‘If You’re Having Trouble Viewing this Email …’

How many times have you read this in your email preview window? “Too many times” is the only right answer. The preheader text seems to be the most under-utilized email tool — and, yet, one one of the most important.

How many times have you read this in your email preview window? “Too many times” is the only right answer.

The preheader text seems to be the most under-utilized email tool — and, yet, one of the most important. Sometimes called a snippet, Johnson box, or preview message, the preheader appears in the preview pane or screen of all email applications.

Preview Pane labeledMany marketers often do not use a preheader — an email’s most valuable piece of real estate. We’ve all read this in our email applications — “If you’re having trouble viewing this email …” As the example shows below, the preview pane shows the first text it sees in the email. In this case, notice “Trouble viewing this email? View it online.” Sadly, this text gives a reader no idea of what this email is about.

Bad preheader from PaperSpecsYou’ve only got a few seconds to interest a reader enough to open your email. Use the combination of your subject line and preheader to encourage a reader to open your email.

2 Ways to Implement Preheader Text

Mission BBQ visible preheaderVisible Preheader: The easiest and simplest way is to place a block at the top of your email that you fill with text. This can be a block in the HTML that appears before any other text in the email. In the example above, the text appears at the top left hand corner with the “difficulty reading this email” section in the upper right hand side.

Hidden Preheader text from ThreadlessHidden Preheader: Some designs might not work with a visible preheader block. In this case, you’ll need to code using inline styles. If you’d like to do this, you can find the code here: Email on Acid.

Make Preheader Text Work Harder for You
Preheaders can enhance your subject lines in a number of ways. In the same way you test your subject lines, you should also test your preheader text. Here are some ways you can think about your preheader text for testing:

  • Subject Line Extension: Make your preheader an extension of your subject line. This will extend the amount of space you have to convince your reader to open your email.
  • Incentive/Offer Text: Use the preheader text to define your offer or discount.
  • Personalization: Try just personalizing your preheader; it’ll feel more like emails from friends and family, and could feel less obtrusive than the way a subject line might.
  • Call to Action: Tell email recipients what do with a clear call to action. What’s a better way to get them to open the email?
  • Tease: Write copy that teases and makes customers wonder. Their curiosity will get the best of them.

The Bottom Line
Preheader text is too valuable to not think about it. Preheaders help customers understand your message quickly, as well as give them an incentive to open your messages. Emails with a preview pane showing “Preview it in your Browser” sadly wastes this space. To drive your open rates higher, put as much care and thought into preheaders as you put into your subject lines.

Author: Patrick Fultz

Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.

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