Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud has rolled out a fantastic new set of features in its core email platform, named ‘Content Builder’.
It’s a long overdue change and has been in the wings for some time – now it has arrived, let’s take a look at what has changed and how it’s going to make people’s lives easier.
The conundrum: Control vs Ease of Use
The previous ‘Classic’ builder provided granular control over absolutely everything inside of an email. You could treat each and every part of an email as a discrete HTML entity and have complete control over it.
This is a fantastic option for people building emails with a very heavy customer journey focus – you can control literally every part of the experience of receiving that email, from personalisation to tracking to attribution, and you can test every part of the email. Very much an audience-centric approach.
However, this locked out ‘easy’ builds – you had to know exactly what you were doing to get the right outcome!
Compare this to the modular drag and drop approach of nearly every other online editor out there, where the template itself is set up by a design agency and end users simply slot together the pieces they needed. Very much a user centric approach.
Several of 2cloudnine’s clients expressed significant frustration at this as it loads up the end user with all the build time, which makes the production process really cumbersome and time consuming.
Won’t someone please think of the functionality?
I’m a fierce advocate of the incredible automation you can build through Marketing Cloud and Salesforce.com, while also wearing a ‘marketing best practice’ hat. So I’m always keen to ensure that we can expose the functionality of Salesforce.com to end users while keeping a rich experience for audiences.
How do you deliver this to customers who need the automation but also need a simple, straightforward production process? How indeed…
Prior to Content Builder the limited options for user-end configuration in Marketing Cloud ore or less forced me into creating a library of preconfigured templates which could then be populated by clients.
This irks marketers who often want to fine tune or tweak the template so it’s ‘just right’ – and fairly so. It’s no fun being on deadline trying to change link colours all across an email, when each component of the email needs to be modified.
The great news is that Content Builder has completely transformed the user experience while retaining all this punchy automation which makes Marketing Cloud the market leader.
Content Builder: Transforming the UX for the End User
The new content builder works with the user in mind. The developer or design agency simply creates a template, which essentially acts as the structure, stylesheet and the code holder for a given email.
From the outset, this template is sendable. All of the existing Classic Builder components – images, text, code, dynamic content, A/B testing, social share etc – are available as discrete content blocks that can be dragged and dropped straight into the body of this template. If they need to be reordered or for positions in the template to be changed, it’s drag & drop as well.
On top of that, there are a number of pre-configured layouts – which are essentially groups of content areas which may be populated by content blocks. This means that the common layout options can be put into a page rapidly without needing to set these up specially.
Added onto this functionality is some new stuff – buttons, predictive content, syndicated content – which further smooth workflow. So without any customisation at all, you’re able to immediately build a complete email from nothing but a styled template.
However, our clients frequently want customised layouts. Whereas previously you’d need to build every single layout they require, now all you need to do is build the parts of that layout they require.
Consider you want every configurable option for a 1-column and 2-column layout. You’d only need six content blocks and an empty template – your users would build everything else on the fly.
- Full Width Image
- Full Width Text
- Text Left, Text Right
- Text Left, Image Right
- Image Left, Image Right
- Image Left, Text Right
These blocks then get stored in a library and can be dragged straight into the template, ordered as required, then built as needed. They’ll pick up any of the formatting in the master template or can be configured directly themselves.
Building a database
Every content block, image or asset which is created has the ability to be saved into the Content Builder library. For instance, you could create a custom button, save it to the library, then insert that custom button into custom layout, save the layout into the library, then insert the layout into a template, then save the template into the library.
The library itself is accessible from inside the Content Builder app in a very robust, searchable way. You can search for content based on descriptions, you can tag assets, organise into folders – whichever way suits your production process.
This is something which is missing from many of the other EDM tools – the ability to re-use contents across projects and the ability to share assets globally in a way they can be access in other projects.
More complex builds
There are other questions which arise out of the above – namely how do you ensure that your emails are responsive, work cross-platform and pick up everything that you need to from the template.
Responsiveness requires a little more work by the developer – it means that the content blocks must be configured as responsive blocks, so things like buttons and combined layouts are set in the block itself. As most concept emails are built in this way, it is not a significant change to make and is usually set up in the master template anyway.
I’ve included a short video below on how these emails are currently being built in the 2cloudnine system. Have a watch; if you’re interested in finding out more please do get in contact!
Find out more about Content Builder – get in contact
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