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How to Build Marketo Email Program Templates

April 20, 2017

Program templates allow you to scale your marketing efforts, and the most valuable template in your toolbox is the one that you use the most and that saves you the most time. For most companies, this is the email campaign program template.

Surprisingly enough, while this is arguably the most valuable template, many companies overlook it. This happens because even without a fully tokenized template, it doesn’t take much time to get an email out the door.

For those that think a tokenized email program isn’t worth taking the time to create, think again. This template will save you time with every send and reduce the errors that can come from rushing a one-off email.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to build an email program template that will become your most cloned marketing program. But first, I’d like to try to persuade any skeptics.

Reasons you might think you don’t need a tokenized program template for email:

1. You get too many one-off requests
2. You like to write your emails in the editor
3. You think that the tokens create unnecessary complexity

And to counter, here are the reasons why you still need an email program template:

  • One-off requests are expensive because they’re time-consuming. Introducing even a few standardized templates that address the majority of your email use cases will highlight the amount of unnecessary time being dedicated to email. Spend your time on great subject lines, not subtle copy changes.
  • If you’re writing copy in the email editor then you must be sending sample emails to get the email copy reviewed and approved. It takes more time to make edits, reapprove drafts, and resend test emails than it does to get the copy approved ahead of time. Paste to tokens and skip the editor altogether.
  • The typical one-section email send should only have between 6-10 tokens. With finalized copy and images, this program should take you less than 5 minutes from clone to complete.

Let’s Get Started

First of all, you’re not going to be building just one program template, you’re going to be building one for each of your primary email use cases, starting with the most frequently used. Don’t try to build a separate template for every imaginable email send—apply the 80/20 rule and build the fewest number of program templates to satisfy the majority of your email sends.

Example Use Cases:

  • Single body copy email w/ CTA button + banner image
  • Single body copy email w/ CTA button, no banner
  • Two body copy email with text below the CTA button + banner image
  • Multi-section newsletter w/ images and CTA buttons

For most companies, the most used email is the standard marketing email—an email with a single body copy section, a banner image, and a single CTA button.

The elements within the standard marketing email are pretty straightforward, so there won’t be a lot of program tokens needed. However, before we start tokenizing these elements, we need to discuss Marketo program types for email.

Two Marketo Email Program Types: Ad-Hoc Email Campaign and Lead Nurture Cast Programs

Marketo has two options for standalone email campaign programs, the Email Batch Program (mailbox icon) and the default Marketing Program (briefcase icon). Each program type has its own advantages and drawbacks, but generally, we use the Email Batch Program for one-off, timely email sends and the Marketing Program for complex or recurring email sends. We recommend building both out as program templates to serve different needs.

The Email Batch Program is more intuitive but also more limited than the default Marketing Program. It is great for sending scheduled emails once. When using this program for a scheduled batch send, you’re also able to leverage Marketo’s A/B email testing functionality. Another added bonus is that you’re able to clone this program type into Event Programs if you need to add a tokenized email in a hurry. At Etumos, we refer to the Email Batch Program type as “Email Campaign” programs (abbreviated to “EC,” and shown above on the right).

In the Email Campaign program template, we only set one progression of “Engaged” to indicate that the desired action was taken with an email. Instead of setting additional program statuses, smart lists are used for reporting to identify leads that were sent, opened, or clicked an email. This practice reduces the amount of processing that comes with setting additional high-volume program statuses and also reduces the volume of objects being synced between Marketo and your CRM. This has the benefit of reducing the size of your campaign member table in your CRM.

The more complex and more versatile default Marketing Program is the ideal program type for sending the same email repeatedly, this includes re-sending nurture emails in engagement programs. At Etumos, we refer to email programs nested in engagement streams as “Lead Nurture Email Cast Programs” (abbreviated to “LN,” and shown below).

The Lead Nurture Email Cast program template is designed specifically to be nested in an Engagement Program stream. Each time the Engagement Program stream casts a send, the “Send Email” smart campaign is requested within the nested Email Cast program template.

Marketo’s Engagement Programs natively skips a send to any lead that is already a member of a nested program. This is the program equivalent of skipping a send to a lead that has already received an individual email. If a lead is a member of a program in an Engagement Program stream, they will be skipped to the next program that they are not yet a member of during the same cast.

For this reason, our Email Cast program contains an “Exclusion” program status that can be set for leads that should not receive the email contained within the program. The exclusion should be run as a batch to target your exclusion audience and the triggered exclusion smart campaign can also be activated if necessary.

For example, let’s say the nurture email in an Email Cast program is promoting a product demo. You can exclude leads that have already requested a product demo using the scheduled batch campaign, and can then set up a triggered batch to exclude leads that request a demo in the future.  

Note: If instead of using a program exclusion status you define your audience within a smart campaign and a lead does not meet your audience criteria, it will not be sent the email. However, it also won’t skip to the next program during the same Engagement Program cast—the prospect will receive nothing at all, and you’ll miss a week of communication.

You’ll notice that, unlike the Email Campaign program where we avoid unnecessary program statuses, the Email Cast program does set a program status of Sent, Opened, Clicked, and Unsubscribed. This is because we want to record program membership for these leads to ensure that they skip this program during the next Engagement Program cast.

In order to reduce the volume of objects being synced between Marketo and your CRM, we do not recommend using the Marketo Program to Salesforce sync functionality for Email Cast programs. Instead, you can use the Add to Salesforce campaign flow step to sync your success (Clicked or Converted) status for individual program reporting out of Salesforce.

One last added benefit of the default Marketing Program is testing. Since with this program type you have access to the smart campaign flow, you can actually nest multiple emails (testing variants) in the same program, and use either Random Sample, or Random Cohort to achieve a statistically significant sample size for controlled testing. This allows you to constantly be improving your nurture emails

Tokenizing Your Marketo Email Program Templates

Once you’ve defined the structure of your email, the tokens will be the same regardless of the Marketo Program type you’ll be building with. In this post, we’re talking about building a single body copy email with CTA button and banner image.

Here’s a look at the tokens you’ll need for this email:

The token names should be clearly organized and almost so self-explanatory that their location and the information they represent are as clear to you as it is to your Marketing Managers.

An option for taking email tokens one step further is including folder-level tokens that specify key footer information like copyright year, regional office address, and links to your privacy policy. These tokens make it easy to clone your master program template into GEO region folders and serve localized information that can be updated in one place.

Streamlining Your MOPS Email Request Process

Once you have your token framework in place, you’re ready to streamline the email request process for your Marketing Managers.

Create a simple Word document for each of the email templates you develop. Have Marketing Managers submit a completed email doc as part of their request process. The email request doc should contain the token name (for your reference), a brief description of the token, and guidelines for what text, links or images need to be provided. The advantages of using an approach like this is twofold: (1) it will decrease build time, as you’ll have every element of the email provided upfront, and (2) it will define the email elements that Marketing Managers can customize.

Below is an example email request form:

Miscellaneous Tips & Tricks for Program Template Best-Practices

You’ll be using your email program templates a lot. Since you send so many emails, it’s easy to get in the habit of making tweaks to programs by just cloning your last send, rather than translating the changes back to your template. Avoid this mistake. It will clutter your instance with outdated templates and create confusion for other users in your instance. Keep the number of templates to as few as necessary, and keep them updated.  

What’s next after Email Program Templates? 

Leave a comment below if you have questions about the contents of this article, and as always feel free to contact Etumos if you’re looking for help setting up program templates in your instance.

Also, be sure you download a copy of The Marketo Expert’s Guide to Advanced Program TemplatesIt will walk you through how to set up each of the fundamental Marketo program templates.

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