This is probably one of the topics that generate more discussions in an implementation project of Marketing Cloud. Maybe because there are too many different ways of creating emails, there are different teams involved in the process or because the end-users don’t know the tool (or a mix of everything).
In this new post, I will try to explain the way it has to be built based on the best practices and including some suggestions based on my experience.
Let’s play LEGO
When I have to introduce Email Studio to my clients, I like to do it following the LEGO game approach: one board and many pieces.
In Marketing Cloud, the board is called Email Template and the pieces are called Content Blocks. When everything is ensembled it becomes an Email Message. All these assets are stored in Content Builder, the repository of Marketing Cloud.
1. Email Template Creation
There are different ways of creating an email template, depending on if our agency provides the full HTML (copy-paste HTML) or if we want to use the ones provided by Marketing Cloud.
For the second option, we can choose one of the many different templates designed with different styles, layouts and themes. Which one should we use? It depends on the complexity of the email design but, normally, the Empty templates should be enough as it provides an empty skeleton where we can easily drag-and-drop and edit the layouts and content blocks.
All these templates are customizable as we can adapt the HTML of each part of the template but, talking about the responsive design point of view, these templates are only fully responsive for the main devices screen resolution and email providers. It means that we may have some issues with the content of the email when it is displayed, for example, in Yahoo from Desktop or Mobile, Outlook in Mobile, GMX… we could talk about the peculiarities of each one for hours…
Then, how can we make sure that those templates will work? Testing, testing and testing. There is no other way. Fortunately, there are tools like Litmus (can be integrated with Marketing Cloud) that help us to speed up this process as it previews the email in most of the current devices and email providers so we can quickly check if the content is displayed properly or we need to do some changes in the code.
The main aim of a template is to set-up the header and the footer (or any other content) that are static for all the emails so, when you create a new email, that content will be already there when selecting that template.
2. Content Blocks Creation
Once the email template is ready, it is time to start building the pieces. There are many different types of Content Blocks, as you can see in the pictures below:
Any block has its own properties that, as it happens with the email templates, can be easily personalized with the wizard or directly via HTML.
Little by little we are creating the different assets of the email (body text, images, layouts that includes other assets like text and images, HTML for custom blocks, dynamic content) and, once we have finished, all of them will be ready in Content Builder (the Marketing Cloud repository) to be reused in any email if needed.
3. Putting the pieces together. Building the Email Message
The main advantage of following this approach is that, from the end-user point of view, we will only have to drag-and-drop each content block in the corresponding part of the template. Of course, there is always a gap for improvement so with the right knowledge of CSS/HTML we could be more accurate in the design of the email.
Once we create the Email Message, we only have to select first the template (the board) and then drag-and-drop the content blocks (the pieces).
Finally, when everything is ready, we can check how the email will look per each customer, for email and desktop versions, using the Preview and Test tab. If we have the Litmus licence and, for more accurate testing, a test email address, it can be also tested in this step.
The out of the box templates and content blocks covers most of the different email designs the companies have to build but, for really tricky designs, the HTML paste option is always there. It is not a really user-friendly option if we have to add personalization like dynamic content blocks but it is a workaround.
I didn’t mention AMPScript in order to avoid to get in confusions, but it is here in the email creation where we can add it to achieve the next level of personalization. There will be posts created specifically to cover this topic.
Overall, what is really important is to involve the design agency (if there is), the end-users and the Marketing Cloud technical users to gather all the requirements properly and design an agile flow to build the emails that will avoid the possible back-and-force when some changes have to be done, and define a test and approvals flow where the designers, campaign owners and testers make sure that the email is ready before clicking in the Send button.