There’s no denying that marketing is a fast-paced game, which is exactly why so many marketers lean on tools that allow them to work more efficiently.
While there are many different marketing initiatives, one of the most universal is email marketing—it is, after all, the core of outreach, content delivery, and branded communication. So it’s no wonder the market has seen an influx of email-based services to help marketers keep everything under control and running smoothly.
Unfortunately, that also means marketers have to sift through all the available options, test them out, see if they’re a good fit, then learn them top to bottom so they can stay efficient and on deadline.
At the end of the day, that kind of additional work and decision-making can be a job in and of itself. So to help you figure out which email template builder is right for you, we made a list of handy features and reached out to marketers to see what they look for when making their choices.
Drag and Drop
For some people, creating email templates isn’t about having all the bells and whistles—it’s about having an intuitive way to design and assemble without having to worry about coding.
“I love the freedom and ease of drag and drop, so that’s my top criteria” says content and writing pro Michele K. Huffman of Revision Communication. “It’s an easy way to put new email content together and maintain a consistent look and feel, no matter the campaign.”
While HTML and other code-based builders provide more options in terms of customization, drag and drop email template builders are perfect for those who have an eye for design but may not have the time or technical expertise to endure the rigors of coding.
Whether you choose something simple and straightforward like drag and drop or want the full breadth of customization with a coded builder, there’s one thing that’s massively important to nearly every marketer:
“A user-friendly interface,” says copywriter and marketing consultant Kyle Bell of Bell Copywriting, Inc.
Many email template builders come with so many features and tools, it can quickly become overwhelming, especially for new users. In the end, having all those options won’t really matter if users don’t have a clean, intuitive interface to easily access them from.
After all, a clunky user experience can often mean lost time trying to troubleshoot, locate features, or even operate the builder entirely—and lost time usually means lost money.
A comprehensive library of email templates
If you’ve worked with a wide variety of clients or have a few years of experience, you likely know just how many different types of emails there are. From newsletters to product updates and event invitations to sales grids, there’s an absolute ton of ground to cover with email alone.
Having only a small number of options in terms of email templates can be really limiting—especially when you’re about to launch a new and highly-tailored campaign that needs to accommodate the imagery, language, layout, and overall design to speak to an audience appropriately.
A good email template builder will not only have premade templates to cover every different type of email you could ever possibly want to send, but ideally have multiple options for each, so you’re more limited by the constraints of the project and/or your creativity—not your ability to bring it to fruition.
The right tools and customization options for your specific needs
Not every marketer needs the same set of tools to bring an email from idea to finished product—but every marketer should know what tools and features are necessary to complete their respective projects.
That’s why when looking for the right builder, smart marketers make sure:
“That it has key features,” says Shana Browne, founder and CEO of Magnolia Heart Creative. “Buttons, images, video, survey, and the ability to edit the footer. That way my emails can stick with my branding, be attractive, and have clear calls to action.”
Before you dive into your hunt for the right template builder, it might be helpful to first put together a list of what features and customization options you’ll find the most helpful.
For example, if you’re a baseline user without template building experience, it might be helpful to have redo and undo features in case anything goes wrong and you don’t otherwise know how to fix it. If you often re-use certain sections across several different emails, it might be useful to find a builder that allows you to create, save, and re-use custom blocks or files you can easily drop into place without having to rebuild every time.
In the end, having a short prioritized list of what features and customization options are most important to you will make your job of finding the right builder a whole lot easier.
More than most anything, email marketing can be one of the best ways to speak directly to your audience to provide a level of personal touch—despite deploying most campaigns at scale.
To achieve that, it’s hugely important to be able to include specific details that simply can’t be covered by overarching terms or generalizations. That means personalization.
“I'm always looking for an email template builder that can help me personalize the subject line—for me, it’s key,” notes marketing expert Brian Shiraho of Tutor and Allied Consulting. “A personalized email subject line allows me to connect with the person I am pitching to and forms a point of us connecting.”
Good personalization goes beyond just including the recipient’s name. That’s why a good email template builder will allow you to add personalization throughout the subject line and body copy, using elements like merge tags to personalize your emails with dynamic information that shows your audience you know and understand them.
Compatibility and integration with email clients and service providers
While almost all email template builders will allow you to create a template on their site or in their app, not all of them play nice when it comes to getting them ported, connected, or integrated with email clients and service providers you can’t simply pivot away from.
If there’s no ability to export or connect your designs, or simply not enough attention given to having your templates translate into the tools and software you’re already using, you may end up wasting time designing something you can’t use, or worse yet, send something that compromises the integrity of your messaging or intent.
At a basic level, a good template builder allows you to connect with whatever email client and/or service providers you already use so all your template designs can be seamless transitioned somewhere you can scheduled and send as intended—the best template builders will cover a whole lot more and even provide direct integration into your customer relationship management (CRM) software to shorten and simplify the process even more.
While it’s best to find one that works for your current approach to email, finding one with a wide range of compatibility will allow you to more easily change clients or service providers without having to change your template builder as well.
It’s safe to say that emails need to look good no matter where they’re viewed. If you’ve seen one that doesn’t, you know exactly why it’s such a problem—chances are, you, like your audience, certainly won’t read it, or might unsubscribe entirely.
Realistically, unsightly emails can be a serious issue. They have the potential to not only hurt your return on investment but might damage your brand as a whole. And it stands to reason: if you don’t take the time and consideration to make sure your design comes across in the right way, why should people assume you’ll care enough to deliver them products and services they’ll be happy with?
A good email template builder will have fully responsive design across all devices, so none of your hard work is compromised and your audience can fully appreciate what you’re sending them.
When you’re surrounded by tools, windows, images, and information, it’s easy to get distracted and miss important details. What might be a handy tool in the builder—alignment markers, for instance—can often obscure how the final product looks, and when you’re designing something that’s going out to a mass audience, every detail matters.
Quick previews aren’t as universal as one might think, but they are incredibly helpful for quick reference to make sure whatever you’re aiming to deliver looks like you expect it to. There’s nothing like thinking something is properly placed, aligned, or included, only to find out it’s not.
Let’s be honest, handing off login information and sharing notes isn’t the most efficient way to handle what should be a collaborative process.
To solve this issue, plenty of email template builders come with tools that allow multiple users to work on the same template, share notes and comments right in the software, and have version control so you know who did what and when.
When working on major campaigns, it can make all the difference when it comes to efficiency and accessibility, allowing your team to maximize their time and input without forcing users to jump through hoops just to share the work or effectively communicate.
Built-in image editing
Depending on who you ask, this last one might be up for debate—especially with seasoned pros who have already established a preference for specific image-editing software.
However, a fair amount of users need only simple tools like cropping, resizing, and so on to get their draft to a finished product. Having them all in one place not only saves time jumping in between windows, but ensures accuracy and compatibility, so nothing gets lost in translation when trying to import or use third party tools in ways that the template builder may not understand.
In the end, there are very few one size fits all email template builders, but if you’ve done your research, there are plenty of good options available. With a little bit of legwork, a clear picture of what you’re aiming to accomplish, and this list, you should have no trouble finding an email template builder that works for you and your business.