We all know, have read, and been reminded that mobile is the new focus of email marketing and it's growing exponentially. The internet is flooded with content on 'Why You Should Design With Mobile In Mind', 'The Death Of The Desktop Experience', 'Mobile First Or You Are Doing It Wrong' - and on and on.

Two years ago, when I first decided to make Live Nation Clubs' and Theaters Division House of Blues Entertainment's emails 100% mobile responsive, I could not find a single decent article on HOW to begin such an undertaking. So I thought it fitting that my first post for the Marketing Cloud blog be on this very topic - if anyone out there is looking for tips on mobile responsive design it will help you along.

How We Tackled Mobile Responsive Email Templates

Armed with a list of templates, project timelines, initial wireframes, plus coding and design hours dog eared specifically for this project, I set up a meeting with everyone who may have something to add to the feature list and design of our new Foundation Room templates. Foundation Room is an exclusive club in some of our House of Blues venues so there were many opinions to take into consideration. To put it in perspective, at one point I recall there were 15 people in a conference room talking about one email template. After 2 months in just the design phase, and way behind schedule, I knew something needed to give. The eventual product for Foundation Room yielded not one, but two templates with a white and black background.

For template redesign number two we chose venue newsletters. These templates are used by local marketers who work at one of our venues across the country (45 and counting). We wanted to streamline their process as much as possible because creating an email was just one duty on a long list of both operational and digital marketing tasks. Already being far behind meant there was less time for design and feature meetings. My new plan of action was to work on a well fleshed out mock up with our amazing internal creative team, share this with the stakeholders and then turn that design over to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud services design expert to make minor edits and code. This approach worked!

Our third template was for another internal department. They had already engaged with a vendor to revamp their website as well as create new email templates for them. While I am sure that having an established agency relationship, or working with a vendor can probably be the answer to efficiently create new templates, for us it took longer. The design lacked the specific branding elements and feel that our internal creative team accomplished, so there was more back and forth with iterations. Once coded, we again involved the Salesforce Marketing Cloud design expert to do a final check and more edits were needed.

For our final template, the path was clear. Use our internal experts for design and branding, and let the Marketing Cloud team do what they do best with the coding and Marketing cloud specific tasks, then pass it back to our email team for testing and sign off before deploying to the associated business units. This has made the lightest work for all involved and has been our process moving forward.

Tips for Creating Mobile Responsive Email Templates

Before I conclude, I did want to tack on a few of the more unexpected learnings that were a result of this project.

  1. A design shift takes more time and resources than you anticipate. My original timeline was one template per quarter. It took us nearly 6 months to create our first! We needed to rethink our process and get things moving so I looked to our Marketing Cloud services team to help more (and actually involved our internal stakeholders less). This approach will depend on your organization but after having one template successfully released with a lot of team involvement certainly helped.
  2. Don't forget proper care and feeding. Once we had our shiny new templates you might think the story ended there. Several times each year we had to update the coding due to some sort of industry changes to the way our templates were rendering. A shift in the way Android devices were displaying email with the latest update, or most recently all of the exciting Gmail updates are great examples. Make sure to build in time to go over your templates after you make the change.
  3. Design fads are real and faster than ever. No sooner had we released our templates with full width buttons for your tapping pleasure had this approach became passe. Eventually we settled on a quarterly audit to 'keep it fresh' and implement minor tweaks.
  4. Business goals fuel design decisions. Our newsletters are a great example. We wanted customizable CTA text over a button, which would would make it easier for marketers to create newsletters, as well as eliminate the need for my team to manage an exhaustive library of buttons with every CTA imaginable. Turns out this was sort of a PITA to code, and test, and it does break from time to time (but for us this feature is 100% more valuable than the alternatives).

Interested in Learning More? Check out 4 Email Practices of Marketing Masters for more insights into how to drive engagement with email.

About the Author
A self-professed data and email geek, Lydia's primary role at Live Nation's House of Blues Entertainment is to help build relationships with fans of the 45 owned and operated venues across the country. You may have seen her speak at Dreamforce or Salesforce World Tour, or perhaps met at one of the 5 Connections she had attended.