One Marketer’s Take: The Pros and Cons of Modular Email Templates

One healthcare tech company’s approach to email creation, and how modular templates have improved (but not perfected) its process.

The email creation process is a lot messier than it could be. Even companies with leaner teams have room for improvement.

We caught up with a senior marketing professional at a prominent, New York-based healthcare tech company. We spoke about the email responsibilities of the role, plus the decision to move from ad hoc, in-house design and development to an agency-designed modular template—and the effect it’s had on productivity and creativity.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Walk me through your marketing stack.

Right now, we use Salesforce Marketing Cloud as our primary ESP. We also have a WordPress CMS and use in-house tools for all transactional emails.

Do you have any challenges with email today?

Yes, and I’d say they fall into three categories:

  1. ESP functionality or troubleshooting
  2. Data or list cleaning and personalization
  3. Production (email creation) troubleshooting

We’re a small team, so our email team—me—is heavily involved and/or responsible for every step of the email marketing process, including creating a strategy; thinking through content and copy; list segmentation and targeting; content creation; deployment; tracking strategy and implementation; and reporting.

In that regard, my biggest challenge is probably that there’s not enough time in the day!

What’s your approach to building emails?

Image by rawpixel on Unsplash

Right now, I’m using an agency-designed modular template for marketing emails and an in-house tool for transactional emails.

We’d been creating emails ad hoc for some time, using a variety of freelance designers and developers to create the final product. But this wasn’t sustainable, as there were inconsistencies in branding and code, and it was a significant coordination effort to manage all the third parties.

We needed a better process for email production. Creating a modular template that was easily customizable without having to request help from external development resources was step one.

Makes sense. So how has the new modular template affected your work?

The production process is much quicker now, especially for a lean team. We spend more time working in-house on strategy and creative thinking around copy and design, and less time on email development (and far less time on HTML troubleshooting since the templates are built to render across all clients, mobile and desktop).

On the flip side, the major con of using a pre-built HTML template is the restrictions we face when thinking about how to build a campaign—it can pose creative limits on what we can or cannot include in our emails.

We went through the process of building the template several months ago, and tried to anticipate every type of design we might need. Now, when we start building a campaign, we have to think about how to fit our creative design ideas into the template because we’re limited to modules with certain character limits, image sizing, and so on. We’re forced to think “‘inside the box.”  

If you could change anything about your email process, what would it be?

Other than adding more hours to the day or bodies to the room, in a perfect world there would be a platform that caters to all functions of the email send process, and integrates perfectly with our in-house tools and data.

There are so many of them out there. I’ve found some that do a great job of facilitating one part of the larger process, but not a tool that makes the process seamless from start to finish—including HTML testing and development, list segmentation, automation and systems integration, data collection, reporting, and optimization.

Do you have any advice on email creation?

Image by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Make sure to always plan well. If you can, give yourself a buffer when working on a campaign, because the process to create those beautiful emails you want your customers to open and click on will always take more time and work than expected.

And make sure that planning includes time to test. Then test again. Checking copy, code, dynamic fields, links, and list data never hurts—it’ll save you from sending a whole bunch of emails that aren’t quite right!

Save your team from endless designing, developing, and testing with stensul. Contact us today to learn how we can reduce your email production timelines and costs by up to 90%.