A Simple Guide To Getting Started With Your Kentico Xperience Email Campaign

Welcome to part three of this guide. In part one  we learnt how to segment our audience into meaningful groups: personas and contact groups. We created a contact group Millennial Men and we created a persona Victoria. In part two  we created a personalised home page for site visitors in the Victoria persona. In this final part of the series, we will target our contact group with a good old fashioned email newsletter by way of an email campaign.

I remember in the early days of the Internet, unless someone worked in front of a computer with access to their email client, checking emails was usually reserved for the evening. An after dinner ritual of firing up the dial-up modem, jumping onto Netscape Navigator and logging into Hotmail to see what amazing news the day had yielded. Of course today things are very different, with the advent of the smart phone, an email is only as far away as reaching into your pocket and checking your phone. On any given day, I receive and read more emails than I do SMSs (or is it SMSes?). Therein lies the power of the humble email — access to your audience.

An EDM (Electronic Direct Mail) campaign is a great way to engage with your target audience — for lack of another word — directly. Email campaigns allow you to engage with your audience on a regular basis, when someone signs up, when there is a special event, when it is their birthday, or — in the case of this guide— when they belong to a specific demographic group for which there is a sale.

Step 1: Email Template

Generally, the layout of your email will be on-brand with your website by maintaining a consistent look and feel. When a person clicks through from the newsletter email and lands on your website, the visual experience should remain as close as possible to the tone which the newsletter sets. Therefore, this part of the process does take some careful planning and decision making.

Typically a job for the user experience and front-end development teams, the email template will have a unique layout as compared to the website, but will maintain various elements for consistency. For example, we may wish to keep the hero banner from the home page, but lose the top navigation. We might also wish to keep the latest article section, but drop the social sharing components in the footer. What should remain consistent is the overall styling; the fonts, colour-scheme, the overall look and feel.

Kentico gives us a great level of freedom when it comes to creating an email template. Rather than applying generic, ready-made templates, we have the ability build the templates from the ground-up with our own HTML, CSS and images — full control over whatever layout we dream up.

Email template development happens within the Email Marketing application of Kentico (figure 1). From the left hand menu, selecting the Email templates menu option (figure 2) will open the email template listing screen.

Figure 1. Email marketing application

The Email templates list contains a list of our templates(figure 2) — here, we can create new templates or edit existing ones. When creating an email (which we will cover in step 2), we must define: (1) the template for the email; and (2), an unsubscription email for when a user unsubscribes from an email.

Figure 2. Email templates

Let’s look at our General email template which will be used for our Fashion Trends email. If we click the pencil icon to edit the template (figure 2), the system will open the Template editor screen (figure 3). Here, developers can add the HTML and CSS definitions for the overall structure of the email. It would be a very long guide indeed if we covered the entire process of this step and probably unnecessary as to developers this part will really be a walk in the park. So here’s one I prepared earlier and instead, we will look at the main elements we need to consider.

Figure 3. Template editor — HTML and CSS

For the Fashion Trends email, we will create a template for a targeted mail-out, advertising an upcoming men’s fashion sale. Also, as we have a marketing department with talented content creators and we would like to give them the freedom to structure the email. Much like a website content page, the email builder will allow content editors to build the email within a fixed layout, with the flexibility of drag-drop widgets — building block components allowing for dynamic content. We will cover widgets shortly in step 3, but for now, if we plan to utilise widgets, we need to define widget zones within our HTML structure (figure 4) — by placing a special macro: 

Figure 4. Widget zone definition with the template HTML

Another thing we need to consider is the ability to allow recipients to unsubscribe as they may not wish to receive consequent emails. For this, Kentico has two specific macro functions which generate a URL for two cases: (1) to unsubscribe from the current email newsletter and (2), to unsubscribe from all email newsletters (figure 5).

Figure 5. Unsubscribe macro definitions

The unsubscribe links require a little bit of code and some CMS configuration— although relatively minor and painless — this part will require a developer to configure things the first time around. Kentico provide a great user guide on exactly how to complete this step.

As for the unsubscription confirmation template in figure 2, we would create this in much the same way, though generally an unsubscribe email will be a simplified, static version of the main email template.

Step 2: Email Setup

So, we have our two email templates (general and unsubscribe) created and we are ready to build the email newsletter! The first thing to do is to create a new Email feed from the Email feeds menu option within the Email marketing application (figure 6).

Figure 6. New email feed

Clicking the New email feed button opens the email configuration screen (figure 7) — firstly, we must decide on one of the two email-feed types available. The newsletter option— which is a recurring mail-out, based on a subscriber list, is great for a monthly newsletter to keep your customer-base engaged with the latest news. Website contacts can subscribe to a given newsletter via the website or can be manually added as subscribers through the Kentico administration console. However, in our case we are sending a one-off email, targeting a specific demographic via the contact segmentation contact-group we created in part 1 of this series: the Millennial Men contact group — for this, we will choose an Email campaign (figure 7). We then configure the unsubscribe email template and the sender details.

Figure 7. Email campaign configuration

Next, we select the template for our marketing email (figure 8) — this is the General email template which we created in step 1. Here, we can add several email templates — we only have one — but we we could have created several variants and this would allow us to have all three on-hand when we start building the email.

Figure 8. Email template selection

Lastly, we will select all of the on-line marketing options so that we can track our email via statistics on the email-campaign dashboard. We won’t cover analytics in this guide — that would be a guide of its own — but we will touch on this in step 6, at a high level.

