This month’s “In the Spotlight” company is G-Lock Software, specialized in developing Email marketing software solutions. Alex Markov, CEO and Co-Founder of G-Lock Software, talked to us about choosing an email marketing software, GDPR, email marketing trends and the growth process and future plans of his company.
1. How did you come up with the idea of G-Lock Software and how it has grown into what it is today?
Computer programming is what I was passionate about for a long time. I started with developing small tools for my personal use until I met my business partner and colleague in 1999. The growing popularity of the Internet and the possibilities it was opening to people made us think about developing commercial applications that could be used by others.
We came to the idea of creating a company that would provide innovative, time-saving and affordable software products for businesses and individual users in the online world. Thus, G-Lock Software was born.
Today, G-Lock Software is a privately held company working in different programming environments. Our team consists of passionate, intelligent and dedicated employees who are focused on delivering high-quality solutions and support to all of our customers around the world.
2. What are the three main decisions that have most influenced G-Lock Software’s growth?
At the beginning, we were developing email applications, SEO and system tools. Later, we discovered that more and more businesses and organizations running websites were using email marketing to promote and sell their products. The need for email software solutions was growing, which made us decide to focus on applications for email marketing. Now it’s our primary field of business.
The second decision relates to our license policy. We started with a lifetime license model. The user paid a one-time fee and could use the program forever, receiving lifetime updates and support. But this model didn’t favor the growth and development of the business.
So later, we introduced the subscription license model that we use now. The user pays the initial price and receives program updates and support for one year after the purchase date. If users want to get support and updates after the one-year period, they need to pay a maintenance fee each year.
We also created several packages of the same software, differing by features and price. We did it with the idea of making our software suitable for as many users as possible by offering them a choice. Beginner users could start with the basic package and upgrade in the future.
The third decision that influenced our business was the decision to develop online services like our GlockApps spam testing service, in addition to desktop software programs. For many senders, email delivery is a real mystery. They don’t know when their emails get blocked or filtered, why it happens or what to do about it. So we thought, what if we built a deliverability and spam testing tool in one solution?
Thus, G-Lock Apps was born out of the need to diagnose email deliverability problems, which so many people struggle with. We introduced a flexible license policy, including monthly and yearly subscription plans and a pay-as-you-go plan. Thanks to this flexibility, we can serve our customers better, attract more buyers and grow our business.
3. With so many email solutions on the market, how do you differentiate yourselves?
We focus on developing software products that allow users to keep their email lists and email messages private and secure, without sharing them with third parties. Our software is for marketers who want to have full control over their data and email campaigns.
The email software we provide is very flexible and does not limit the user to one particular email provider or server. Users can maintain a lot of sending accounts using their own mail servers, set delivery services within our system and quickly switch to a different account if there is a need.
We don’t limit users to a certain number of subscribers or email messages they can send per day or per month. And we don’t charge the user for the number of sent messages as email service providers do.
We try to meet the needs of our customers and provide quality solutions at a price point that all business owners can afford.
4. Every year, a lot of trends emerge in email marketing. Could you tell us which ones you plan to follow for 2018?
Email marketing has greatly evolved past simple emails. In the past five years, there have been big steps forward to email personalization, more interactive elements and automation.
Like other email marketers, we have to update our email strategy to deliver our customers what they want and not be left behind as email continues to evolve. I believe we will stick to these trends:
- Mobile-friendly email design. It is now more important than ever to make emails mobile-friendly and responsive, as the number of users checking their mail on mobile devices is growing more and more. Though we’ve already been designing our emails using responsive email templates that render well on mobile phones, we will continue using mobile-friendly designs in the coming year.
- Personalization and segmentation. If personalization is done wisely, it works. List segmentation is what helps deliver relevant content based on an individual subscriber’s needs.
- Automated and triggered emails. These have been around for a couple of years, and they are here to stay. We are already using (and will continue using) welcome emails after a user subscribes, reminder emails if a user has not logged in for a few weeks and follow-up emails after the software download or purchase. These emails are all automated and triggered by user activity. And for us as email marketers, they allow us to deliver the right message at the right time.
- Deliverability testing. For a long time, like other marketers, we used to look at the open rate as the measure of an email campaign’s success or failure. Two years ago, we realized the importance of email deliverability testing and developed the GlockApps spam testing and inbox monitoring tool.
Email testing allows us to make a pre-flight analysis of the sending infrastructure and email placement, then identify and fix the issues before the campaign is sent out. We will continue actively testing our messages to make sure they go to our subscribers’ inboxes. And I would suggest that other marketers and businesses adopt an email testing practice and make it an integral part of their email program.
5. How has the buying process changed since you started? How do you engage with your clients? Have you changed your business model in any way?
