Book Review: The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing

Sep 2012

imageIn today’s vlog post, I’m offering my thoughts on The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing, a brand-new book by DJ Waldow (CEO of Waldow Social) and Jason Falls (CEO of Social Media Explorer and co-author of No Bullshit Social Media.

As you may know, I’ve recently decided to expand my service offering from the social media neighborhood to the wider world of content marketing—and that, of course, encompasses email marketing.

In my quest to elevate my email marketing mojo, I was thrilled to discover this new resource that offers not only the latest and greatest technical information for email marketers, but also Jason Falls’ now-famous “no BS” approach, which seems to have rubbed off on co-author DJ Waldow.

And I’m happy to report that this dynamic duo does not disappoint. The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing is an outstanding resource that accomplishes a difficult feat: providing a useful primer for newbies to the field while also offering some meat for email marketing veterans.

The first half of the book is what I call “the ‘Guide’ part.” If you’re new to email marketing or need a refresher, you’ll find a taut, easy to follow presentation of the basics, from building your list to understanding the various parts of the marketing email anatomy.

The second half is “the ‘Rebel’ part.” This is where DJ and Jason look at the famous “best practices” that pop up all the time in email marketing discussions. You know the ones I’m talking about …

  • Using the word “free” in your subject line is a one-way ticket to the spam box.
  • You must use a double-opt-in system to comply with the CAN SPAM laws.
  • Never, ever use ALL CAPS in your subject line.
  • Nobody pays attention to plain-text emails.
  • Never use one big image for your email’s content.
  • Never, ever, ever send marketing emails to people who have not given you their express permission to do so.

It’s not that DJ and Jason are out to smash these ideas; what they do is point out that they’re not as “set in stone” as we may believe. Far from being a black-and-white universe, email marketing is made up of many, many shades of grey.

So, how do you know which “shade of grey” is right for your brand, your audience, and your marketing objectives? Simple: You test. OK, testing itself is not simple, but the idea is:
Test -> Analyze -> Adjust -> Repeat.

In case you can’t tell, I really enjoyed The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing and highly recommend it, both for email marketing newbies and for veterans looking for new ideas and fresh approaches. 

My one criticism is that I would’ve liked more information about the testing process: how often to test, how long to test, how to segment your test groups, etc. I realize this is a huge topic that could easily cover an entire book on its own, but a 10,000-foot overview would have helped close the circle, at least for this reader.

Have you read The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing … or do you have your own “rebellious” tips to share? Let us know your thoughts or advice in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!

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