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An Easy Guide to Building Reusable Email Templates in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

An Easy Guide to Building Reusable Email Templates in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

As every email marketer knows, when it comes to email marketing – timing is everything. A thank you or password reset email has to be sent out immediately in response to a customer’s action. A birthday email has to go out in time for their birthday, and so on.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) empowers email marketers to quickly and easily create world-class email campaigns – thanks to templates. With a Salesforce email template, email marketers can save time and respond quickly to the needs of their subscribers with personalized emails that promote meaningful engagements.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about reusable email templates in SFMC. You will learn about the tool sometimes known as Salesforce Email Builder (Email Studio Content Builder), the different types of Salesforce HTML email templates, and how to create email templates in Salesforce.

Introduction to Salesforce email templates

In simplest terms, a Salesforce email template provides a predefined structure for email messages. Email marketers can use empty templates, or add content to a particular template with predefined areas for customization. They can build a template with the brand’s logo at the top, contact information at the bottom, and empty content blocks in the center that can be easily customized.

Email template

Now, when building a reusable email template in SFMC, email marketers and their development team will find it useful to first visualize the design areas as ‘layers’ that stack on top of each other.

Layer 1: Template

This is the foundation or ‘base’ layer that holds the key HTML & CSS structure to support the other 2 layers. It contains all the key HTML tags such as <head>,<style> and <body> to support the email.

Layer 2: Layouts

This middle layer uses style classes built in the template to change how the email looks on different devices, e.g. desktop vs Smartphone.

Three of the most commonly-used layout structures are:

  • Squish: Elements remain side-by-side. To ensure proper rendering on mobile, they get narrower
  • Stack: Elements move from side-by-side view on desktop to a stacked view on mobile
  • Hide: Elements toggle hide/show between desktop and mobile
Layout for Reusable Email Templates

Layer 3: Content Modules

This is the top layer that contains pre-formatted HTML, text and images. Examples of modules include header, call-out and product banner.

When designing content modules, it’s important to think long-term about how they can be reasonably used and reused. Creating a library of pre-formatted content blocks will provide the flexibility needed to dynamically create unique emails quickly and easily. This subject is covered in the next section.

How to create reusable content blocks in SFMC Email Studio and Content Builder

Before we show you how to create email templates in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, here’s a step-by-step guide to creating reusable content blocks in SFMC. 

Step 1: Create your new content block

1. Navigate to Content Builder

2. Once the relevant section loads, click on the Create button

3. From the relevant dropdown, select Content Block and select HTML as the type

Step 2: Insert your Embed code

After selecting the HTML type, you can add your relevant email plugin embed code. Select the HTML Editor tab and paste in the code. Name and save your content block.

Step 3: Add your content block to your email

Once you create your content block, it will become available as a content type whenever you edit a Salesforce HTML email template in SFMC. To view the content types within SFMC Email Editor, navigate to the Content tab on the left of the screen. 

How to create a reusable email template in SFMC Content Builder

The correct name for Salesforce Email Builder is actually SFMC Content Builder. Here’s how to create a reusable email template in Content Builder.

Step 1: Navigate to Content Builder and click Create

Step 2: In the Template menu, create a new template by pasting HTML or by using an existing template. If building from an existing template (select From Existing Template), select from the standard options to. From here, use the drag-and-drop interface to build mobile-optimized templates

Step 3: Save the template

Step 4: Add content to the template

  • From the Blocks tab, drag one or more blocks. Follow the instructions according to the type selected
  • To select existing content to add to your template, choose Content. You can also search to find saved content and drag the content directly from search
  • To drag a grouping of blocks to the canvas, choose Layouts
  • To set or change styles for the template, choose Design

As you drag and drop blocks, content or layouts to build the template, define properties for specific areas as needed. Click Properties to:

  • Add text that instructs users how to use the content block
  • Set a limit on the number of blocks
  • Select what types of blocks are allowed

Step 5: Click Lock to prevent users from editing that area of the template

Step 6: Save the email

Example of template created in SFMC Content Builder

The template for Northern Trail Outfitters created in Content Builder.

How to modify a reusable email template in SFMC Content Builder

Step 1: From the content library, select the template to be modified

Step 2: To edit the template, click Edit. Drag blocks as needed

Step 3: To change existing content areas, hover over the content area, click down arrow, select Edit

Step 4: When you finish editing the template, click Save

Step 5: Editing a template does not automatically update emails already created from that template. Similarly, deleting a template doesn’t delete the emails created from that template. To update an email using this template to create a modified version, view the properties of the email and click Update Email Now under the Creation Method.

How to create an email from a Salesforce HTML Email template in SFMC Content Builder

Here’s a step-by-step guide to create an email message from a template you have already created in SFMC. 

Step 1: In the content area, click Create. From the drop-down menu, select Email

Step 2: From the Create Email drop-down menu, select Template (under Define Email Properties)

Step 3: Once the list of templates appears, click Folders

Step 4: Navigate to Shared Folders > Shared Content > IU Templates > IU Branded Templates. Click Select

Step 5: Under Define Email Properties, give a name to your email message. Select a local folder to save the message. Click Next

Step 6: The template will open to the Add Content screen. Enter the subject, click Save

Step 7: Click one of the layout areas to edit. Drag and drop content blocks from the left pane into the layout areas as needed. Click within each content block to add content

Step 8: Click Next. At this point, you’re ready to send the email message

How to save an existing email message as a reusable email template in SFMC Content Builder

In addition to creating new templates in SFMC Content Builder, you can also save existing emails as templates which you can then use for future sends. Here’s how:

Step 1: In SFMC, navigate to Content Builder

Step 2: When you’re ready to save your email message as a template, from the Save drop-down menu in the top right corner, select Save as Template

Step 3: In the Save as template box, give the new template a descriptive name

Step 4: Change the folder location as required (from the default)

Step 5: Click Save. Your email message will now display as a template

Wrap up

To leverage the true power of email marketing in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, it’s critical to know the right strategies – not only to create personalized, content-rich emails, but to create them quickly and easily. Here’s where Salesforce email templates can be a true life-saver. That’s why knowing how to create email templates in Salesforce should be a must-have tool in the email marketer’s toolkit. We hope this guide helps you create amazing email templates in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices.

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