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  • Sabrina Samedi

Email Template Guide: Part One

If you haven’t templatized your email workflow yet, you are missing out on a major de-stressor! To template your work eliminates not only the stress but the time and energy it takes to answer the age-old wondering question of “How should this next email look?”

Unless we are baking the ultimate chocolate chunk cookie, starting anything from scratch is not only overwhelming, but time-consuming. Thus, we want to help make your life a little easier by providing some general recommendations on templates you custom build and have on hand for whenever the inspiration strikes. You'll quickly see how trends and patterns emerge which reduces the creative, copy, and technical resources you need to drive traffic and sales to your business.

Where to Start

The hardest part of any endeavor is just getting started. We find it easiest to first gather as many examples of businesses emails as possible- the more the merrier! Examples of business emails include promotional marketing blasts, triggered lifecycle emails (like Welcome Emails or Abandon Cart Emails), transactional emails (like purchase, forgot password), business review emails, responses customers get from emailing support or contacting you, or any other type of email that is sent on behalf of your business.

Once you've got a list together you can start to organize the emails by theme. For example, what layouts are similar? Are there some that use all text? Do all emails come from the same sender? You will start to get an idea of how many similar layouts exist and the idea of what templates make the most logical sense. Remember you are not re-creating the wheel here; you are just customizing the wheel to your needs.

**Disclaimer: it’s entirely too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole and before you know it, you’ll be looking at 30 templates so be mindful to cut yourself off at some point because the whole point of this exercise is to help you de-stress not overwhelm yourself.

To Avoid Going Down the Rabbit Hole, Try out this Detour Instead:

Let’s channel our inner Marie Kondo here! Challenge yourself to consolidate as much as possible. You will likely only need 3 standard template groups to use as a baseline, but don’t let your commitment issues get in the way here because you can always edit your templates and add subtle as well as drastic variations as you see fit.

Your three standard templates include:

  1. Transactional

  2. Promotional/Content (Make 3 of these)

  3. Lifecycle

Stay sharp, it’s review time! Below you will find the message hierarchy and strategy for each template group mentioned above.

Transactional Emails

Do you want something quick, easy-to-digest and to-the-point? If so, a transactional email is your best bet. Transactional emails have the single purpose of conveying a message regarding a customer's order, account, or to provide resources/direction should they need further help. For this reason, it is best to keep these emails simple themselves, eliminating anything that is unnecessary.

It might be counterintuitive to our wanting-to-aesthetically-please desires, but I've found that in most cases images fall in the "unnecessary" category.

A simple layout might look like:

Header: This can be as simple and clean as just a logo, or a little more informative with the addition of a phone number, live chat link, blog link, category links, or a direct reflection of your homepage header.

Introductory text: This should immediately tell them what the email is regarding.

  • "Thanks for your order"

  • "Your password is reset"

  • "Your appointment is confirmed for tomorrow"

Body information: This will vary from email to email, but some general ideas of what types of information are useful would be things like:

  • Order Related (order number, cost, shipping type, shipping address, payment type, billing address, service type, appointment time, appointment with, appointment location)

  • Account Related (account type, password reset, account/service expiration date, account/service renewal date)

  • Shipping Related (tracking information, carrier information, shipping date, expected arrival date)

Footer: This is where you tie it all together with the legal bits. But before you get into that start with a logo and some social links. You'll need to add your physical address as well, but don't forget, since these are transactional you can leave the unsubscribe link off.

These are emails that need to convey important information to customers and ones they should not be able to unsubscribe from. As a result, you need to make sure they are valuable and straight to the point, but that doesn't mean you need to be all business. The addition of some "non-transactional" content can add a lot to these emails, but must not be part of the main message.

These types of content usually fit well in a single column banner:

  • Cross-sells

  • Up-sells

  • Buying Guides

  • Other services

  • Event Announcements

  • Seasonal Content

  • Blog Posts

Promotional and Content (aka blasts)

These are going to serve as the emails that deliver your valuable content, products and/or services to your subscribers. Don’t limit yourself with options here; thus, its best practice to have at least three versions on reserve to start with to help prevent messaging from getting stale and outdated.

