Home / Email Snob Interview: Jordie van Rijn

Email Snob Interview: Jordie van Rijn

It’s been a little while since the last snob gave me his/her input, but today, I go for an international perspective on email marketing and email snobbery with Jordie van Rijn, who most recently hails from Dunck Loyalty Marketing.

JordievanRijnScottWritesEverything.com: Jordie, thanks for joining me. I look forward to getting your unique perspective on all things email snob. But before we do that, I’d love to know how you got your start in email marketing. Tell me a bit about your background.

Jordie van Rijn: My first email marketing project was during my high school years. A friend and I started the website “Lelijke Sites” (translated: Ugly Websites). It was all about the most horrific and funny clip art and “hello world” sites on the web.

It was a great experience. We had national radio and newspaper coverage, and most importantly, we had a lot of fun doing it. We hand-coded an email welcome campaign as well as different rating and commenting systems–some quite advanced features for the time. That project in email marketing got me hooked.

The main purpose of the website was to be funny, but we stopped doing it when we received some serious death threats. But I still have some of the sponsored t-shirts for the website; it was a great time, indeed.

I have a general marketing education. It became more specialized while researching the future of the Dutch email marketing and ESP market. It is funny to see what happened to those companies. Most of them changed their strategies over time, small players became big, and people moved around a lot in the industry.

As a result of that research, I ended up at Dunck Loyalty Marketing and worked there for many years. The Dutch company does everything in loyalty marketing research, concepts, and realization (keeping customers loyal). The combination of email marketing and customer loyalty suited me very well. It’s a guarantee for programs with long-term goals.

SWE: It’s about retention, isn’t it?

You’re pretty involved in the email marketing industry. Given your involvement, what would be your recommendation for someone who’s looking to get involved in the “conversations” of the industry?

JVR: If you want to get involved, you probably already are. (I’ll let you think about that)

The best advice I can give you is to first, make your own tribe. These would be online friends you can interact with and can add something to both your personal and professional life. Then get a coach (think Jedi Master). This would be someone in the industry who is doing all right and would like to help you out in the ways of the email marketer.

Then break free and find your own way!

SWE: Great advice. Let’s talk about Jedi Masters. Who is your biggest influence (or Jedi Master) in the email marketing industry?

JVR: Well, I don’t want to sound like the Oscars, because there are so many people to mention. I’ve noticed that a lot of email pros are very open (both ears and mind). Just listening to those talented people can help you develop a much wider view of email marketing. There is not one “biggest” influence, but a lot of people who I interact with.

SWE: What are your top books you feel every email marketer should read?

JVR: You can’t become a great marketer just by reading–it’s like riding a bike. Try to keep your ears to the ground for original opinions and experiences. Flip them upside down and make the most of it. That is why I prefer reading blogs (and email newsletters, of course).

But there are some great books to read:

SWE: You mentioned blogs. What are your favorites?

JVR: Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Email Guide. Jeff and Jim have gotten some great bloggers together. We will hear more from them in the coming years I’m sure.
  • Email Marketing Reports (No Man is an Iland). Mark Brownlow is one of the thought leaders in email marketing.
  • Retail Email Blog. Chad White analyzes his huge inbox and brings new examples and ideas to the table.
  • Toxel. This is a real design blog, giving an answer to problems you didn’t know you had.
  • Which Test Won. I am all about optimization. Love the subject; love the tests.
  • The Style Campaign Blog. They always come up with new ideas, but are more design-oriented.

SWE: Great list there. Let’s move on to challenges. From your international perspective, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing email marketers today? How can these challenges be best fought?

JVR: We need to fight mediocrity. Good enough isn’t good enough to get loyal customers and brand advocates. It is quite easy to implement a basic email marketing campaign with today’s tools. The problem is it looks easy, too. But getting it right is not so easy; it takes hard work. When the results don’t match expectations, the email channel is blamed.

Sorry, guys. You should start being awesome. If you want to stand out, you need well thought-out and creative campaigns (and then some). Today’s audience is the “demanding audience.”

SWE: I love that you said the “demanding audience.” Speaking of demand, let’s talk mobile. How do you think mobile technologies will affect email marketing in the next 3-5 years?

JVR: A platform that has entertainment like music, movies, and games is a sure winner for the people’s hearts. Especially when it is combined with useful (read: business) functions. Mobile will continue to grow as a gravity point of information and messaging on-the-go. Change will go very fast, too.

Just thinking about geolocation, payment, and interaction with the “real world” makes me wonder about those innovations coming soon. We already have some great ideas on file. Now we’re just waiting until technology and the general public are ready.

By the way, rendering issues will become less of an issue over time as well.

SWE: You mentioned geolocation and interaction which pull in social media. We’ve all heard about Facebook’s “Project Titan.” Given what you know of it, how do you think Project Titan (and potential programs like it) will affect the email marketing industry?

JVR: Social media is an important part of the web and people use it as they see fit. As long as an email-related project can add to the value of user interaction, you should give it a go! A big part of the inbox clutter now is social reminders (someone did this or that on your social profile). It would be perfect if they can reduce that a bit.

SWE: Okay, fun questions now! How has your work in email marketing affected your personal use of email?

JVR: I guess I look more in detail and “feel-tail” at the mailings now. I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters–especially in the markets my clients are in. Four years ago, I set up a separate inbox for those, thank God! It keeps it workable.

My main inbox is clean–no more than 20-40 emails in there.

SWE: What’s your favorite thing about email marketing? What gets you revved up (in a good way) about email?

JVR: It’s the icing on the cake. Lifting the marketing above average. Making it really work. That’s why I love to be involved in email marketing. My work with Email Test Box on email optimization is just an extension of that, trying to make things better.

Email can make the difference. If you have a good product and you have ambition to be great, give me a call. Or even better, send me an email!

Seriously, it’s the starting point for creating long-lasting relationships. If you get the results, that’s eating the pudding (or cake).

SWE: Let’s flip it around. What’s your least favorite thing about email marketing?

JVR: I can’t appreciate the people at website builders, ESPs, or marketing agencies who say they are experts when they have very little experience in email marketing. If the customer ends up with a mediocre email concept, it makes me sad.

Also, a lack of true email marketing strategy makes me frown. Usually there is “kind of” a plan, but no real vision. That makes it possible for successful email campaigns to get cut. And in turn, the budget or focus changes for the worse. I’ve seen it happen a few times now. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

SWE: I totally understand where you’re coming from on the expert thing. So let’s say you were giving a keynote speech to the email marketing industry as a whole and it was your personal soapbox. What would your message to the industry be?

JVR: Superficial contact doesn’t make anyone happy in the end. Attention = Love x Time. In that way, customers are just like real people. With more guts, more fun, and more ambition, we will achieve great results in email marketing!

(And the crowd goes wild!)

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?

JVR: I would show him my latest email marketing loyalty project, and then usually my enthusiasm does the rest!

I don’t have one “magic pitch,” because different markets face different problems. Email can play a great role in many business situations, so it should be part of your overall customer strategy.

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About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie specializes in email marketing and event-driven campaigns. He has worked with A-list brands like AEGON, Unilever, Roche, Heineken, and many more. As an independent consultant, Jordie will help you get the most of your email marketing efforts. A co-founder of Emailtestbox, a dynamic email optimization tool, optimization is his second hobby.

He’s also never too busy to answer any questions about email marketing, so catch him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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