Email, as a marketing tool, has been around for more than 25 years. In all that time you’d think creating emails would have become easier and more time-efficient. But it hasn’t. It’s defined by people performing specialized roles, using single-purpose tools. Separated from each other. Today, email creation teams operate in silos using stand-alone mechanisms. The information flows between each member via non-synchronous, often offline communications. This results in it taking days, often weeks, to create a single email. Along with taking too much time, it costs too much. That’s not the exception. It’s pervasive. This is how emails are typically created. And it’s meant time to create emails is split 90% creation/10% strategy-focused time. The missing element is collaboration, from the email brief to email deployment. With collaboration integral to email creation, actions are taken simultaneously, feedback is instantaneous. And all involved have visibility into the process.
This post explains how to empower your team to create better emails faster with the capabilities of a collaborative Email Creation Platform.
Everyone can be an email creator
Email creation today is little more than an analog-to-digital adaptation of the way direct mail pieces were produced decades ago. From inception of the idea for an email to the finished piece, discrete assets are trafficked from one point, one person, to another. Should something need to be corrected, it gets trafficked back to be fixed by the appropriate specialist. This is obviously an inefficient and costly way to create emails. What’s more, it clearly limits what’s possible with email marketing programs, since more time and money is spent creating them than strategizing how they ought to prompt subscribers to take action.
A big reason email creation takes days, not hours, is it’s very complex, highly technical, and limits collaboration.
Because that’s how it’s always been. As a result, those who identified the need for an email and who are most clear about what the message should be are often not central to its creation. Further, they don’t have visibility into the process to ensure all goes as envisioned. The same is true for those responsible for design, branding, and regulatory compliance.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. Not with a collaborative Email Creation Platform.
Now marketers don’t have to stop when they hand-off the email brief to designers. Not only can they stay involved, they can actually create the email. Without the involvement of HTML-code savvy developers. And those caring about compliance can rest assured since the email created will adhere to all requirements due to pre-configured guardrails.
It’s all possible with a collaborative Email Creation Platform. It allows everyone to be an email creator because it takes the requirement of knowing how to code HTML out of the equation for most email needs. By moving the creation process upstream, with the needed guardrails in place, marketing organizations become far more agile. Better able to manage a higher volume email creation and do so at a lower cost/email created. Plus have the time to do invaluable A/B testing.
A marketing organization’s collaboration kumbaya moment
An Email Creation Platform removes the barriers to smooth, certain, effective email creation. Like a kumbaya moment, it brings together all the people involved in a highly collaborative and productive manner. To explain, let’s step through how an email is created on a collaborative Email Creation Platform.
1. A marketer shares an email brief with a designer and copywriter. This trio works out all elements of the email. The headline, hero image, body copy, and CTA plus any footer content. Everything. If there’s anything off the mark, it gets addressed right then to avoid any delay.
2. Next comes review & approvals. Instead of searching through seemingly endless email threads to see the latest version of an email needing approval, brand or legal approvers simply see the email on the platform and offer approval or comments. It happens in real-time because they’re part of this collaborative process. The pre-configured guardrails set by their company’s marketing operations ensures everything will be correct. In terms of color palette, font size and type as well as all compliance matters. And that makes the review & approval process quick and easy.
3. Then QA. It’s quick and easy too. Since the Email Creation Platform won’t break code, the need for rendering testing is reduced significantly. Once QA and approval are handled, an API allows the email to be pushed to an ESP where it is readied for distribution.
More than bringing people together to collaborate, an Email Creation Platform:
• Simplifies email creation by automating much of it, reducing the number of steps, touchpoints, and touches to make an email ready to be deployed
• Democratizes email creation shifting it from the control of a handful of specialists (designers, copywriters, developers, etc) to all authorized email requesters
• Cuts the time to create emails from weeks or days to hours without any lessening of quality or performance
• Increases email volume by as much as 10X because the creation process is simpler, faster, and less prone to error and revision
• Reduces the cost per email created as much as 80% by requiring fewer personnel to be involved, particularly technically-skilled
How collaborative email creation can work
The marketing team at a financial services company got lots of things done quickly and effectively. However, creating emails wasn’t one of them. No developer was on staff and no one had coding skills.
Emails were pieced together using templates in their MAP. The output wasn’t creative or dynamic. Quality was lacking. They couldn’t bring their email vision to life due to the lack of coding know-how. Beyond that, it took 3 to 4 weeks to get a single email out the door.
They opted for an Email Creation Platform designed for marketers, not developers. It let non-technical people have hands-on management of the entire email creation process; from building with a native drag-and-drop editor and curated image library, to moving it to their MAP.
“The platform turned email design from torture to fun!”
