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Email Snob Interview: Jordan Cohen

In another blast from the past, here is my interview from March 19, 2010, with my email marketing brother from another mother, Jordan Cohen, now Vice President of Marketing at Movable Ink.

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ScottWritesEverything.com: Thanks for joining me, Jordan.

JordanCohenJordan Cohen: Thanks for inviting me to participate here. I have really enjoyed getting to know you and the other high quality #emailgeeks who have been contributing to the discussion on Twitter over the past year.

SWE: It’s definitely been a fun year. Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get your start in email marketing?

JC: I’d say that, “the stars they all aligned.”

My first job out of college was as media coordinator for a large financial services company in New York, and after about two years of honest-to-god whipper-snapper dedication, I was downsized. It was 2003 and the nation was experiencing a tremor that was prelude to the economic earthquake we’ve seen over the past 2 years. I’m talking about the days of Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco–lots of people were affected.

But losing my job ended up being the best thing that ever happened. I ended up landing a job as Manager of Public Policy for the DMA, where, among other issues, I got to work on media relations and industry communications in support of the association’s anti-spam platform.

Back then, we were lobbying to enact the CAN-SPAM Act, and eventually it was passed through Congress and was signed into law by good old G-Dubya. We also worked to educate the membership about email authentication and eventually made implementing proposed standards like Sender IT and DKIM a member guideline.

Needless to say, my experience at the DMA was incredibly educational, and taught me a ton about email technology and policy issues. It also helped me begin building some great relationships in the email marketing industry. Eventually, a member company recruited me to head up their ISP relations and privacy program, and the rest is history.

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

JC: Three things immediately come to mind:

1. Read everything you can get your hands on. And read every day. The world is moving a million miles a minute; the only way to keep up and be part of the conversation is to read. And don’t just read about email either, read about everything.

2. Think before you speak. Every word you say and write counts. Being thoughtful spurs conversations. Being flippant spurs fluff.

3. Join associations and go to the conferences. We can tweet, twit and twirp all day long. But at the end of the day, meeting people face to face always makes for the deepest and most meaningful conversations.

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Email Snob Interview: John Caldwell

Three years ago, I launched a series of interviews with a group of email industry folks I called “The Email Snobs.” With the blog crash a few months ago, the Email Snob Interview series was “lost” but since has been recovered. I decided I would post these interviews again, if nothing else, to simply see how much has changed in email marketing in the past 2-3 years. (How about that for the speed and craziness of technology?)

The series of more than 20 interviews began with an interview with John Caldwell. I’m proud to present this interview once again:

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I have the great privilege of launching the series with “one of the greats” (in my opinion), John Caldwell. Here we go:

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ScottWritesEverything: John, I appreciate your willingness to be a part of the “Email Snob” (or in your case, Email Geek) interview series.

jacaldwellJohn Caldwell: Appreciate being asked. This is my first official email interview about email…

SWE: I can imagine. Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get your start in email marketing? Tell me a bit about your background.

JAC: I really just sort of fell into it; it started in the mid nineties when I’d picked up a cool domain name, VeniceBeach.com.  It’s a much cooler site today than it was back then.  Anyway, I’d built sort of a community portal – when was the last time you heard that word?  And while I was messing around trying to figure out a revenue model, people were emailing me asking about different things about Venice Beach.  It didn’t take long before I started doing a regular newsletter.   The first newsletter was sent in June of 1996 and grew to a small handful of newsletters segmented by user preference by that fall.

By the end of 1999 I was the email marketing department of an online agency, Lassoo Interactive.  At Lassoo I developed and deployed some of the earliest email marketing campaigns for companies like WebEx, X-Drive, Lawson Software, and Microsoft Great Plains.  For about a year I partnered with a developer buddy outsourcing email deployment services with our own platform.  He got an offer on the platform and I got an offer to be the email marketing department of Experian’s FreeCreditReport.com.

