How good are your email development practices? Chances are they could be better. It’s relatively easy to build and send emails through Email Studio in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Creating dynamic, personalized emails efficiently can be easy too, but it requires some discipline and thoughtful development practices.
The concept of modular development (or modular programming) isn’t new or even groundbreaking. Dating back to the late 1960’s, the idea to compartmentalize pieces of a program or application into independent modules that could be reused and repurposed was as sensible as it was revolutionary. Today, most modern tech stacks leverage modular programming to allow team members to develop simultaneously. Salesforce Marketing Cloud allows email developers to improve efficiency, provide more flexible solutions and save time using a modular approach. Here’s how:
Open Content Areas in Content Builder
Email Studio, part of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, includes Content Builder where users can create emails using a WYSIWYG user interface. Drag-and-drop content blocks (or modules) can be added to open content areas within predefined email templates. This tool is straightforward and easy to use for less tech savvy marketers and email content managers.
For email developers, these content areas are highly flexible and customizable. Creating fully custom templates can be done by leveraging a simple DIV tag.
In Content Builder, this DIV tag is converted to an open area that can be used to house out-of-the-box content blocks.
Not only can DIVs be placed outside of the BODY tag, but also outside the DOM. In fact, you can replace any DOM structure with an open content area. As an example, you can use an open content area to control STYLE tags in an email template. All of the CSS can be housed within this content block allowing you to update and apply changes globally without having to adjust the email campaign. This approach makes branding updates a snap! (Note: be sure to preview your emails.)
Advantages of Salesforce Modular Development
Open content areas are one of the easiest and most useful ways to take advantage of modular development in Salesforce Content Builder. To demonstrate this point more clearly, let’s take a look at an email that’s divided into individual content blocks.
Response Labs held a March Madness event earlier this year that we promoted with an email campaign. Naturally, we leveraged modular development. The emails were laid out with copy and design elements organized neatly so that content could be placed into blocks. It’s that easy.
Updating this email is just as easy. Instead of scrolling through a monolith of HTML to find content, the developer can simply select which block they need to edit. Now, where things get fun is leveraging dynamic content. Using AMPscript, Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s proprietary scripting language, you can display different pieces of content for different audiences.
Content blocks are exclusive to an email. Unless the developer saves them as an external content block, they do not exist outside of that email. Moreover, any external content blocks that are dragged into an email template are now exclusive to that template, meaning that they can be manipulated without the original, external content block being affected. This allows the developer to create reusable content blocks that can be repurposed for other email campaigns.
We only outlined a few easy ways to utilize modular development in SFMC’s Content Builder. But the same concepts and techniques can be employed in other platforms as well. At Response Labs, we consider modular development a best practice. Really, it’s a starting point. We work with our clients’ development teams to replace manual practices with more dynamic methods. There are numerous benefits of a more seamless development process, not the least of which is helping mitigate risk during email production. Plus, minimizing the level of effort (LOE) and increasing development speed frees up time for nerdier, cooler stuff. 🤓
Are you a data, analytics or email development nerd? We’re always looking for smart, fun and passionate people to join our crew. Check out our openings: https://www.responselabs.com/about/#careers.