Building your first email process

Written on March 7, 2021 - 5 minute read

When you're a team of one, having a process to build your emails seems unimportant. You're a one person email superhero, wearing all the hats at once. You're invincible, your emails are perfect. Until, that is, you forget to close off your personalisation variable. "Dear {{first.name}}" goes out to your entire mailing list.

What should I do then?

Glad you asked, pal! There is no one size fits all email process. A lot of it depends on who is involved, and what technology you're using, how many people are in the business etc etc.

BUT

There are some commonalities that you should look to include, regardless of the size of your team. Some of these may be basic, but sometimes it's good to check yourself. After all, no one wants to have to send the "Oops we messed up" email.

Test your email

Before you hit send, make sure you test your campaign. The final test should come from your email sending platform (ESP), and be set up exactly the same as when you're going to send it. This will give you a chance to see the actual email, in an actual email inbox. It's best to send this as a proof, or test, if your ESP allows, or you can set up a list with just a couple of test email addresses in. This helps you to check that the data variables you've used work, and make sure that your design renders as you intended.

Check your email in multiple email clients

If you can, check what your email looks like in a variety of email clients. Typically, Outlook and Gmail provide some of the biggest surprises when rendering your emails. If you're using templates built by the sending platform you use, these should account for all these weird and wonderful quirks, but, new ones may have been added, so it's always best to check.

You can check for things like your font fallbacks working in Gmail, does Outlook render your buttons correctly, how does Outlook.com handle my images or does my email get clipped in Gmail? These are all important to know ahead of your send.

Use high resolution, but compressed images

You want to make sure the images you send in your email are as good quality as possible, whilst being as lightweight as possible. You should use an image that is roughly double the width of the space you're looking to fill, so it doesn't look fuzzy on a Retina screen, but then compress it before you upload it. Ideally, your image should be smaller than 4-500kb in size, as an upper limit.

How do I put this into a process?

This question is a little tricky to answer. Typically though, I'd expect the process to look something like this:

Brief > content & design > approval > test > send.

Each of these steps has a multitude of "it depends" that define exactly how your process ends up working, but let's attempt to unpack it a little.

The brief

Typically, this stage exists in some form of document, whether that's as a part of a wider marketing strategy doc, or an email coming from a colleague, someone, somewhere says "let's send an email about X".

This is your brief. The best briefs leave a little room for creativity, but are tight enough that the expectations of the email are clear for all the stakeholders involved. I've seen these take the form of huge Excel sheets, right down to a 1 line Slack message. What works for one team, won't for another.

The key here? To gather the expectations of everyone involved, so you can create an email that will convert, and aligns to the goals of the business.

Content & design

I'm quite biased and would always recommend using a tool like Taxi for Email, as it speeds this part up no end. But that's not the point of this post.

The tools you use will define the order you do these steps. If you use an email editor or builder (vs. just coding the email from scratch), you'll likely want to do the design first - selecting from the modules you have available to you, and adding the content. If you're coding from scratch (hats off to the effort you're putting in, if you are), you'll probably want the content to be written first, so you can design around that.

Getting approval

This doesn't have to be as formal as it sounds. Even in a team of one, it's important to get someone, anyone, to cast a second eye over your work. You get so used to staring at those same words on the screen that you will undoubtedly miss a type. Some of them are harmless. Some of them could break your entire email. Always, always, get a second pair of eyes to check over the email.

If they can do it in the context of an inbox, even better.

Testing

No one likes to see un-rendered personalisation scripts. Once you've had your feedback from the person who "approved" your email, and implemented it, you'll want to give it a final test. As we covered earlier, send this from your ESP, and check it in as many email clients you have access to, especially Outlook (it behaves in it's own weird and wonderful way) and Gmail (check that the email doesn't get clipped).

Send it

You're ready to send it! Pick your audience and get the email out to them. Sit back, and watch your numbers roll in.