Over the past few years there has been a fundamental change to the way e-mail is used for marketing services and products. One company that has followed this trend from the start and uses an innovative software solution is the GFB & Partner marketing agency – with branch offices in Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Velden and Zell am See. We met with the manager of the agency, Mr Stephan Kalinka, in Munich to find out how GFB is using e-mail marketing to serve its customers.
The interview was conducted by Lothar Witte, a freelance management consultant for e-business and new media.
Mr Kalinka, can you briefly tell us about the marketing services offered by GFB & Partner?
GFB & Partner is a full-service marketing agency. I myself am responsible for the branch office in Munich. We offer full-service solutions in the very broad field of marketing for some 50 clients in the fields of tourism, sport and lifestyle. Our services include strategic consultation for web page designs, the conceptualisation and realisation of all online advertising opportunities and offering comprehensive support in the use of e-mail marketing tools – with permission marketing of products and services per e-mail and SMS. Quality over quantity is our motto – for the benefit of our customers.
Which factors are decisive for the success of your newsletter campaigns?
The most decisive factor is that our newsletters offer information that is appealing to the recipient and that offers an added value – interesting content with an aesthetic layout. Another important factor is that the addresses we select to use in our campaigns are chosen qualitatively. This is the only way to ensure that we reach the intended target group with the newsletter. And last but not least, we have support from an effective, state-of-the-art e-marketing system: Simple and intuitive to use and highly automated – a system that takes care of routine work in all phases of the newsletter mailing for us.
Which quality features do you place in the content and form of your newsletters?
Allow me to clarify with a negative example from the past: Years ago we produced uniform mass e-mails in text format with a simple software tool. The amount of effort that required was – compared to today – somewhat less. But the response from the recipients was also moderate.
Today we send out our information as HTML e-mails with optional RSS feeds and printable PDF versions. Compared to the e-mails in text format, this content is much more clearly displayed and reader-friendly.
We also generate additional attention by personalising the HTML e-mails. Personally addressing the recipient by name creates a greater interest in the content. We only use personalised text e-mails as a complement to our HTML e-mails in order to be able to serve recipients with older e-mail systems that don’t have a browser.
And what is the role of the quality of the addresses?
Let’s start with another negative example: Mailings that are sent out using unverified address data generate disappointing response rates. This type of e-mail also amounts to span and can lead to legal disputes. With permission marketing we only use carefully selected and verified address data. These are addresses that users submitted to our business clients through response forms integrated in their websites and that the users explicitly confirm in a separate step. GFB uses the generally recognised standard of double opt-in address confirmation.
Which software programs does GFB & Partner use to meet these high quality objectives?
We have been using the EVALANCHE ASP solution from SC-Networks for years. Since 2007 we have been using the EVALANCHE V3 new release. This software runs on a fail-safe ASP platform in the service computer centre. We connect to it from our normal workstation using a browser and secure SSL connections.
After connecting with the software we can work on various projects simultaneously. An intuitive graphic interface supports us in all phases of the newsletter mailing: by maintaining and selecting address data, designing and personalising HTML and text e-mails, interactively creating and integrating feedback forms and with online monitoring of the mailings and follow-up success rate monitoring – and with the analysis of feedback and statistical data.
We currently use EVALANCHE to operate more than 50 accounts for our business clients and to send out newsletters to app. 1 million private customers that have subscribed to our newsletters every year.
How do you perform the follow-up success rate monitoring?
Every GFB newsletter mailing includes follow-up success rate monitoring. We use valuable information from the EVALANCHE link tracking function. The links on websites in each e-mail are automatically encoded so that we can determine how often the recipients clicked on which links based on the statistical data we are able to gather. This gives us clear feedback about which offers in our e-mails are receiving positive responses and which are receiving less positive responses. This allows us to optimise our content for future campaigns.
The most valuable tool for monitoring the success rate offered by EVALANCHE V3, however, is the interactive web form generator. This tool allows us to use feedback forms without having to have any HTML expertise and to easily integrate these forms in our clients’ websites and to personalise the colour, layout and font to the CI of the respective business partner. Links in the HTML e-mail direct the recipients to this website and give them the option of entering their address info there. This allows every response to be clearly linked to a person, which allows us to continue a one-on-one dialogue with that person.
Can you say anything about the average costs and time required to complete a newsletter mailing?
Let’s take a monthly newsletter mailing for a hotel as an example. We will reach app. 5,000 recipients – such as hotel guests and persons who have shown interest by completing web forms – with HTML e-mails with new content and a new layout.
All costs for the HTML design of the newsletter and for sending the e-mails including the feedback analysis amount to app. €1,000 (net). That’s about 20 cents per recipient. The amount of time needed for the mailing – including the time it takes to personalise and individualise each newsletter – is about 1-5 minutes.
Compared to the costs and time required for a traditional mailing using the postal service, these are incredibly affordable figures. Depending on the amount of effort required to print the newsletter, the cost for a physical mailing ranges from €1.50 to €5 per recipient. The amount of time needed is also significantly greater. And the biggest drawback with physical mail is that you get almost zero feedback from the recipients.
What options can you offer your business partners for using EVALANCHE themselves?
Some of our customers take advantage of the full-service offered by GFB & Partner. Others want to plan and realise their marketing campaigns themselves under their own label. The client feature offered by EVALANCHE helps us with this. It allows us to easily meet all of our customers’ wishes to work autonomously. All we have to do is setup a new password-protected client account within our own GFB account. As soon as we setup this account our clients can use the software to the same extent that we are able to. Our own work area and that of our customers are clearly separated from each other with regards to access rights.
And how does the software support differentiated invoicing for your numerous clients?
EVALANCHE gives us all the freedom we need to select the right pricing model. We can then automatically print out a complete invoice with the press of a button at the end of the month based on the pricing model for each individual client. These invoices account for both the variable volume fees – depending on the use of e-mail and SMS – as well as base fees – for providing the system resources. This type of automation is helpful for efficient commercial use.
We expect to see additional streamlining effects from the integrated EVALANCHE CMS tool, which allows us to create templates for HTML newsletters. Employees can then easily manage texts, graphics and links on websites in the newsletter on their own without any knowledge of HTML programming.
GFB & Partner MARKETING SERVICES GmbH
Telephone:  (89) 46 23 72-0