At FCR I created and implemented the company’s strategic email marketing plans and designed and developed their email marketing and reporting guidelines. Automated programs grew about 100 times during my tenure, with channel revenue growing about 15 times.  Not bad for a one-man department, huh?

After leaving Experian to become an independent consultant in January of 2005 I was fortunate to have them as my second client.  Clients since have included eFax, LegalZoom, Teleflora, to name just a few, and I’m currently on a second engagement with eHarmony – love the way that sounds, an engagement with eHarmony.  I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but it’s very cool, very geeky, and I’m having a lot of fun working with some really great people!

SWE: Based on your experience, if you could say one thing to someone who wants to get into this industry, what would it be?

JAC: What kind of twisted masochist are you?  Naw, just kidding; or am I?  Seriously, though, immerse yourself in everything email and don’t believe everything you read.  Most of what’s written about email marketing is from people that have never done email marketing.  I’m not knocking the observers, and I know a few that could probably describe what I do better than I can.  There’s a difference between suggesting things for a client to try/test from the comfort of your first email job working for an ESP and sitting between the keyboard and the chair with deadlines and your boss standing on your shoulder.

Oh yeah, and don’t buy lists and don’t use “blast” as a verb.

SWE: I would also add never to use “blast” as a noun in terms of email either. Anyway, I’m curious. What’s your favorite thing about email marketing?

JAC: I really like the nuts and bolts of email operations across the board. I like to design and develop complex automated programs, roll them out, geek on the numbers, and then start tweaking and tuning. But my absolute favorite thing about email marketing is having the opportunity to share my experiences and what I’ve learned in my time in the space.

SWE: I appreciate your desire to share your experiences as well! Moving on… How has your work in the email marketing industry affected your personal use of email?

JAC: I’m terrible. I have very high expectations. If a sender can’t do the basics of email well, why would I believe that they can do anything else well? I know, it’s probably not a fair statement, but come on, this is 2010. Email is not new.

I also  probably subscribe to a lot more crap being in the industry than I think I would if I wasn’t…

SWE: How do you think the iPad will affect email marketing?

JAC: i-what? ‘Nuf said…

[Editor’s Note: Crazy to think that only three years ago, the iPad was new and this was a true discussion.]

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The Unchanged State of Cable News

I wrote this original short post about three and a half years ago. It’s sad that only has cable news not really changed, but in many cases, it has only gotten worse. In fact, research proves it. Here’s a snippet from a Huffington Post article I read today: The [Pew Research Center] study’s authors found […]

An Excellent Email Marketing Adventure

One of the most defining movies of my childhood was “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” I’m not ashamed to admit this–in fact, I’m proud of the fact that this movie got me interested in both music and history. (Note: This post was originally written back in May of 2010 and is another one that was […]

Repost: Is Twitter the Solution to Sluggish, Confusing Government?

As I’m rebuilding this blog with the posts from the past, I came across this post I wrote over three years ago that somehow, given the political climate, raises a question that’s still relevant today. So, rather than put it back into the archives with the old posting date (originally, September 14th, 2009) , I’m deciding to post it as a “new” post today. Let me know what you think.

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capitolbuildingThe other night, after reading through some of the media’s junky coverage on Obama’s healthcare speech (as well as the completely unnecessary hoopla over Obama telling school children they should work hard and stay in school), the following idea popped into my head that I promptly tweeted:

“What would happen if Congressional bills were forced to be written and presented as 15-20 slide PPTs? Better, more understandable laws?”

It’s a little reminiscent of my ramblings previously on politics, but think about it. How great would it be if laws weren’t written like the Magna Carta, and rather presented in PowerPoint presentations?

15-20 slides (at most) using definitive bullets on what the law covers. Give the sponsors of the bill 5 minutes to present the bill (kind of like #IgniteSaltLake). Follow with a 15 minute Q+A session, then make the slides publicly available for a given period of time.

Get rid of the 1000+ page omnibus bills. Simplify it so people know who their representatives are voting for. Heck, simplify it so there can’t be spin about what the bills mean in the respective camps.

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