Today is my last day at Western Governors University… again. The last 14 months have been an enlightening and fruitful journey rife with success, failure, knowledge building, stress, and insanity. I am once again incredibly grateful to my team at WGU for giving me this chance to grow, learn, and succeed in a multitude of […]
ScottWritesEverything.com: Thanks for joining me, Jordan.
Jordan 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.
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:
I have the great privilege of launching the series with “one of the greats” (in my opinion), John Caldwell. Here we go:
ScottWritesEverything: John, I appreciate your willingness to be a part of the “Email Snob” (or in your case, Email Geek) interview series.
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.]
The other day, my boss asked me point-blank, “How much do you think email could move the needle on its own in terms of our conversion?” I thought about it for a second, then floored him with this answer: “By itself, not much at all.” (I can hear you thinking, “But, Scott, you claim to […]
I frequently listen to The Nerdist podcast. Between being able to nerd out along with the hosts of the podcast and listen to great guests get into truly deep discussions about their history and perspective (i.e. the Mark Hamill episode is pretty phenomenal), it satisfies my two requirements for solid programming in the car: It’s […]