Figure 9. Tracking settings

Our templates are done, the email feed is configured, the list of contact recipients is in the Millennial Men contact group — we are now ready to create our email. Selecting the Email feeds menu option in figure 10, we can see the listing of email feeds — the recently created Men’s Fashion Mega Sale email feed is in the list and we select it by clicking the edit icon:

Figure 10. Email feed listing

This opens the Emails screen which is where the email creation will begin! New emails can be created here and existing ones can be edited:

Figure 11. New email

Clicking Create new email opens the email configuration screen — here we select the email template and give the email a name. If you remember in step 1, figure 8, when selecting the email template during the email feed configuration, we had the option to add several templates to the list — this is where having a selection of templates on-hand makes sense, as each email can use a unique template:

Figure 12. New email configuration

Once configured, click create and BOOM! Here is our email, complete with widget zone, ready for our content creators to start building. You can see in figure 13below, that the email template has a static layout with fixed header and footer areas. Between the header and footer there is a widget zone which we set up in step 1 (refer to figure 4) — this is the area where widgets will be placed during the email building process:

Figure 13. Email template with widget zone (image uses modified photo by: Burgess Milner on Unsplash)

Step 3: Widgets

We are ready to add content to our email and Kentico provides four ready-to-use widgets on the Dancing Goat website — which is available via the Kentico installation wizard. Definitely a developer’s job, but it is super easy to create an export package which can then be imported into your Kentico installation. Once installed, the four widgets will appear as in figure 14, below. Though basic, this set of widgets is enough to create a basic email.

Figure 14. Standard widget list

However, if the standard set of widgets is limiting, the CMS allows for development of own custom widgets — from there, the sky is the limit. In fact, Kentico provide a guide on exactly how to create your own custom email widgets here. What do we get out of the box?

  1. Headline — styled text heading

  2. Image — selectable image from the media library

  3. Text — rich-text editor

  4. CTA button — styled button with an editable link and title

We are going to use each of the above-mentioned components to create a content pertaining to the sale which the email is advertising.

The first step will be to create a heading for the email — we drag the Headline widget into the widget zone, as shown in figure 15, then configure the widget’s text settings as per figure 16, below:

Figure 15. Drag widget into widget zone (image uses modified photo by: Burgess Milner on Unsplash)

Figure 16. Heading widget configuration

Next, we will use the Image widget to drop in an image with the sale advertisement graphic. Again, we drag the image widget and drop it under the heading widget we added in the previous step — then choose the graphic from the media library, by configuring the widget settings, as per figure 17, below:

Figure 17. Image widget configuration (image uses modified photo by: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Next, let’s really hit the message home with some lorem ipsum text, by dropping the Text widget underneath the Image widget, as per figure 18, below:

Figure 18. Text (rich-text editor) widget configuration

Lastly, we will place a blue call-to-action (CTA) button below the text widget, which will allow the email recipients to click straight through to the sale landing page on the Fashion Trends website:

Figure 19. CTA widget configuration

With the four widgets in place, our email is looking pretty good — beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Figure 20. Complete newsletter (image uses modified photos by: Burgess Milner on Unsplash, Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

The email is a very simplistic example of what can be achieved. With some careful planning and an effective design and structure, Kentico provides the tools for very rich and sophisticated email development — especially with the ability to create custom widgets, the potential is huge. Back to our “simple” email — we are ready to send it to the target audience.

Step 4: Recipients

The contact group, Millennial Men, will be added as a recipient list to our newly created email. Adding recipients comprises a few very simple steps, especially easy since we already have a contact group defined — all we really need to do now is add it to our email. In figure 21, under the Email recipients menu option, we select Contact groups

Figure 21. Email recipients — Contact groups

Clicking the Add contact groups button will bring up the contact group selector window. Here, we select our contact group, Millennial Men, as per figure 22:

Figure 22. Email recipients — selecting contact group

With the contact group selected, the email now has healthy subscriber list of 3 contacts:

Figure 23. Email recipients — Contact group has been added to email

Step 5: Mail-out

Before we go ahead and initiate a mail-out to the entire contact list, it is a good idea to do a test run. What if the email doesn’t look right when opened in an email client? This is our chance to test the email — as a recipient would view it. In figure 24, whilst in the email builder, the Send draft button gives us the opportunity to send a draft email to either one or several recipients:

Figure 24. Send draft facility (image uses modified photos by: Burgess Milner on Unsplash, Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Draft done and “ticked”, now we are ready to do the mail-out — the moment we have been waiting for. Clicking the Send menu option (figure 25) opens the send configuration screen with two options: (1) we can send now by clicking the Send now button, which will literally send… now…; and (2), we can choose to schedule the send based on a date and time by choosing a date/time in the calendar selector and clicking Save schedule:

Figure 25. Email send configuration

Step 6: Review statistics

Once the email has been sent out, we can view the analytics as recipients open and interact with the email. Kentico Xperience provides reports based on:

  1. Track opened emails and clicked links

  2. Monitor bounced emails

  3. View email feed statistics such as number of opens, unsubscriptions

  4. View statistics on the recipient group demographics

More details can be found in the Kentico documentation on email analytics here. Analytics provide a powerful tool by which we can gauge the successes and failures of each email campaign.

We have arrived at the end of this 3-part series. If you have gone the full journey — thank you and well done. I hope it has provided some guidance, maybe motivation to jump on and create a campaign, or even an “aha!” moment as you’ve read something you’d been wondering about. Though the aim of the guide is really to keep things “simple”, each of the three areas we covered — visitor segmentation, content personalisation, and EDMs — can certainly be built out further making for more sophisticated campaigns which hopefully help you yield the results you’re after. Whether that be conversions or broadening your brand appeal by engaging with your audience .

3-Part Series Quick Links

A Simple Guide To Getting Started with Your Kentico Xperience