Categories: Dynamics Marketing
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The styling of an organisations website and any communication sent out to customers is important. It should be kept consistent to help with building brand identity and make sure information isn’t missed by clients or potential customers. The majority of companies will have brand guidelines making it clear what colours and fonts should be used both internally and externally. How can this be applied when sending out emails using Dynamics 365 Marketing? Let’s take a look and see how using custom CSS can help.

First, what exactly is CSS? It stands for Cascading Style Sheet and is used to define the style and formatting in HTML. There are three types of CSS. They each have a different priority and are read and followed in a specific order. Below the list is from lowest priority to the highest.

  • External CSS
  • Internal or Embedded CSS.
  • Inline CSS

External CSS

If you think about a website, that would typically use an External CSS file. It would have been created and uploaded to the server that hosts the website and the styles within the HTML would then use that to determine what colour to use, or what font to display and so on. Within the D365 Marketing App, External CSS files are not used, so will not be focused on within the post. Could you use them? Not sure, I haven’t tried so let me know in the comments if you have and have found success with this approach.

Internal or Embedded CSS

This is one of the types of CSS that is used in a Marketing Email and also Marketing Forms in the Marketing App. If you are creating a Marketing Email and click on the HTML option from the top right of the screen, you can get into all of the HTML of the email. Somewhere in the top section is a part that starts with <style> then a whole bunch of code, and then the </stlye> to finish it off. Everything else in between is used to define things like the various heading styles (h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6), the paragraph text, what hyperlinks look like and so on.

Inline CSS

Inline CSS is used to set styles for one specific item within the HTML. For example, for paragraph text (the main text in the body of an email) we could do something like this to change the colour, size, style and alignment of the text. This has the highest priority of CSS so regardless of what is in the Internal CSS, if this has been added in the HTML, any of the text that comes after it would use the style below. Any other text within the email would use styling that came from the main <style> section at the top of the HTML.

<p style = "color:;#3c245c font-size:20px; font-style:italic; text-align:center;">This text would be formatted differently to the rest</p>

So now we know what the different types of CSS are, we know we focus on the Internal and Inline when reviewing the Marketing Emails. Below we have an email, obviously just set up from an example perspective to show what each item is.

Click to view in detail

From the Marketing email, click on HTML from the top right.

Click to view in detail

Next, click on Format document from the top left. This will set all of the HTML out neatly so it’s easier to read.

Click to view in detail

Next, you can click on the little docking icon and change it so that it displays at the bottom of the email. You can also change it to night or dark mode if you prefer.

Click to view in detail

Now you’ve got that sorted you can start looking at the code. One thing you might notice from the screenshot below is that I have added an extra font. You can learn how to do that as part of this post here. The part where changes will be made is where it starts with <style>

Click to view in detail

If you see anything similar to below, you can either remove anything that relates to any of the headers, or just adjust what is already there. The code below is stating that all of the header styles will have the same colour (using a HEX number) and all use the same font. This is the font that I defined at the start of the HTML code. It then shows that h1, h2 and h3 will each use a slightly different font size.

        h1,
        h2,
        h3,
        h4,
        h5,
        h6 {
            color: #333;
            font-family: Blinker;
        }

        h1 {
            font-size: 38px;
        }

        h2 {
            font-size: 26px;
        }

        h3 {
            font-size: 18px;
        }

If you notice a style that starts with a p, this relates to the paragraph text or main text that is used throughout the email. Below I am defining the font size, family and weight (if it is bold or lighter than regular text. The mso-line-height-rule relates to Outlook and how it treats the line height (the space between different lines within a paragraph). Outlook will often try and change that and increase it, so this tells it to use the exact line-height defined. Then we have margin and padding. The margin property controls the space outside an element, and the padding property controls the space inside an element. So if you want space between the blocks that include paragraph text use the margin, and if you want space around the text WITHIN the block, use the padding.

  p {
            margin: 0px;
            padding: 10px;
            line-height: 20px;
            mso-line-height-rule: exactly;
            font-size: 16px;
            font-family: Blinker;
            font-weight: 300;
        }

Next, we can format how images appear. Using the code below, we make sure that the images is shown in full at 100% but we also want to show a dotted border around the image with a width of 2 pixels.

  img {
            max-width: 100%;
            border: 2px;
            border-color: #312a2a;
            border-style: dotted;
        }
Click to view in detail

If you add hyperlinks, this uses several different elements for styling. When a link is added, the HTML code uses <a href= and then whatever the link is going to. So the section in the style in the HTML is where it starts with a. However, you might also see a:focus, a:hover and a:visited. This means you can control how the links look in various states. Below we can see that the main a sets the colour and font weight, and then makes sure there is no text decoration. Text decoration might be an underline that shows under the links. The a styles for a focus and a hover will actually add a dotted border when it’s hovered over or clicked on.

 a {
            color: #6c469c;
            text-decoration: none;
            font-weight: 400;
        }

        a:focus,
        a:hover {
            color: #990073;
            border-bottom: 1px dotted #272727;
        }

However, one thing to keep in mind, even though the styling shows up in the preview, not all email clients will show your styles in the same way. I found this great site where you can see which ones can handle different HTML elements.

Click to view in detail

You can go through the different elements in the style area. Some you might not know what they are used for, and if you don’t need to adjust it, then leave it alone. It could be related to the overall layout formatting rather than the font, links or images. One thing to also be aware of. If you adjust the styles but have already added any text, images etc. to the email, it’s likely that inline CSS has already been added. In which case, you’ll see it as you scroll down past the <style> section and in to the main email HTML. So you can see below that the <h1> style has already been set to 28px, even though the new styling is set to 38px in the <style> section. Just by deleting this extra part, the <h1> section will then use what’s in the Internal CSS.

Click to view in detail

The easiest approach is to start with a blank email or email template and adjust the <style> section prior to adding anything to the email. Then once you start adding text, images or hyperlinks, they will immediately take on the new styles you’ve set in the Internal CSS.

Another area of the Internal CSS to review is any section that starts with @media only. This determines how the styles are displayed on other devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

Click to view in detail

For example, when sending the email and it being reviewed on a mobile phone, the Heading 1 and Heading 2 are overlapping one another.

Click to view in detail

We can simply add in a new h1 and h2 section within the @media only area that sets a slightly larger margin or padding, and even adjusts the line-height if needed.

Click to view in detail

Hope this helps! Would love to know what other changes you might have made that could help others. Feel free to share in the comments below!


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2 thoughts on “Using Custom CSS in D365 Marketing Emails

  1. Hi Megan

    Thanks for this helpful input!
    However, it is quite time absording to change each marketing email before sending it out. Do you know if there is a possibility to set a default Stylesheet which would apply for all marketing emails?

    Thanks and Regards
    Caroline

    1. I agree 100% That’s why I would suggest creating a Marketing Email Template or a couple, and then using those when starting to create a new email.

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