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    5 min read

    Custom or Template Emails: Which Are Better for Your Business?

    By Ellaine Parsons

    Many businesses include email marketing in their overall marketing strategies because this medium offers direct access to their audiences, provides increased control, paves the way for personalization, and gives them an easy means to measure the outcome of their efforts. However, while email marketing comes with numerous benefits, you still need to determine if custom or template emails might work better for you.


    Custom email or template email

    What Are Templates in Email?

    You may think of an email template as a predefined layout that might come with content like images and text boxes. You may use an email template as a base and make certain changes, as allowed by the template. These changes take place only in individual emails, and the template remains unaffected and available for repeated use.


    In technical terms, an email template is a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) file with code that defines its structure, design, and layout. It allows users to add different elements such as images, text, links, and cascading style sheets (CSS), so they may get their emails to reflect specific brand guidelines or personal styles. Their main draw is their reusability.


    What Is the Benefit of Using Templates for Email Marketing?

    Email templates work well for different types of businesses because of the various benefits they offer.

    • Compatibility. When you opt for email templates, you don’t have to worry about cross-device and cross-platform compatibility because their creators pay due attention to this aspect.
    • Save time. Once you implement an email template in your marketing campaign, you don’t have to spend time creating an email from scratch each time. Instead, you can use the template you have and tweak it based on your requirements.
    • Multiple options. No matter which industry your business belongs to, you may expect to find an email template that matches your requirements.
    • Easy to use. It’s common for email template providers to give users access to drag-and-drop builders that simplify how they make desired changes. However, you don’t get as much freedom as you would in a custom-designed email.
    • Reduced margin of error. Given that you may include all the essential information about your business in the template itself, you may look forward to a reduced margin of error.
    • Brand consistency. Once you find a suitable email template, you may add different elements of your branding to it like your logo and tagline. Then, you can get all your employees to use the same template when they communicate with clients, which helps to build brand consistency.
    • Cost. Opting for email templates is more affordable than choosing to go the custom email design way. This is because you need to pay for each custom email, whereas you need to pay for a template only once.

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    What Are the Disadvantages of Email Templates?

    While email templates come with various benefits, you also need to pay attention to the possible drawbacks.

    • Limited flexibility. One of the biggest drawbacks of using email templates is that they offer limited functionality. For example, it’s usually not possible to change the background colors of a template. Similarly, you cannot change the size of existing elements like buttons and boxes, and you might not be able to change font sizes too.
    • Hard to create a brand identity. While email templates let you add a few elements, it’s hard to incorporate all your branding elements into their designs. For example, if you want the background colors to match your brand’s colors, that might not be possible.
    • Exclusivity. When you purchase email templates from email service providers (ESPs), there’s a good chance you can use them only with their editors.
    • Compatibility challenges. While ESPs do their best to optimize their email templates so they are completely responsive, you don’t have any control over this aspect and have to make do with what’s on offer.
    • Ownership. Even though you pay for email templates, their ownership usually remains with their providers and you need to keep your subscription going to continue using them.


    What Is a Custom Email Template?

    A custom email template is one that you need to create from scratch using HTML, and it involves writing code. You may predefine it to follow specific guidelines such as your brand’s colors, fonts, style, and more. With a custom design, you get to conceptualize what the outcome will look like and you get to add different elements into the design. While you may use a custom email template to send a single email, you may also tweak it as per your requirements for subsequent emails.


    What is a custom email template

    Custom Email Design Benefits

    If you want to attract and retain the attention of your target audience, you need to create emails that stand out from the ones your competitors send. This is easier to do with custom emails than with email templates.

    • Customize in any way. Whether you choose to create a custom email on your own or use the services of a digital marketing agency, you get to customize it based on your specific requirements and goals. For example, if you want to draw attention to a particular element like a call to action (CTA), you may do so easily. Besides, you may get custom email templates for specific purposes like increasing brand awareness, nurturing leads, and generating sales.
    • Increased personalization. When you opt for custom email design, you get the ability to personalize your emails in different ways. This can be worth your while because data collated by Mailmodo indicates that personalized emails benefit from impressive click-through and open rates of 41% and 29%, respectively. It also adds that 52% of consumers are likely to look for alternatives when they receive emails without personalization.
    • Better experience. A custom-coded email template gives you the means to deliver a refined and intentional experience to your audience, which is great for building trust and creating a positive experience.
    • Widespread acceptance. Another great benefit of custom email templates is that they find acceptance with all the leading ESPs like Mailchimp, HubSpot, Salesforce, Constant Contact, and Braze. This allows you to use them with your company’s existing ESP and you don’t need to sign up with a new one.
    • One-off or reusable. Depending on your needs, you may choose to get a one-off custom email design or a template that you may reuse for other emails.
    • Perfect for email blasts. Custom email templates are perfect for email blasts that you may send through different publishing partners and not your ESP. This is because the presence of raw code will ensure that your emails format properly irrespective of the platform through which you send them.


