was a good idea and started The eMail Company in 1999. My core offering was email delivery, tracking, and reporting. My value-add was a “pay-as-you-play” model using enterprise technology. The eMail Company still has the same model and some of our original big brand clients have been with us for more than 8 years.

It’s not until I write it that it makes me think of how far I have come and how long I have spent in this industry.

SWE: Given your deep involvement in the industry, what would be your recommendations for someone who is looking to get involved in the email marketing industry “conversations?”

JG: Speak up, be polite, and stay relevant.

There is so much room and opportunity for everyone to have a voice. Start a blog. Or better yet, start blogging with us! Have an opinion about email marketing? We’d love to hear and help spread your voice!

Don’t forget there are a ton of Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups where you can have a say. If you are not into speaking yet, there are years’ worth of reading.

SWE: Speaking of years’ worth of reading, who is your biggest influence?

JG: Seth Godin. Not because he’s the granddaddy of email marketing. It’s because he is brutally honest, direct, and to the point.

Seth has taught me that it’s okay to be different. Actually, he has taught me that it’s better to be different. Don’t do the exact same thing everyone else is doing.

I think what we should be doing is learning from what other people do and then try to make it better.

SWE: Staying in that reading theme, what would be your top three books you feel every email marketer should read? (Doesn’t have to be email-specific)

JG: The Giving Tree. We have always said that if you can become the trusted adviser, people will turn to you when they need services. The Giving Tree makes me think about the give-back project I started with The eMail Guide. Give something to someone else and it will come back to you in the end.

“Permission Marketing” by Seth Godin. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200. Read this book.

For the record, I like magazines better than books, so I’ll mention two of my favorites:

Wired and Strategy.

SWE: As you know, there are a lot of blogs out there on email marketing. Other than your own, what are your top five blogs for email marketers?

JG: I haven’t shared my Google Reader yet, but there are over 200 blogs rolling in every day there. I’ll share some of my favorites:

SWE: Let’s talk shop. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing email marketers today? How can these challenges be best fought?

JG: Email delivery — still an ever-changing problem. Even though delivery has come a long way, there are still issues and, as always, no one is sharing the ISPs’ 11 herbs and spices.

Relevancy — people still need to be relevant and keeping information fresh and engaging is a challenge.

Spam — irrelevance is the new spam. Even though spammers fight for delivery to the inbox, permission-based marketers are competing for the same space and eyeball time.

Most people do not have time to read all the messages they get in their inbox. Even though as marketers we have permission to deliver the message, the messages stack up in the inbox and get treated as if they were spam.

SWE: How do you think mobile technologies will affect email marketing over the next 3-5 years?

JG: As mobile technology gets better, email marketers will have an easier time of cross-platform rendering. Right now, we have a fairly easy time when it comes to delivering messages to laptops, iPads, or Blackberries.

In the future, I think the rendering problems will arise when the screens get smaller and smaller such as a watch or sunglasses… Dick Tracy never saw this stuff coming.

SWE: We’ve all heard about Facebook’s “Project Titan.” Given what you know of it, how do you think it will affect the industry?

JG: Considering Facebook’s COO’s recent comments about “email going away,” I wonder why–if that is the case–they are investing so much time and money into building an email platform. Also, based on Facebook’s privacy record, would you trust them with your email?

SWE: Excellent points. Okay. Fun questions now. How has your work in email marketing affected your personal use of email?

JG: I like to sign up for everything and see what people send me. Yet, I hate everything that comes into my inbox. I fight every day to delete the junk. Maybe I should stop signing up for everything.

Oh yeah… I always need to have the newest and best mobile email device (for work *wink wink*). After 10 years, my wife has finally succumbed to my evil technology fetish. If I tell her it’s for work, she doesn’t say too much…. anymore.

SWE: Haha, good luck keeping that going! Okay, what’s your favorite thing about email marketing? What gets you revved up (in a good way) about email?

JG: I love going to the conferences and learning new things. It could be something related to segmenting or being relevant. I also love the technology, new shiny servers, or fancy features integrated by the ESPs.

SWE: On the flip side, what’s your least favorite thing about email marketing?

JG: Irrelevance is the new spam (sorry to sound like Joseph Jaffe’s “Retention is the New Acquisition”). If you cannot keep your messages relevant, then they don’t get opened and just pile up in the inbox. All too often, I look at my inbox and realize the pile of messages that have not been opened are because they are just not relevant.

… Or maybe it’s because I don’t have time to read them.

SWE: Let’s say you’re giving a keynote speech to the email marketing industry and it’s your personal soapbox. What’s your message?

JG: You’re doing a great job, email marketing industry! Keep up the good work! Atta boy! Stay the course!

P.S. Don’t let anyone tell you that email is dead. If they do, you can smack them in the head with your Blackberry or iPhone. If they ask why, you can tell them if email was dead, so would the phones that send or receive email.

SWE: Last question. If you were stuck in an elevator with the CEO of a company that doesn’t utilize email, what is your “elevator speech” for email marketing?

JG: If there is a CEO that works for a company that should be using email and is not, I would suggest that he or she needs career counseling and not an elevator pitch.

Wake up, dude. You’re going to need a new job just like:

WSJ idiot Jessica E. Vascellaro and Facebook idiot COO Sheryl Sandberg.


About Jeff Ginsberg

Jeff is a passionate outside the box thinker who loves technology and everything “internetee.”

Long before email marketing was The Cinderella of the internet, Jeff helped companies understand the true need to build opt-in databases. Without this, there is no further conversation about email marketing.

Jeff’s clients include major brands in the Canadian marketplace, Honda, Mazda, BMW, RadioShack, The Source, Grand & Toy, HBC, Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, Mackenzie Financial, Heart and Stroke, MADD, UNICEF plus many others including a list of who’s who in the agency world.

Jeff has been invited to speak at:

  • The Canadian Professional Sales Association,
  • AARM The Association for the Advancement of Relationship Marketing/Relationship Management
  • AIMS Association for Internet Marketing and Sales

He continually does education and training sessions with the hopes that an ounce of education is worth a pound of execution.

When Jeff is not in front of a computer he can be found in his garden, wood shop or anywhere near the water. In 2015 Jeff plans to retire on his yacht and travel to some places that don’t have Wi Fi or cell service.

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