September 4, 2018

5 Keys to Leveling Up Your Email Preheaders

Reading time about 6 min

Call it what you will – email preheader, email preview text, summary, or Johnson box – this element is an essential part of your email campaign that cannot be ignored.

If you’re not already familiar with the basics of email preheaders, you’re not alone. In fact, I would bet my last dollar that as many as 3/4 of email marketers don’t even think about them. The funny thing is that we see and use preheaders all the time!

Look at this image below:

email preview text or preheader example

This is a preheader, or an email preview text.

See that little text: ‘Wishing you a safe and merry holiday season!’ right after the email subject line? That’s the email preheader – basically, a handful of words telling you more about what’s inside the email. This little excerpt of text is prime real estate for optimizing your open rate, and it’s super important to any digitally savvy millennial sifting through emails in their flooded inbox.

Modern mobile, desktop, and web email clients have adopted this useful format. The preheader’s creation is a direct consequence of the continuously increasing volumes of emails that reach our mailboxes on a daily basis.

That’s where we come in as marketers.

If you are promoting your products or services via email, you better pay attention, because the email preheader is crucial to getting that email opened.

Now, you may say that you don’t see the big deal, but would you believe that in a recent survey conducted by Litmus, around 24% of the email recipients indicated that they will look at those little previews to DECIDE whether they should open them or not.

This small amount of text can make or break your email marketing campaign. If you fail to optimize your preheader, you might end up with no opens — which means no sales.

If you fail to set the preheader, the email client will automatically generate the text from your email. But, don’t think that you can leave the preheader as is just because you think the content at the top of your email would work well.

If you don’t explicitly set a preheader in your email, the first thing email providers will show your customers is unsightly HTML from the top of your email. Or it may read something rather banal like ‘View this email in your browser‘, which isn’t very enticing for the reader.

So now that you understand the importance of setting the email preheader, let’s go over the best practices so you can start making improvements on your own campaigns.

Top tips for optimizing your email preheader

1.     Provide more context on your offer

Readers will only open your email if there’s something in it for them. So you need to give them a reason to open your email. Remember that clever little acronym ‘WIIFM’? Make sure readers know exactly what’s in it for them if they open your email.

Do they benefit from what you offer? Why should they read your message? Why is this one special from the thousand others laying unread in their inbox?

All these questions should be answered by the subject line and preheader.

2. Work together with your email subject line

While you should use email preview text and the subject line together to provide context on your offer, they shouldn’t be too redundant or the exact same thing. Use the extra space in the preheader to complement your message with additional information.

Think of it this way: your subject line presents your message as succinctly as it could be stated, but also leaves out a lot of information due to lack of space. What comes to the rescue? You guessed it – the email preheader. Make it relevant. Make it contextual. Let the subject line grab the reader’s attention, then let the email preheader add fuel to the fire. Remember – the more information, the better.

3. Be specific

Your reader wants to feel like the email is directed at her. Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, if the email landed in her inbox, it was meant for her. But not every email that lands in her inbox is specifically aimed at her in a personalized way.

You need to include information in the preheader that lets her know how important this email is to her and no one else. It’s got to be specifically customized to her likes, dislikes, and interests.

4. Be clear and concise

You don’t have a lot of space to meander or mince words. Be precise and to the point. Got something unique to say? Say it in as few words as possible.

Imagine your boss is in a hurry and wants you to speak at a board meeting. You would want to cut right to the chase, right? If you start with something remote and vaguely relevant, you might lose the attention of your audience before you’ve even started.

Treat your customer like your boss and you’ll be better off in your marketing career. Make a real connection with readers by showing respect and always delivering on your promises.

5. Create urgency

Nothing works better to encourage purchase decisions than a strong sense of urgency. If you have a time-sensitive offer, be sure to communicate that in order to create more urgency around the opening of your message.

If your prospect finds out that something is scarce and on the verge of running out of stock, he will rush to take his chance. But, tell him that he has another year to act on your offer and you can guess what would happen…yup, another email to the trash bin.

It’s hardwired in our psychology to avoid passing up something valuable. We’re always living in a world of scarcity, and as manipulative as it might sound, one of the best weapons in a marketer’s arsenal is to activate that sense of scarcity.

To conclude…

Email preheaders are a vital element of your email marketing strategy. Yes, maybe it’s just six words, but those six words have the power to make or break your email campaign.

All you have to do is make it relevant, unique, and useful. The text be clear and concise, while still making a connection with the email recipient. It must work together with your headline and bring forth the context of your offer well. While the subject line grabs attention and sums up the offer in your email, the preheader adds more context to encourage even more opens.

But, whatever you do, don’t let the first line of HTML be your preheader. Take the time to optimize this prime real estate for maximum impact.

About the author:
Anna Kosuv: Storyteller. Mixing business, creativity & psychology for a living. Sales and marketing automation enthusiast powered by psychedelic music and vintage finds. Anna calls Toronto her home, but is always finding her next big adventure. Her secret? Just do it!

Ready to find your marketing zen?

Take the stress out of your work day with a solution that’s built for you!

Get started free