Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Create Easily Customizable Raw HTML-Email Templates with TextExpander

On a fairly regular basis, I need to customize html emails to create a branded template in Salesforce or for sending with Vertical Response.

The structure of each email is usually the same (top banner, sidebar, footer, etc) but the specific graphical elements and text change, along with hyperlinks and utm codes.

For the past several years, I have done the same thing over and over: cloned the latest and greatest template and then sorted through the html looking for the fields to modify. I typically make my changes in a notepad software like TextWrangler and then copy/paste.

This process isn't the best because:

  1. It requires a lot of manual changes, which means it's.....
  2. Prone to user error, especially when I'm manually modifying the same text in multiple places, and...
  3. It makes my eyeballs hurt.
Today, I was in the middle of just such a project and realized that I could use TextExpander to improve my workflow. While it takes a bit more time to set up, the future time-saving benefits are worth it!

So, here's what I did:

  1. Copied and pasted my raw html email template into a new TextExpander snippet
  2. Determined the text/html that could be turned into 'variables' (aka: which text or code would change for every email)
  3. Converted my variable text/html into fill-in fields (mainly single line, multi-line and optional sections) in the template, along with default values and instructions so I could remember specific formatting if necessary
  4. Copied/pasted any repeating variables (eg: utm code that would be appended to every link) - This means that I only need to modify this text once and it will be updated anywhere else it is inserted in the template
  5. Tested

Examples of code and text that I turned into variables:

  • Banner image (this changes per email template)
  • UTM codes (for tracking campaign source, medium, etc) that are appended to each hyperlink in the email
  • Sender contact information (eg: name, title, phone number) if I'm creating the email for a specific sender. If it will be a Salesforce email template, I would use variables like {!User.FirstName} {!User.LastName} in the email signature instead.
  • Email body/content
  • Call to action, whether a button or a link (or both - I put each in as an optional fill-in)

This will save me a lot of time in the future. As an added bonus, if any of my coworkers need to accomplish a similar task, I can share my TextExpander snippet with them.

Here are some screen captures of what my TextExpander snippet looks like when executed:

Are you using text expansion software to speed up your Salesforce Admin tasks or marketing duties? You can share your tips with me in the comments.

Software Used: Chrome, TextExpander, TextWrangler

Note: I use TextExpander (Mac) but you can use any text expansion software that supports similar functionality.

Jenna Weiner is a rather geeky girl with average social skills and an affinity for: Google Apps,, Pinterest, Firefly, dresses, indoor plants and life-hacking. Have a suggestion for a post or a question? Feel free to get in touch.
Twitter: @RatherGeeky
LinkedIn: View My Profile

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