Creating a giant Master is pretty much the best way to handle this and empower the marketers to select/remove modules.
This is an amazing idea. I think subconsciously I'd been beginning to do this, but it's not something I've considered having built to this degree! I'd be interested to know how big a job it was to get the master template built? And how often do you fall back on it vs using your child templates created from it?
You might want to be more specific about what you're looking to achieve with the email editor that you're finding you're unable to achieve. You're obviously experiencing issues that are causing a lot of frustration, but if you can share those specific frustrations with us we might be able to help you resolve them to use the editor more effectively.
There's quite a few factors to consider when it comes to a great email editing experience in Marketo - its ability to mould itself to your template is incredibly powerful but can be jarring for those with experience in other platforms where the structure is quite different, and problematic if the template isn't built to suit Marketo's syntax. There's lots of discussion on the community around this topic (see this thread: Re: Do we seriously need to know how to code to create a landing page template?).
Hope that helps.
I have to agree with the sentiment. It's like you have to code in order to do simple things. Example, there are 3 pieces of text and a call to action button on top of an image in a std template. It's rather difficult to remove 1 or 2 of these text blocks. Also, there's no easy image resize option. So, just creating the header image and call to action in the Marketo platform is dramatically more time consuming than other editors in software like Hubspot. Even a simple system like Square Space has an editor that makes this easy. Honestly, the Marketo editor feels like it's 3-5 years behind the times.
My comment in that thread I linked to probably provides much the same response I'd have here.
Totally appreciate how frustrating this is for you, the structure of the systems are quite different - personally I would choose Marketo any day for the level of control it gives me that Hubspot doesn't. I've never been able to create emails in Hubspot that were as beautiful or as responsive as the ones I've created in Marketo (but disclaimer; I can code, I know Marketo's syntax fluently, and design my templates to maximise this, and I care a lot about ensuring my emails display consistently across clients).
I would strongly recommend that you invest in a custom email template that meets your brand and user requirements; there are a number of affordable third parties with pretty comprehensive knowledge of the Marketo syntax who can do this for you if you don't have the internal expertise/resource.
Have to say that Hubspot's UI and "smooth" UX is 1 up on Marketo.
However, you still need to code Hubspot email templates in the same way Marketo's, when you want a layout in a certain way. In fact Hubspot email templates don't have the modular ability that Marketo emails can have.
So yeah I agree the Marketo email editor's UI and UX isn't great, but functionality it's not 3-5 years behind.
We're checking into knak, which has an excellent, flexible drag and drop editor and can be used by our end users who don't know how to code at all. They frequently have to ask me to make a module to do what they want it to do that doesn't already exist. With knak, they can just built it themselves. And it's not all that expensive, all things considered.
We are recent Knak adopters and very happy with it. It's a bit more of an expense to plan for but actually offers tremendous capability, especially if you're managing multiple brands and business units that need varied levels of control.
That's our situation—we have services that are branded in very different ways, and emails need to serve a variety of purposes and be more flexible on the fly. I create any module that anyone asks for or that I can think to add but our users always come up with something different they need. With knak, they'll be able to do it without having to wait for me to create the module first.
And they're hoping to have their landing page editor work the same way by the end of the year. I'm really hoping we go for it.
We have purchased a subscription to Stripo which has the ability to create emails via a drag and drop editor. Stripo — FREE Email Template Builder: Drag and Drop Html Email Editor
There are 3 levels so we got the yearly level at $250 per year. It helps when you need to create a net new template and don't want to deal with code.