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Email Preheaders: Ignore them at your peril

Posted by Jane Litchfield on Jun 29, 2015 5:06:00 PM

Email Preheader: Ignore them at your peril

If you’re like many email marketers, you spend lots of time on subject lines. And for good reason. But how much attention do you give to preheaders? If your preheaders still say “View in a web browser”, you’re missing a big opportunity.

That tiny line above the header of an email is actually a large presence in many inboxes. And you can do a lot with it.

Important for mobile

The big reason preheaders are hot is mobile. Many mobile inboxes (and smartwatches) give preheaders big play, while subject lines are shrinking. iPhone native email apps allow preheaders two lines of space; subject lines get only one. The iPhone 6 Plus displays three lines of preheader text!

Desktop treatments vary as well. Some email clients don’t display preheaders in preview at all, but others allow them luxurious space. Gmail on my laptop displays a total of 172 characters for subject lines and preheaders combined, and preheaders get more than half of that.

So when people scan their inboxes, you have three opportunities to get their attention, get your message across, encourage them to open, and discourage them from hitting “delete.” The three opportunities, of course, are: from line, subject line, and preheader.

What to write

What should you say in your preheader? Something important that you didn’t have room for in your subject line, ideally providing a taste of the benefits in your message. Mentioning a promotion code or providing a link to coupon, for example, gives people an excellent reason to open and/or click.

Use preheaders for:

  • Call to action, or secondary CTA
  • Support for the subject line
  • Value statement: Exclusivity, urgency
  • Personalization

Don’t repeat subject line text in the preheader, since they are often viewed together. But do repeat the preheader information elsewhere in the message, to be sure it gets read.

Remember to front load

Like most digital copy, preheaders should start with the most important information. The ending will be cut off in in some views and some people won’t read all the way to the end anyway. Try starting with a verb to give your pre-header some muscle, such as “Print your coupon…” “Sign up by July 31…” “See the top 10…”

About that view thing

Yes, you can still include “view as a web page” in your preheader if you find you typically get clicks on it. You can tack it on the end: “Offer ends July 31. View in a web browser.” Or you can split the preheader with the important information on the left and the housekeeping on the right side of your message.

Impressive results

One Inbox Marketer client doubled open rates when they upgraded their preheaders. The client was aiming to engage their inactive subscribers. They already used fun and friendly subject lines, so for this test they upgraded the preheaders to continue the thought in the subject line, such as:

Subject line: Discover a wireless plan that fits YOU

Preheader: Not like that weirdo sweater Grandma got you. So lumpy...

Other tests have shown a difference in clicks, but not opens. As always, try some A/B tests on your unique audience. Tweaking that tiny text could make a big difference to your results.

Topics: Email Design, Copywriting, Email Marketing

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