When we started our business, there was not the variety of solutions that we can observe on the market now. Since then the market has grown. Many companies compete for buyers and we have to adapt.
We practice a collaborative relationship with our customers. We follow them during their trial period to show them all the program features and functionalities, we provide pre-sales and after-sales support, and we ask for the customer’s feedback and listen to their feature requests and suggestions to make our programs easier to use and more practical.
We do our best to make our software solutions suitable for everyone, from beginners to advanced users. We have many channels that our customers can use to contact us.
To meet the needs of our customers, we have taken our business model to a new level by providing complementary products to buyers at a cheaper price or including another service in the software for free. For example, our Email Marketing Bundle consists of three complementary programs (email verifier software, email sending system and email processor software). When buying the bundle, the user gets a discount for each product. The license for our email software offers the buyer free credits for our spam testing service. We have a flexible license model and often create custom packages at the buyer’s request.
6. How’s your partner ecosystem and how has it evolved? Can you share any interesting integrations?
Thanks to Avangate, we have developed a large network of affiliates that promote and resell our products. We have partnered with the Shopping Cart Elite Company and integrated our email solution with Shopping Cart Elite so their clients can easily send email messages to the subscribers. And we created a special edition of our email software that is sold by Shopping Cart Elite. Our email software is also integrated with the Amazon SES service to allow users of Amazon SES to quickly send email campaigns from our program interface.
We integrated the GlockApps spam testing service with MailChimp for easy spam score and deliverability testing. Plus, we integrated with Amazon SES, SendGrid, SparkPost and Mailgun for bounce email tracking.
These integrations make it easy for the users of these services to get bounce email analytics and reports about what happens after their email campaigns are sent and how different mailbox providers treat their messages: deliver, return, block or defer. The collected data allows the user to determine the issue that prevents their emails from being delivered and fix it.
7. General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are going to change the way we do email marketing in Europe. What’s your advice for email marketers in order to be compliant with this law?
Every email marketer collecting email addresses and sending emails to the subscribers in the European Union will have to comply with General Data Protection Regulations — no matter where they are based.
GDPR touches several aspects of email marketing, especially how email marketers collect email subscribers and record their permission. To comply with GDPR, I would advise that email marketers follow the below practices:
- Use a confirmed opt-in process when a user is added to the list only after confirming his subscription, giving the affirmative consent required by GDPR.
- During the signup process, tell the subscribers about the brand that’s collecting the email addresses and provide information about the purpose of collecting personal data.
- Store evidence of the confirmed subscription. Email marketers can record the IP address of the subscriber, the URL of the page where the user subscribed and the subscription date.
- Run a re-permission campaign for existing subscriber databases collected before GDPR takes effect.
While re-setting the subscription process and running a re-subscribe campaign will take some time and will slow down the list growth in the short term, these changes will help marketers make sure they send emails to people who really want to receive their messages and will help them improve deliverability and open rate.
8. How should a company choose email marketing software? Do you have any tips?
Before deciding on email marketing software, a company should estimate the budget it can spend on the software, then do research: see what different sellers provide and compare the software features, prices and level of support. It is helpful to download free trial versions and test them. It allows users to understand which software meets the company’s needs best and whether or not the software is easy to use and operate.
It is recommended to choose software that not only sends email campaigns but can also process bounce and unsubscribe messages. It is good if the software provides a spam testing option and email tracking capability. A pre-flight email test is as important as the after-flight analysis.
If the price matters, the company can stop at a less expensive application, but I would not recommend choosing a very cheap tool. There is the saying “You get what you pay for.” It is better to spend more on a good system that will fit the company’s email marketing goals and reduce the cost and complexity of email marketing efforts, which will pay off in the future.
9. What are the future plans of G-Lock Software?
We will focus on new services and integrations to provide high-quality products to our existing and future customers.
For example, we are working on the integration of our spam testing service and email tracking service. This integration will allow our users to have all the data centralized in one place.
Another big project that we plan to release is a platform for sending templated emails to make it easy for product teams to manage automated emails being sent to their customers. Many companies have services with built-in transactional email messages that are sent automatically when an event happens. Typically, these automated emails are stored in the source code and accessible only by a developer or programmer.
Thus, making changes to the templates requires a lot of time and effort, or in most cases, isn’t even possible.
We want to make automated emails collaborative and easy to manage. Our new platform will eliminate the need for developers and programmers to store system email templates and sending accounts in the source code.
Developers will be able to integrate their projects with our system via API and use our new platform to store, send, manage and update automated templates and sending accounts in real time without ever updating the code.
We are actively working on the realization of this project now. At the same time, we will continue maintaining our existing applications to take them to a higher level and make sure our existing customers stay with us.
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