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Master of templates: the guide

9 min read
More than 60% of subscribers want to receive emails from their brands at least once a week or more. This means you have to send out a minimum of four emails a month. But there are drip campaigns, seasonal events, product launches, abandoned cart reminders, and so much more. If our math is correct, all that will usually add up to… well, far more than four emails per month.
As a marketing specialist, you can create great email designs even if you don’t have a designer available. But still, considering the number of campaigns you launch, you’d likely love to reduce the time you spend designing and approving them. Well, there’s a way to do it and still be stylish. What you need is a master template.

Why we wrote this guide

Our team members had a call with a client once - a marketer for a small fashion business in New York. Their brand was growing rapidly and they were happy about it, but the conversation was not about celebrating their success. They were troubled.
The problem was that their mailing list was expanding at a fast pace, and the brand was stealing the show. More launches, more events, more everything. And while this is great, they just couldn’t keep up with the speed. Creating, designing, and sending campaigns was their entire life at that point.
We know it’s troubling many marketers, and we’ve been planning on writing this guide for quite some time since that call. We know what you need - and what they needed - to prepare high-performing fancy email designs in no time and escape the everlasting cycle of creation, approval, and recreation.
You already know that the answer is a master template. If you can relate to our client, or just want to boost your productivity with email designs tenfold - this guide is for you.

What is a master template?

A master template is a lot like a LEGO - it’s a collection of pre-made blocks for your emails. You can put them in any order, remove or add as many as you need, and do it all without extra hassle since you have all the options at hand. This allows you to build any type of email in no time, both regular and triggered.
It's convenient as it makes setting up a new email an easy ride. You just need to place the content and banners into the master template, insert the links, and write a new subject line and preheader. Everything else is already done!
The main advantages of master templates:
  • Saving time and resources on designing and coding - they’re only done once. It helps both your schedule and the company budget.
  • Consistent layouts and branding of the emails. It lets your subscribers instantly know it’s you. Recognition is always good, and it also keeps the structure easy to navigate.
  • Simplicity in adjusting the template to your needs - no last-second changes can break the process. And you don’t have to go through the approval procedure every time!

Collect the information

Before starting to create the master template, you need to gather some information to help the process.

First of all, you need to decide on the design. The safest bet is going for your brand style. In most cases, you want to use your brand book - it already includes all the necessary elements. If your company doesn’t have a brand book, you can borrow your website design features to make up for it.

Second, you need references. There are a plethora of different approaches to designing emails, so finding a good reference is essential. The design should go hand in hand with the brand’s style. Find the one that does it and use the elements you need to suit this goal. Otherwise, you risk creating a Frankenstein’s monster.

Third, you need to figure out your strategy. The types of emails you send, the segments of the audience you send to, and the goals define what blocks you need to create. You will definitely need welcome emails, abandoned cart reminders, sales, special offers, events, product launches, etc. So building sections for these is essential. Make a list of all the email types you send to ensure you don’t miss something.

Fourth, you need to gather your analytics. All the data from your previous campaigns, click and open rates, website stats, heat maps, etc. If analyzed correctly, this information will help you cut off elements that don’t work. And, of course, emphasize things that your subscribers and website visitors seem to love.

Fifth, collect the links, contacts, disclaimers, and other information that has to be included for legal reasons. This goes straight into the footer, and it’s crucial to remember.

This list is not exhaustive. Any data and ideas can be used to enhance your master template. If you come up with something, or just so happen to still have the stats from five years ago, you’ll find a practical use for it.

Structure of a master template

Based on all the data you’ve collected, you can now begin drafting the structure of your master template: the blocks you need to create for different scenarios. They may vary mostly because of the goals and email types you’ve outlined previously. To create the prototype, you need to forget about the design for a while and focus on the functionality.
Let’s go over the structure of a master template.

