How to Create a Custom HTML Email Template in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

In theory, sending out emails is not a difficult thing to do. But in practice, crafting a pitch that speaks to your target audience while meeting your corporate email policy can be challenging. The key to creating a successful email that will draw click-throughs, make your subscribers sit up and take notice, and bring in the leads is by using a ready-made template, or at least a set of starter language to build on.

Choosing a subject line that will make your prospective subscribers sit up and take notice is essential, as well as choosing a strong opening to lure them in, such as a compelling headline or a question. Once you have their attention, your email can continue with compelling content that will keep them engaged.

In order to send the right message to the right audience at the right time, you have to start by creating a clear email strategy that will form the basis of your email content. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to create a custom HTML email template in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Step one: Create a clear strategy

As a marketer, you must always be thinking about the end-to-end customer experience, including ensuring that they receive the right content, at the right time, in the right form (email or mobile).

With that in mind, you should strive to create an email experience that is both compelling and satisfying to the customer so that they will want to continue the relationship and buy your product or service. This is why it’s so important to have developed an email strategy, so that you can incorporate the right message into the right communication channel, at the right time.

Now, the first piece of advice I want to share with you is that developing a strategy is not easy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. It may appear easier to stumble upon “good” content that will appeal to your target audience, or to come up with an idea for a blog post. But that’s not always the case, and you should never assume that what is easy for you is easy for everyone else. Your job as a marketer is to figure out how to reach your audience, not to make your decision based on what is convenient for you.

So, when you’re putting together your email strategy, you have to think about what will make your subscriber click-through to your content, make them interested in what you have to say, and convince them to do something (buy your product or service, enter their contact details, etc.).

For example, if you’re using email marketing to promote your travel blog, but the majority of your readers are UK residents, you might want to consider testing a pitch for UK-based travel bloggers, or a pitch designed with a travel focus for readers in the UK.

Step two: Create a list of possible subscribers

After you have your strategy in place, you can start to put together a list of possible subscribers that you’ll want to consider for this campaign. Begin by compiling a short list of email addresses that you have access to, whether they’re on your list or found online. This could be a list of customers, partners, employees, or just people you know. If you’ve never done marketing or email marketing before, this might seem like an impossible task, but there are tools out there that can help you find email addresses quickly and easily. (See the links below for more information on finding email addresses.)

Once you have your initial list, you can use software to find duplicates and remove them. Duplicates can arise for a number of reasons, such as shared inboxes (where people share their email address with certain businesses), or because you used a free email provider and shared your email address with multiple businesses (yikes!). Removing duplicates helps ensure that your email campaigns reach only the intended audience.

Step three: Design your email template

Once you have your initial list ready, it’s time to craft an email template that will be used to send your emails to your subscribers. You don’t need to go overboard and develop a polished, designer-worthy template; you just need one that will do the trick. This step is important for a couple of reasons. First, you’ll want to ensure that the email is aesthetically pleasing, and second, you’ll want to do your best to ensure that the content inside the template is presented in the most attractive manner possible. (See our blog post on email etiquette to better understand why it’s important to design your emails well.)

For the travel blog example described above, you might want to consider using a template that is compatible with Outlook, so that your subscribers can access your content regardless of which email client they use. You also want to choose a template that is as unique as it is striking; something that will draw attention and compel the reader to engage with you.

Step four: Create individual emails that relate to the content strategy

Now that you have your email template ready, it’s time to put it to use. You can create individual emails that relate to the content strategy you put in place in Step 1. For example, if you have a strategy for product launches, you might want to consider creating an email around the launch of a new product.

Similarly, if you have a blog post strategy and you want to send out an individualized welcome email to new subscribers, or a re-engagement email following an abandonment, you can use the same template.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you have a finite number of email templates available to you, and you need to ensure that you don’t go beyond what is reasonable. Having numerous templates, many with subtle variations, can be a great way to allow you to be more creative while still adhering to a structure that you feel confident will communicate your message effectively.

Developing a content strategy and creating individualized emails is not an easy task, and it can be highly rewarding to see the results of your efforts once you’ve completed it. Not every attempt will be a success, but with careful planning and testing, you can almost certainly craft an effective strategy that will help guide your email marketing efforts and ensure that you are reaching the right audience.

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