6 Ways Agencies Can Save Time Building Emails

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BY  JENN FERNANDES As an agency, your most precious commodity when producing emails for your clients is time—time scoped appropriately...

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As an agency, your most precious commodity when producing emails for your clients is time—time scoped appropriately, time left in your budgeted forecast, and, of course, the project delivered on time. A big part of how you spend you time on a project involves how efficiently your team builds the emails themselves.

With so many nuances that go into building and setting up emails for your clients, any shortcuts or ways to make the production process more efficient can make a big difference. In this post, we walk through six ways your team can save time, budget, and headaches when creating emails.

1. TEMPLATES

This one may seem obvious at first, but reusing assets is not just about simply repurposing an email template. While your team can hack around an old template that you created for a client, there are more effective ways to do this.
Focus less on hacking templates that you created before and instead build an internal template library or set of trusted resources. For example, create a standard set of templates that are responsive or hybrid and display properly across all the major email clients and devices. In addition, ensure that these templates work with every major email service provider (ESP) you—or your clients—work with.
Test, design, and build email templates that can be reused time and time again for each individual client and their needs. Create versions of each template that include numerous content modules, so you can easily edit or pare down as needed for each project.
When you have these templates in good working order, make sure you save them—including the PSD source files—in an area that is accessible to the whole team and cannot be overwritten. Your team can have a repository of these templates saved locally (for example, locked in Dropbox) or in Litmus Builder. Then, copies can be made of these originals to ensure quality going forward.

2. MANUAL CONTENT MODULES

Unlike templates, content modules are smaller chunks of content that can be placed within an email. Content modules are extremely handy when it comes to streamlining your email production process. They are versatile blocks that you can swap into an email, style and edit as you see fit, and scale across different projects.
Like templates, modules should be tested, designed to render across popular email clients and devices, and should be “locked” in some fashion, with only the ability to make copies. In addition, they should be saved in a library, where they can be easily accessed, reused, and edited for future projects.

3. DYNAMIC CONTENT MODULES OR PARTIALS

Like the name suggests, dynamic content modules or partials (as they are known in Litmus Builder) are parent level modules that when edited are updated across all emails that contain that module.
For example, you create a footer module for a client with their logo, company contact info, and unsubscribe information. Say your client changes their address and this footer module then needs to be updated across all their templates. Instead of going back to each master template or master module and updating that area, you can use dynamic modules that can be updated automatically.
Just keep in mind, when using dynamic content modules such as partials, make sure your team either saves a duplicate copy of the original or any edits are thoroughly proofed and tested before they are saved and updated globally.

4. CODE SNIPPETS

Code snippets (or just snippets as we call them in Litmus Builder) are pieces of code that can be reused across all your templates.
Unlike full blocks or modules, snippets are the smaller elements that you may need to keep recreating each time you work on a template project. For example, items like bulletproof buttons, links, and fields are common elements that your team probably recreates for every single email they build.
Snippets are hugely valuable in automating coding and making your email building process more efficient. Rather than having to re-write the code each time an element is used, your team can use a snippet.
If you are using snippets in Litmus Builder (you should—it’s free!), you can save them in your library and set up keystroke commands to drop each snippet into your template easily.

5. INTERNAL KNOWLEDGE BASE/LIBRARY>

We’ve talked a lot so far about the physical pieces of code you can create and reuse by storing template, module, or snippet libraries. But, another option to consider is a library of resources, hacks, and strategic knowledge.
Instead of storing physical HTML, as echoed by Brian Wood of Moxie in his recent participation in our Agency Tips & Tricks panel, your team should find a way to store best practices that you have gathered across each client you work with. For example, do you know that a particular ESP likes to add extra padding to your tables? Make sure that is noted in an internal library or knowledge base where that information is accessible to future builds and sends using that ESP.
Tools like Basecamp, Trello, JIRA, and even Google Docs can be used to log, store, and classify items that you have learned about building emails over time and to disseminate these among your team. Get it out of your brains and into a physical, easily accessible place!

6. TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!

The email industry is constantly changing so it’s crucial for your team to keep up to date with the latest email developments. You want to deliver the best projects to your clients.
Online training tools such as CodeSchoolTreehouseLynda, and FrontEndMasters are great ways to teach your development and design team coding best practices. In addition, online resources like the Litmus CommunityCampaign MonitorEmail Design ReviewMailChimpEmail Wizardry, and StyleCampaign are great resources on the latest changes that your team should be aware of in the industry.

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