    Disadvantages of Custom Email Design

    While email templates are typically ready to use once you pay for them, this is not the case with custom email designs. Despite their advantages for email marketing, it is best to look at their potential shortcomings too.

    • Technical know-how. Creating a custom email design requires starting from scratch, and if you don’t have the required technical knowledge, you need to use the services of a professional. In addition, reusing a custom email design is not as easy as reusing an email template.
    • Testing. If you create a custom email template on your own, you need to test it extensively across different devices, screen sizes, and platforms. Fortunately, using email previewer tools like SendX and Mailosaur can help simplify the process.
    • Cost. If you hire an agency to design your custom emails, you need to account for the cost involved in the process. However, the benefits typically outweigh the cost, all the more so given the positive return on investment (ROI) associated with custom emails.
    • Time. Since there are multiple steps involved in creating a custom email design, you may expect the process to take some time.

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    Custom Email or Template Email: Which Is Better for You?

    There is no one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing when it comes to choosing from custom and template emails, and the decision boils down to your requirements and goals. Consider these factors to determine which might work better for you.

    • Time. If you’re looking for a quick solution, ready-to-use email templates might be the solution you need. However, you may still consider investing in custom email design for the long term.
    • Frequency. If you send frequent emails, templates can be a time-saver. Custom emails typically shine for one-off or infrequent high-impact messages.
    • Budget. Custom designs tend to require a higher investment when compared to templates, so the latter might be a better option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative. Bear in mind, though, that it’s possible to reuse a custom email template too.
    • Brand identity. If your emails rely heavily on brand identity, voice, and visuals, a custom design might be worth the investment.
    • Mode of sending. If you plan to send your emails outside of your ESP’s network, going the custom email design way is ideal because of potential compatibility issues.


    In some cases, it might be ideal to use both approaches. For example, while you may rely on templates to send regular emails, you can send custom emails to make important announcements or share crucial information. Besides, some email marketing platforms offer customizable templates, giving you the ability to leverage the basic structure and personalize your emails with your brand elements and message.


    Ultimately, the key is to choose a method that allows you to communicate effectively and achieve your goals. In addition, a well-crafted email, regardless of custom or template, should prioritize clarity, value, and a compelling CTA.


    What is the benefit of using templates for email marketing

    The Role of Your Email Service Provider

    Your ESP might have a bearing on whether you should choose templates or custom email designs. For starters, there’s a good chance your ESP offers free email templates as part of your subscription plan. If you feel they serve as a good starting point for your email marketing efforts, you may begin using them immediately.


    If you don’t like any of the free templates on offer, you may have the option of purchasing ones that look and feel more professional. However, you need to ensure they meet your functionality and design requirements, failing which you may expect less-than-desirable results.


    Another important factor that requires your attention is whether your ESP supports custom HTML emails. This is because not all platforms provide visual editors for custom designs and some only support HTML paste. In case your ESP does not fulfill this requirement, you may consider using an external email builder.


    The Need for Professional Assistance

    If you plan to go with custom email designs and don’t have the technical expertise to create them, you need to hire a professional. Bear in mind that HTML email development is a highly specialized skill and there’s more to it than old school web development. For example, emails should be no more than 600 to 800 pixels wide, as this improves their rendering in the preview-pane size typically offered by most email clients.


    Professional assistance also comes in handy if you look at it from a long-term perspective. This is because email clients like Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Apple Mail make occasional internal changes that affect how emails render, and an experienced HTML email developer would ensure staying on top of any such occurrences.



    Email templates and custom email designs come with their share of pros and cons, and while the former might work well for some, others may benefit more by turning to the latter. Some businesses even employ both as part of their overall email marketing strategies. No matter which alternative you choose, make sure you define your goals at the onset, choose a suitable ESP, build an email list, select the right type of campaign, and then move to create your emails.


    If you’re still confused about whether to use custom or template emails for your business, consider seeking advice from a digital marketing agency that specializes in this realm. It will take your business requirements and goals into account and guide you accordingly.

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