Read Time: 6 min

Building Successful Email Workflows: Webinar Recording + Q&A


Based on our 2017 State of Email Survey of more than 3,500 marketers, our second annual State of Email Workflows report takes a detailed look at every stage of email creation—from planning and creation to quality assurance and sending. The report is focused on industry averages, but what do exceptional email workflows look like?

In this webinar, Product Manager Kevin Mandeville and I answer that question, sharing insights about the behaviors and processes that separate successful email programs from less successful ones. Some of those behaviors include the use of a year-round content calendar, the creation of email briefs for every email, the use of partials to speed up email development, and utilizing an extensive pre-send checklist.

Didn’t make the webinar? That’s ok. We recorded the whole thing. Watch the recording above and download the slides below:


We didn’t have time to get to all of the questions during the live webinar, but we’ve answered them here on our blog. Have any additional questions about email workflows? Leave them in the comments. We’d love to answer them for you.

Can you give a few examples of what would be included in a good email brief?

Chad: In the 3rd Edition of my book, Email Marketing Rules, I say that a good email brief should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who should get this message?
  • What action do you want those subscribers to take?
  • Why will those subscribers be motivated to take that action?
  • When should those subscribers receive the message?
  • Where are those subscribers likely to read the message?
  • How will you measure this email’s success?
  • Is this email part of a series of messages or a subscriber or customer journey?
  • Do you have any supplemental material that’s important to answering the other questions?

Answering those questions helps you create an effective email, and sharing the answers to these questions with everyone involved in creating or approving the email will keep everyone aligned.

Can partials only be used in trigger/drip campaigns? How do you implement them?

Kevin: No, partials are not limited to a specific type of email. Partials are dynamic, re-usable blocks of code that you can use across multiple emails and with any type of email. Partials are dependent on using a build system that has this functionality built in, such as Litmus Builder.

Is a content calendar the same thing as a deployment calendar?

Chad: Yes. Whether you call it an email content calendar or email deployment calendar, it helps you plan for your upcoming emails, enabling you to:

  • Use your design and development resources wisely
  • Call in extra resources when needed
  • Plan stories and journeys that span several emails

Any examples of an instance where you saw a great apology email?

Kevin: My favorite example is from Fab. The retailer accidentally sent a test email with cat images as placeholder content. They leveraged this accident as the theme for their apology email, which featured more cats and a discount. It really injected a lot of personality into the email and it was something you could tell a human sent.

Chad: I mention that Fab email and some others in this MarketingLand column about My Top 5 Favorite Apology Emails. It’s worth acknowledging that many apology emails are really more of a correction email, where the brand is sending a corrected email with a small banner or note in the email about what was wrong about the previous email. The subject line is usually prefaced with an “Oops:” or “Correction:” or similar language.

If you want a good framework for when to send an apology and when not to, check out our How to Recover from Email Marketing Mistakes ebook.

Is it a good idea or not to use an email framework (Foundation for Emails) vs. building your own framework/templates?

Kevin: Email frameworks aren’t inherently good or bad, but they have their pros and cons. Frameworks are good as they’re out-of-the-box solutions with no setup required and typically follow best practices. However, sometimes frameworks don’t have the level of customization or flexibility you need for your own emails. Our favorite email frameworks that we recommend are Zurb’s Foundation for Emails and Mailjet’s MJML. Even if you do use a popular email framework, we definitely recommend customizing it to optimize your development workflow.

If you are using a framework: How would you suggest managing files? Should they be archived? Should older emails live in a production environment?

Kevin: We recommend always backing up your emails. Dropbox and GitHub are popular third-party version control systems.

How often do you recommend (re)testing ongoing deployments?

Chad: We recommend reviewing and retesting your triggered and transactional emails every quarter. In addition to verifying that they still render and function how you intended, it’s also a great opportunity to check that the branding and messaging is still optimal, to do some A/B testing, to tweak any seasonal or dynamic content used, and make other improvements.

Currently, the majority of brands review their automated emails once a year or less often, according to our 2016 State of Email Design research. That’s not frequent enough, especially in light of the growing strategic importance of triggered and transactional emails, which are delivering an ever-larger percentage of email marketing revenue.

Can you give some recommendations for how to strengthen an approval process?

Chad: The four approval process elements that we looked at are:

  1. Number of approvers
  2. The title of the highest-level approver
  3. The frequency of last-minute changes
  4. How far ahead of a send an email was approved

The number of approvers and frequency of last-minute changes had the biggest impact on whether an approval process was seen as appropriately rigorous, but the other two factors also play a role. For a detailed examination of these factors and their effect, check out 4 Signs Your Email Approval Process Is Hurting Performance.

Can you tell us what type of things Checklist checks for?

Kevin: Litmus Checklist automatically previews your email rendering in 70+ email clients and checks your subject line and preview text, links, tracking, ALT text, and images for any possible errors, so you can correct before sending.

Get a guided check of critical elements

With Checklist, you can preview your email in 70+ apps and devices, validate that your links, images, and tracking work properly, test your email’s load time, and more–all before pressing send.

Learn more →


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