The general layout might be something like:

Header: Same as above, it’s not only best practice but incredibly easy to use one header throughout all of your email types, so when changes happen (they are inevitable) it is easier to get them reflected across all your emails.

Hero Image: This can be designed in many ways, but a good start is to use an image with some text that conveys what your email is about:

  • "Spring Sale Starts Now!"

  • "10 Ways to increase email deliverability"

  • "Try our new service today"

You might need a CTA (Call To Action) button too, depending on your emails goal. This can be coded under the hero so that the email has a "bullet-proof" button. Meaning, if images are turned off for a recipients inbox they will still see a nicely coded button with an action to take.

Products/Categories/Articles/Services/Content Section: This section is your star player, your rock star, your pride and joy! In this section you will deliver the main message of your email and it can be organized in several ways. Play around with one column, two column, and three column sections. Mixing and matching to make the most of your product/service. However, be careful having too much fun. You can easily get into trouble here by adding too many rows and creating an email that is way too long (Gmail might clip it, or worse, subscribers ignore it). For starters stick to five rows max, see how your audience interacts and let their engagement dictate where you go from there.

Here are three easy layouts to start with (You may of course need to add or subtract to make sure your brand and offering is well represented.)

  • Header, Hero (with coded CTA below), 2- 2 column rows, 1- 1 column row, Footer

  • Header, Hero (with coded CTA below), 2- 3 column rows, 1- 1 column row, Footer

  • Header, Hero (with coded CTA below), 5- 1 column rows, Footer

Each column section is likely to have an image depicting what it is offering, service, product, or category exploration to name a few. This is again, a good opportunity to make sure you have a good text to image ratio as well as a good user experience, by coding your CTAs under each image.

This is also a good area to utilize your recommendations engine if you have one. Content like "Recommended for you", "Top Sellers", or "People who bought this also bought that" are great additions and can reference products, services, articles and more. If you aren't currently utilizing any sort of recommendations but would like to, contact us today and we can help you get that running.

Footer: Same as above, except add an unsubscribe link. These are marketing emails and require that you provide the customer with a means of removing themselves from your send list.

Triggered/Lifecycle Emails

These are the emails that will be triggered from actions the user takes (or inaction) and similar to transactional emails should focus on that singular next action you'd like them to take.

Some typical triggered emails and the following desired action would include:

  • Welcome - Browse the site

  • Product/Service Review - Leave a review of your product or service.

  • Win-Back - Come back and visit your site again

  • Browse Abandon - Add something to the cart...checkout

  • Cart Abandon – Checkout

The layout for triggered and/or lifecycle emails will be similar to transactional emails, but for something like a welcome email, it’s best to use one of your blast templates as they tend to be a little more on the content side. Thus, giving your new subscriber a taste of all that you have to offer.

For the rest of the message, a typical template might look like:

Header: Same as the two above

Body: Most triggered emails will revolve around a product, service, article, or other content the customer expressed interest in and the body should serve as a reminder, opportunity to pickup where they left-off, or guide to get them to the next step in the process. Try this simple layout for the body

  • Introductory text "You left these behind", "You might like these articles", "Finish booking your appointment".

  • Replication of what they saw last. Use the content you already have, were they on an article? Show them that article. Were they in their cart? Show them their cart. This should include a clear call to action as well (see above for desired actions), and don't forget to use bullet proof buttons.

  • Recommendations - Show them things you offer that are similar to what they showed interest in. These emails are one of the best places to show your customers you are here to help them find what they need.

It might be counterintuitive to our wanting-to-aesthetically-please desires, but I've found that in most cases images fall in the "unnecessary" categorunsubscribe. I like to error on the side of caution, let them unsubscribe.

These examples are meant to be a great place for you to start and are not a one size fits all kind of thing. You may have a case that you don't think fits into any of these and if you're stuck trying to figure out what to do, contact us today and tell us about it. We will make sure you get what you need.

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