Technical structure

A master template consists of modular pieces of different sizes. Based on their sizes and structural hierarchy, we can sort them into the following categories:
Content - text and image pieces. In a master template, there are usually placeholders for content, since you add new text and images for each specific case.
Components - titles, buttons, and other reusable elements. Components are the building blocks for your content. As standalone elements, they can be placed almost anywhere.
Regions - several components and content pieces put together in a certain way.
Sections - several regions arranged in a certain way. Any full-width horizontal group of blocks between the header and footer is a section, and they can be stacked on top of each other. This way, they are used to create the general layout of an email

Visual structure

A standard email consists of several blocks. In this puzzle, some pieces always stay in one place, while others can be moved around or eliminated. Your master template is supposed to have all these elements pre-made. Content and components will likely remain the same, but the way you design regions and sections will define the layout of an email. By creating a few variations of them, you will be able to craft different types of emails while maintaining the branding and style of your company.
The main blocks that you need to create are:
  • logo;
  • headers;
  • menu;
  • banners;
  • content placeholders;
  • product placeholders;
  • advantages;
  • blog articles;
  • timer/countdown;
  • order details tab;
  • payment methods;
  • rating and review;
  • CTA buttons;
  • social media buttons;
  • footer;
  • contacts and address;
  • official information and an unsubscribe link.
Make several variations of these. This way, you’ll have the same style basis for original campaigns on special occasions. But for the header and the footer (including the official info, etc.), it’s safer to only make one version of each and use it everywhere. These blocks are too important to accidentally mess them up with experiments.
After creating these blocks in all the desired variations, combine them into regions, and then sections. All the sections combined make up a master template.

Who can help?

It’s a lot to take in, we know. But you should know that there are more options than doing everything yourself. And even then you can get some people to help you. Long story short, you can do it in a few ways.
1
Do it yourself
Hard as it sounds, it’s possible. It either requires some designing and coding skills or some help involved, though. If you’re not too good at these things, get a designer and a layout designer. Together you’re sure to get the job done, and then you won’t need their help with emails for another dozen campaigns.
2
Hire an agency
If you’re short on time (for whatever reason) or just have too much budget to spare, you can contact an agency. There are quite a few of them, and they can create a great master template for you. It can be a bit trickier on the approval side, but there’s no hassle on your side, which is great.
3
Find it online
You can buy pre-built master templates or even download some for free - there’s a plethora of them online. They are in public access, so you’re definitely not going to be unique using them. There are likely many brands out there who use those too. However, if you put in the time to customize them to suit your brand, you can get away with it.
4
Use an email solution
This is the simplest way. There are many email builders out there, and the majority of them offer you a bunch of pre-built templates. You can choose from their collection, customize them to your liking, and use them for your campaigns. But keep in mind that you need to find an email solution that has all the features you need. We listed them below for your convenience.
What features to look out for:
  • a decent number of pre-built templates;
  • simple customization;
  • uploading your template;
  • exporting the templates you create;
  • built-in error checker;
  • separate creation for dark mode;
  • separate creation for mobile and desktop devices.
While we’re talking about features, we can give you another tip. Markeaze has all the features we just mentioned, allowing you to choose from dozens of pre-built fashion templates and customize them to create the master template of your dreams. Apart from templates and master templates, it has a ton of other features, too. The best part is that it’s free - you only pay if you want to use it as a sending tool as well.

To conclude

Creating a master template is not a simple process, but it’s guaranteed to make your following campaigns so much easier. To conclude this guide, let’s revise everything we learned.
Master templates are a LEGO for emails.
They include all the pre-designed blocks and sections you’ll need in any sort of email. This allows you to promptly create an email by placing the new content into the sections you need and arranging them in any order.
Before creating a master template, you need to gather information.
Find the references and decide on the design using your brand style. Consider your sending strategy and use the analytics from the previous campaigns and website. Prepare all the legal information, too. This allows you to understand what sections you’ll need.
Follow the structure and don’t miss anything.
A template consists of full-width sections. Sections consist of several regions put together. Regions are a combination of content pieces and components. Use a list we provided to make sure you create all the essential parts, and then use the information you’ve collected to add anything else you’ll need. Make several variations for most sections.
Get help if you feel you need it
With the help of a designer and a layout designer, you can create a master template on your own. Alternatively, you can hire an agency or use an email solution. While the latter is the easiest, don’t forget to ensure that the email builder has all the necessary features.
Have your master template approved once
Then forget about the hassle of designing each email separately. Enjoy the time you’ve saved yourself. You deserve it.

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