Issue #001

Adding structure + consistency to your emails

This is the first issue of Create & Sell, and rather than starting with something overarching and high-level about being a creator or building an audience...

I figured I'd, instead, start with something that's been top of mind for me recently: structural emails.

In creating this new email list, I knew I'd need to create the shell that each weekly email uses.

This shell is the "newsletter" email template, and it's virtually identical to something like a WordPress website template in that it wraps whatever the content that goes into an email.

Here lies the problem...

What if you want to modify content outside of that area while still preserving some "static" content (like the signature sign-off)?

In creating the newsletter email template for Create & Sell, I wanted a single template that could do a few things (and do them consistently):

  1. It should have the C&S logo at the top, and an "Access Your Account" button at the top right if the reader is a customer.

  2. If the email is one of my weekly newsletters, it should show the Issue number (with very specific CSS formatting.)

  3. Then there should be the actual "meat" of the email, the content.

  4. It should have a sign-off area with my picture, name, and a few links. This should never change.

  5. I want to be able to turn on/off the referral status box (that shows your total referrals, what reward you're progressing toward, etc.)

  6. Should be able to add a custom CTA after the signature. It would have its own unique styling.

Liquid variables to the rescue!

My email marketing software, ConvertKit, doesn't make doing the above easy.

I could have stitched together a bunch of content snippets (one for the signature, one for the referral CTA, etc.), but that would have been cumbersome and, frankly, pretty brittle.

What I ended up doing was creating a single template that looked for Liquid variables. If you've ever used something like Advanced Custom Fields, what I'm about to describe should be pretty familiar.

The email template handles a few things:

  • If the recipient is segmented as a customer, it'll add an "Access Your Account" button (I haven't actually coded this bit yet.)

  • If an issue_number variable is set, it'll output "Issue #XXX" automatically.

  • If skip_sparkloop is set to true, it won't include the referral CTA.

  • If ps_headline and ps_content are set, it'll include the blue custom CTA area.

  • And ConvertKit doesn't support email preheader text, but – once again – Liquid variables to the rescue. I just need to set the pretext variable.

This makes the actual content of my emails look a little weird, but I find the implementation flexible and straightforward.

Here's what writing an email looks like now:

As this newsletter continues to grow, I'll inevitably add more to my template. I know I'll want a "featured case study" block, a block for showing recommended products, etc.

Fortunately, this will be easy to implement: I'll add the block definition to my email template, plug in the requisite Liquid variables that'll fill and fuel the block, and then just start using those new variables in future emails to you.