Email Templates – The True Cost

Whether you implemented or inherited an email/marketing automation platform (ExactTarget, Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot etc), one of your first tasks as the platform owner will be the creation of new email templates.

Your old email templates may need a refresh, or you’re unhappy with the default ones; either way there is no shortage of options for their creation.

Don’t be fooled. The cheapest option is anything but.

To make the right decision you need to consider the true cost of email templates: TCO (total cost of ownership).

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Low or High Volume Email?

Firstly you need to consider how many templates your company is likely to need, and how many emails you send.

The right option for an enterprise company may be very different to that of a small business.

To help you, we’ve collated some common email statistics we’ve seen for 3 broad company sizes:

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

* Number of edits to existing templates which are done each year. All templates require bug fixes, edits and new sections – we have used 2-5 edits per template per year for this.

We’ll use these stats as a basis to calculate the TCO for email templates.

 

Calculating TCO for Email Templates

TCO  includes the cost of template creation, maintenance and usage for one year.

To get an accurate picture, you can’t just consider the email template but also the usage; the creation of emails from the template in your email/marketing automation platform.

The reason we do this is because the better the template is, the less work is required in creation and fixing of emails in your platform.

Some concepts

To understand the analysis we perform, it’s important to explain these terms:

Platform editable – this means the email template has the tags to make it editable in the platform’s email editor. This is quite easy for the average coder.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Platform optimized – this means the email template has been designed in such a way that it is easy to edit using the platform’s email editor, without breaking the email. A coder needs specialised experience in your platform to achieve this.

On-brand – this means an email is custom built for your company and meets the company’s brand guidelines. It is much more than a template having your logo and colors.

 

Option 1: Pre-made Email Templates (non-platform specific)

Professional looking, responsive emails are commonplace and inexpensive. They can be had for as little as $20.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

There are serious downsides with these however:

  • Not on-brand – this is a deal breaker for companies with brand guidelines and/or a corporate communications team. Even for smaller companies, adding a logo and changing colors will take a coder time (1-2h)
  • Not platform editable – takes time (1h) to make these editable and requires a HTML coder
  • Missing images – any images used in the template (buttons, spacers, styling, stock photos) need to be manually extracted and uploaded into your platform (2h), then the links in the email template need to reflect the location in the platform – this requires a coder (1h)
  • Not Platform optimized – which means they are easy to break in the platform’s editor by a non-coder. When an email breaks, it can take a coder a long time to find and fix the problem (2-8h)
  • Fixed wireframe – means you only get one layout, if you need a different layout you need your coder to add this and it’s time consuming (2h-10h)

Cost of Templates

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Cost of Usage

Assuming:

  • It takes on average 2 hours to create an email in a platform from an existing template
  • 1:2 emails will experience a break in the platform editor and/or on an email client

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Option 2: Free Platform Templates

Email/marketing automation platforms usually offers a limited range of responsive emails for free.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

There are some downsides with these however:

  • Not on-brand – this is a deal breaker for companies with brand guidelines and/or a corporate communications team. Even for smaller companies, adding a logo and changing colors will take a coder time (1-2h)
  • Fixed wireframe – means you only get one layout, if you need a different layout you need your coder to add this and it’s time consuming (2h-10h)

Cost of Templates

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Cost of Usage

Assuming:

  • It takes on average 2 hours to create an email in the platform from an existing template
  • 2:5 emails will experience a break in the platform’s editor and/or on an email client

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Option 3: Generic Email Builder

There are a variety of online email builders offered by vendors such as Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and also email publishers such as Envato.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

There are some downsides with these however:

  • Not on-brand – this is a deal breaker for companies with brand guidelines and/or a corporate communications team. Even for smaller companies, adding a logo and changing colors will take a coder time (1-2h)
  • Not Platform editable – takes time (1h) to make these editable and requires a HTML coder
  • Missing images – any images used in the template (buttons, spacers, styling, stock photos) need to be manually extracted and uploaded into the platform (2h), then the links in the email template need to reflect the location in the platform – this requires a coder (1h)
  • Not platform optimized – which means they are easy to break in the platform editor by a non-coder. When an email breaks, it can take a coder a long time to find and fix the problem (2-8h)

 

Cost of Templates

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Cost of Usage

Assuming:

  • It takes on average 2 hours to create an email in the platform from an existing template
  • 1:2 emails will experience a break in the platform editor and/or on an email client

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Option 4: Design Agency/Internal Designer (non-vendor certified)

The traditional method of creating on-brand email templates is to use an agency, or your own creative team. Usually this requires two people: a designer and a HTML coder.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

In this case we are assuming that the agency or internal staff are not vendor-certified.

The downsides of this approach are:

  • Time lag – usually takes from 5-15 days on average to complete a custom template
  • Feedback time – approvals and feedback required to manage an agency/creative team (10-20h)
  • Not platform optimized – which means they are easy to break in the platform editor by a non-coder. When an email breaks, it can take a coder a long time to find and fix the problem (2-8h)
  • Agency rates – are significantly higher than your own internal staff ($100-$150)

 

Cost of Templates

Cost of Usage

Assuming:

  • It takes on average 2 hours to create an email in the platform from an existing template
  • 1:2 emails will experience a break in the platform’s editor and/or on an email client

Option 5: Design Agency/Internal Designer (vendor-certified)

See above. The only real difference from a non-vendor certified is that emails are platform optimized and less likely to break in the platform’s editor.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

Cost of Usage

Assuming:

  • It takes on average 2 hours to create an email in the platform from an existing template
  • 2:5 emails will experience a break in the platform’s editor and/or on an email client

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

The Results

Here are the results in order of lowest TCO to highest TCO.

Only by considering TCO, can you make the best decision when it comes to choosing between options on how to get your email templates built.

If on-brand emails aren’t strictly necessary, then the free vendor templates are the best option.

If on-brand emails are necessary, having an internal designer who is vendor-certified is the best option in terms of TCO.

Option 6: Better Alternatives?

An alternative which we haven’t covered this article, is the use of an email template builder built specifically for a vendor.

For example, in Marketo there are several on Launchpoint, but these are constantly being improved with new features so we can’t accurately cover them here. I recommend looking into them as they can provide significantly lower TCOs than the options covered above.

 

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