This article was published on September 25, 2013

Common email marketing mistakes and why marketers shouldn’t worry too much about Gmail tabs

Common email marketing mistakes and why marketers shouldn’t worry too much about Gmail tabs
Jon Russell
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Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

While social may be the hot button for marketers today, underestimate email at your peril. That’s the main focus for email marketing consultant Jordie van Rijn, who is bringing a decade of experience and know-how to the TNW Academy next week.

Jordie’s Email Marketing For Everyone class takes place on October 3 2013 and is priced at just $99. As the name suggestions, it will include 90 minutes of tips, tricks and examples to help you raise your A-game for marketing your company or product over email.

Dutchman Jordie, who has literally written the book on email marketing, blogs regularly at, but we caught up with him to get a grip on the basics and a taste of what he has in store for Academy students.

There’ll be much more in his class next week, so go sign up if it sounds like something that’s of interest.

TNW: Which companies and brands do you think do email marketing well, and why?

jordie1Jordie van Rijn: There are a lot of companies that do brilliant email marketing campaigns. And not only the big brands like Amazon (segmentation), Dropbox (activation and up-sell) or the Obama campaign (testing and gathering opt-ins) .

Mudpie, for instance, has a welcome campaign that asks you for an important date. But you are free to fill in every type of date you like: your own birthday, an anniversary you name it.

Based on that personal date, they send you a reminder with an offer included. It’s most successful email they send. That is smart thinking.

Or there’s Lion Brand Yarn.

Yarn doesn’t seem too much of a “hot” product, but people who are into yarn crafting are actually very enthusiastic about it. The brand offers educational how-to and inspirational content, but that doesn’t mean that every how-to will excite.

A blog post on how to Crochet a button and it did very, very, very, well, so they put it into their newsletter. How is that for testing a button?

For my Dutch book on email marketing, I talked to a lot of brand-side marketers. I was very impressed by Christiaan Holman, who is senior manager of consumer online sales & CRM at Vodafone — they do a lot of cool stuff, like scored progressive profiling.

The company makes a list of the most important data and scored them one through five.

For instance, the end date of the contract is most important for giving a renewal offer. If data is missing, a block in the email is filled automatically asking for the most important data. It works completely automatic based on business rules and can be used in every email.

TNW: What are some common mistakes that you see marketers make with email?

JvR: My friend BecsRivett has a blog where she lists all the email fails that she sees, those are good for a laugh. I also keep a folder on my computer called ‘This could be so much better’.

I actually compiled a comprehensive list with all email marketing No-No’s.

My top three:

  • Have a specific email marketing plan will outline what you want to achieve and how you are to execute it as a part of your online marketing strategy.
  • Do not let your email marketing get boring. Keep it fresh, creative and profitable (so also calculate your email ROI) .
  • Don’t stop improving. It is amazing how often you get it wrong the first time.

TNW: Do you have any quick-hit tactics for figuring out how an email marketing campaign can be improved?

JvR: Well, there is a lot of advanced stuff you can do with segmentation, testing, data analysis and marketing automation. But here are some can-do-tomorrow tips:

  • Squint your eyes and look at your email campaign. Is it clear what it is about? No? Go back to the drawing table, people don’t read but scan your emails so clarity is the most important thing.
  • Think of your email as a post it: Make the message clear, action driven and if you do a good job, it sticks.
  • Let your colleagues subscribe to your email program.
  • Collect opt-ins at every turn. Make a list of touchpoints where you have contact with your customers or leads and see which one you aren’t using to ask for opt-ins.


TNW: There’s been plenty of concern about Google’s new Gmail features, and the effect that inbox filtering is having on the rate of emails that are being opened by users. What’s your take on this?

JvR: Whenever a change like this comes along, people (and predominantly people that don’t know anything about email marketing) blow it out of proportion.

The best advice is not to panic. All (Web-based) email providers will try and make living easier for their users. That was the case when Google introduced priority sorting to Gmail, and now again with the tabs in the inbox. Although the real reason is actually that they want to increase their AdWords income.

Changes like this this will only affect a small portion of your email subscribers and the jury is still out on whether it actually impacts conversion rates.

As a user, I am happy with the tabbed inbox, it makes life easier. As a marketer, it is best to focus on other points of your email program and send the best email marketing campaigns you can.

Jordie’s class, “Email Marketing For Everyone” features on TNW Academy on October 3 and is priced at $99. You can get the low-down on email marketing by signing up before the class is fully booked. 

Headline image via Thinkstock, others via Jordie van Rijn

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