Email Creation Maturity Model Part 3: Phase 2 Defined

If these scenarios sound familiar, your organization is in Phase 2 of email maturity.

Part 3 of the Maturity Model Blog Post Series

We recently released stensul’s Email Creation Maturity Model, which outlines the five stages of email production maturity as determined by our 5+ years of research. Last week, we dove into what a Phase 1 organization looks like, and today we’re going to take a deeper look at Phase 2.

The Phase 2 overview

Phase 2 occurs when companies take briefs and translate them directly into pre-created templates or modules. A full design file is not created and approved before each email is produced.

The main requesters in this phase include demand generation and marketing automation teams as well as teams specific to the industry (field and product marketers at technology companies, financial advisors at finance companies, brokers and building managers at real estate companies, etc).

Some companies have looked to improve this process by letting requesters into the deployment platforms to build emails on their own with templates to avoid the brief process. However, this opens up GDPR concerns. and things often go out unchecked, or the central team spends so much time fixing and checking things that no efficiencies are gained.

Which teams usually find themselves in this phase?

This phase is primarily used by digital teams, most of which work with social, email, SEO and advertising.

In most of these channels, the asset is usually relatively straightforward like a tweet or image for social, and most of the creation time is spent on strategy. Email, on the other hand, needs image assets, copy, layout, and coding. Unlike other channels like social, creation ends up becoming where most of the creation time is spent, instead of strategy.

The Phase 2 process

The way the process usually works is a marketer (or requester like a legal team sending out a legal notice) sends in a brief to a central creation team. The central creation team then takes the brief and transforms it into modules or templates. The modules and templates are usually coded off of designs that come from the internal agency or a brand team. There may also be copywriters to help with copy and designers to create assets before the content is added to the modules or templates.

Some aspects that vary across the Phase:

  • The requester might select the modules or templates in the brief, or the production team might select them on behalf of the requester
  • Images might need to be custom created for the email, or an asset management platform where the images are selected might exist
  • The requester might work with the designers and copywriters to get the assets and copy, or the central team might do this after the brief is submitted
  • Templates and modules might be in an ESP builder, or they might be in HTML

Once the brief is converted to templates, it is shared with the requester. The requester gives feedback, and then the central production team makes updates.This goes back and forth a couple times until the email is complete and ready for deployment. Usually, a rendering test is completed to ensure that nothing is broken before the email is deployed.

If the existing templates or modules can’t support the request, new templates or modules have to be created and coded. These templates and modules must be continually managed.

The end-to-end process can take 3+ touchpoints and 1+ weeks to complete an email. Creation time is usually 5 or more hours.

What does Phase 2 strategy usually look like?

The central team often gets pulled into managing the modules/templates and going back and forth with the requesters instead of focusing on strategy. The creation team often only spends about 30% of their time on strategy, the rest of their time focused on fulfilling requests and making updates before deployment. The ideal model would involve spending more time on testing and program strategy, instead of just getting requests out the door.

What the tech stack looks like

The technology used by Phase 2 orgs is usually Dreamweaver (if using HTML templates) or an ESP builder for creation. Both of these technologies require a very specific skill set, and team members can only see the design once it’s been assembled in one of these platforms. This creates a lot of required back and forth communication after the initial creation.

Designers work in Photoshop or an image editing program to create assets, or assets are selected from an asset management platform. The brief lives in Microsoft Office and goes back and forth between team members over email or in a workflow platform.

What clients experience working with stensul

Using our detailed assessment process with clients, we find they retain $400,000 or more in value moving from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and above. After implementation, organizations find at least one to two full time employees that could be focused on higher value work and strategy. In addition, moving to mobile optimization and enabled testing can yield a 20%+ uptick in revenue, increased focus on strategy, improved engagement and conversion, and possibly decreased external spend. This return can easily reach the millions of dollars for larger teams.

Client story: A high-profile real estate company  

This company saved over 254 hours per month or 1.5 FTEs to spend time on strategic initiatives, yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars in value for the business.

Before stensul: Central operations team spent 300+ hours every month building individual emails for all communication needs.

Solution: Stensul success team guided transformation, shifting to a model where the central team built core communications in one third the time, and outsourced localized communications to building managers directly using our platform.

Process improvements with stensul: 

  • Process – Requestors, strategists, designers, and copywriters can be involved in creation with guardrails instead of submitting a brief each. Reduced build time from 5+ hours to under 1
  • Increase Strategy- Central team saved over 250 hours per month of building time that could be used for higher-value activities
  • Improve Output- Ensured all emails were best practice and consistent across the brand
  • Streamlined Tech Stack – Integrated with AEM, DAM, 2 ESPs, and SSO; consolidated the use of Photoshop, HTML Builder, and Word/Excel, and gained improved analytics with module-level link tracking

To learn more about the Email Creation Maturity Model, download the whitepaper now.

Read part 1 of this blog series, Why should I read this whitepaper?

Read part 2 of this blog series, Phase 1 Defined

Continue your in-depth look of the Maturity Model with a deep dive into Phase 3.