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Email marketing’s secret weapon

Posted by Randy Mitchell on April 16, 2015

Thank you for accepting this mission. Before we begin, let’s go over the essentials.

Your objective: Develop a successful email marketing campaign
Your reward: Significant response rates and company-wide adulation
Your arsenal: Subject lines, content, layouts, buttons, links, responsive design
Your secret weapon: A dangerous little device called the “preheader”

As you may know, the preheader is that small bit of text that appears before the preview pane just after the subject line. The preheader qualifies as a secret weapon because it has immense potential but it’s frequently overlooked by marketers.

For many email marketing campaigns, the preheader is used simply to direct readers to the Web version of the email. But it can do so much more than that, as we’re about to uncover.

The preheader text can become a key component of successful email marketing campaigns. But in order for you to make that happen, you have to understand how readers engage with a preheader.

When your readers are first scanning an email, the preheader is actually one of the very first things they see. That’s key because it means that little preheader text can play a major role in helping your email get opened.

In that pivotal moment, you need a message that will work hard for you to connect with your target. With that in mind, here are some techniques that can transform your preheader into a response-boosting secret weapon.

Build on the subject line
Good subject lines tend to be short and relevant. That’s one of the best-known email marketing facts. They have to be short in order to appear in the inbox. But what if you wanted to say more? Well, your secret weapon preheader text provides a great opportunity to build on the subject line message. Yes, it still needs to be succinct. But you have a few more characters at your disposal to draw readers into the body of the email.

Include a call to action
The preheader text can be your first opportunity in an email for a strong call to action. Ideally, it should create a sense of urgency. It can also provide interested prospects a link so they can respond without having to read the email that follows. After all, successful email marketing campaigns make it easy for prospects to act.

Showcase the offer
If your email has an offer, the preheader text is a great place to highlight it. If the offer is already mentioned in your subject line, expand on it. Get people excited about the great opportunity they have. If your prospects sign up for emails, chances are they expect to receive something valuable. Let them know it has arrived.

Tease the email contents
If there’s no offer to highlight, use the preheader text to give a quick taste of what’s to come in the rest of email. Touch on the main benefit and give prospects a way to respond. Just remember to keep it short and get them to open your email. After all, the main message is only a touch away.

Make it personal
Personalization is another proven direct response tactic. Leverage it in the preheader text. You could insert the recipient’s name, mention a product she previously bought, call out the city where she lives or highlight any one of the other data points you’ve collected. It’s a terrific way to be more relevant and stand out in your prospect’s crowded inbox. Personalization is another important email marketing technique that can have a big effect on whether or not you have a successful email marketing campaign.

Keep it short
Because it’s viewed in the inbox and preview pane, your preheader text needs to be short. Every email provider is a little different, but in general you should limit your preheader content to 85 to 100 characters. New larger phone designs and “phablets” may increase the amount of space for preheader messages in the future. But for now, keep it brief.

See how it actually looks
As with email images and layouts, preheader text may render differently depending on which email platform it is viewed in. That’s why it’s important to view the text on multiple email clients (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc). It’s a good way to determine exactly how many words of your message will be seen. For mobile optimized emails, the preheader text may appear differently depending on the orientation of the screen. So check it out in both the vertical and horizontal views.

Test, test, test.
Like everything in direct response, don’t settle for one and done. Use A/B splits to test your email preheader frequently and improve it. Test the length, personalization, message, tone and even the call to action. All of these variables can nudge your response rate up or down.

With that, we can say “mission accomplished.” And now that we’ve explored email’s secret weapon, let’s talk about your email programs.

Sign up for J&C’s personalized email marketing assessment. You’ll learn how to leverage email best practices like mobile optimized emails to ensure successful email marketing campaigns. The assessment will cover stats, email marketing facts and techniques to fine-tune your strategy and break through cluttered inboxes.

Topics: Email Marketing

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