Built-in, pre-configurable guardrails for brand guidelines, accessibility checks, and internal reviews made it possible. In addition, the platform allowed reviewers and approvers to collaborate seamlessly, further simplifying and speeding the overall creation process. In addition, the platform included link checking capabilities.
A major aim of using the Email Creation Platform was to cut the time to create emails. Before the platform, creation time was 3 to 4 weeks. With it, the marketing team was producing emails in 3 to 4 hours, a 97.5% reduction in creation time.
“With our Email Creation Platform, it takes less timeto build better emails.”
Before implementing the platform, the click-through rate for the emails that were created averaged 9.8%. Now, besides being able to provide requesters a link to the intended content, other links to content based on their indicated interests could be added. This improvement yielded a 2.5x increase in click through rates, rising to 28.5%.
What to look for in a collaborative Email Creation Platform
To maximize the potential for collaboration in email creation, here are the Email Creation Platform features to look for.
Drag and drop no-code functions
Seek out an Email Creation Platform that offers a combination of no-code drag and drop functionality plus code-once Custom Elements. As noted, this removes the need to deal with the complexities of the most common email creation approaches as well as having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of HTML. The platform puts it all behind the scenes. Email creators don’t have to worry about breaking any code or be slowed down by having to do rendering testing. And developers are freed up to work on only the most complex campaigns.
Modules and templates
These are the wireframes of an email. It’s where email creators can choose the layout, then enter copy into each content area – without having to build a new HTML file each time they want to create an email. Modules offer a bit more creative flexibility while templates, as they’re more set, hold greater time savings. Both have the advantage of being reusable.
Brand and compliance guardrails
These guardrails allow admins responsible for email creation activities to define specific brand guidelines for elements like fonts, formatting, color palettes, and even things like character or line counts, all of which prevent email creators from going off the rails as they enter content.
A collaborative email creation platform will enable the setting of these guardrails in a way to enforce brand standards, along with regulatory and compliance rules. By setting these rules at an admin level, every email created will be on-brand, automatically, regardless of who’s creating it.
Integrated content sources
An Email Creation Platform should integrate with a company’s existing marketing technology stack, including digital asset management platforms (DAMs). This lets email creators to easily access pre-approved brand logos, images and creative assets. By integrating content sources, email creators can pull approved content from existing sources without having to leave the platform.
A collaborative platform should let marketing operations set advanced permissions around creative assets. This ensures email creators only choose from logos for the logo spot, and headshots for the headshot spot. Marketing emails will remain consistently on-brand when email creators can only choose from pre-approved imagery and logos.
Review and approval features
Any Email Creation Platform should come with native functionality for commenting and approvals. That lets email creators collect comments and approvals in a single collaborative work environment that is accessible to all stakeholders. By streamlining reviews in the most effective way possible, an Email Creation Platform brings reviews and approvals inside the creation process, removing the need for lengthy, inefficient email threads and multiple chat conversations. Reflective of the collaborative nature of an Email Creation Platform, comments can be made and reacted to in real-time in the platform.
Email export services
An Email Creation Platform must be able to integrate with any ESP or MAP. This allows finished HTML assets to be passed via a secure API connection directly to the deployment platform, eliminating the need to download and re-upload finished files to the ESP or MAP, saving even more time.
Automatic link validation and tracking parameters
An Email Creation Platform should also be able to automatically detect any missing, broken, or malformed links within an email – either alerting the email creator or preventing the email from being completed without required links. Along with that, it should ensure every link within the email has proper tracking parameters added to effectively measure and track email performance. In a collaborative Email Creation Platform, tracking parameters, often for Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics, can be automatically configured or chosen by the email creator from pre-set choices, eliminating any downstream data issues. Even element-level parameters can be supported, like attaching something different if the link is an image, a headline or a CTA button.
User role optimization
Already stated, an Email Creation Platform democratizes the email creation process. It gives email creators of all abilities the chance to create quality, onbrand, successful emails. However, let’s not forget there are governing rules in a democracy. In this case, that means everyone does not have access to every configuration option. User role optimization levers in an Email Creation Platform allow admins to set permissions for various email creators, limiting what actions can be taken by various team members.
By empowering email creators to be self-serve-oriented, user role optimization features give distributed teams the ability to create brand-safe emails, turning everyone into an expert-level pro, no matter where they’re located.
Most email creation needs can be met without coding or design skills. Sometimes more complex campaigns require the ability to customize. An Email Creation Platform that offers Custom Elements gives email creators the ability to create their own HTML and CSS code and embed it with established guardrails for brand and compliance rules. The result is the flexibility to build complex and unique modules, according to design needs, while enforcing brand guidelines for email creators. One example of what Custom Elements can do is have content stack differently on mobile devices than on desktops.
If you want to see how the stensul Agile Email Creation Platform can elevate your email marketing programs, please request a demo.