Using the pre-header successfully
Smartphones and even some desktop email programs display the first few lines of the text for the emails listed in the inbox, not just the sender and the subject. These first few lines of text are displayed in the pre-header, which is a brief snippet of text that appears in the preview pane. In the mobile environment, this text helps recipients to decide whether it is worth investing the time and the download charges to read the email.
This works perfectly for many emails, particularly those that contain text-based content. Unfortunately, this is not the case with newsletters in HTML format. The reason is obvious: The email software on the iPhone extracts the text starting with the first displayable characters in the HTML email.
And almost all my favourite newsletters begin with the words “Are you having trouble reading this email?” with a link to an online version of the newsletter. “Unable to read this email?” “Can’t see images or the newsletter is not displayed correctly?” Nothing but problems in the preview pane. Depressing.
So where does this idea come from? This information in the pre-header is a vestige from a time when HTML emails were just beginning to conquer the market. In those days, many email programs were unable to display HTML properly. Before a reader lost interest in the text, their attention was supposed to be drawn to a highly readable version in the Internet browser by means of this link.
Nowadays, email programs have HTML display in the bag, or so you would think. If only! Many Internet portals change the HTML code in emails. Microsoft Outlook even uses Word in the background to display HTML. However, even outdated email programs, which are often still in use in large corporate groups, can influence how emails are displayed
. Today, smartphones are exacerbating the situation with their limited display options.
Many marketers own an iPhone but are not aware of the problems associated with it. We encountered the same problems with our Inxmail Newsletter, until we examined it in the iPhone preview
. After that, we knew we had to take action!
From a marketing perspective, the pre-header is in a very valuable position in the email. In fact, it is much too valuable to be 'wasted’ on some dry, administrative information. For one thing, the pre-header is the first piece of information the recipient sees on their iPhone, which means it can influence whether they open the email or not. Secondly, the pre-header contains the first interaction element that the reader sees, and it is also always visible in the preview pane of Outlook and similar programs.
So something has to be done to take advantage of this prominent position, while also providing the option to link to the alternative online version. Leaving out this alternative version is not an option because many recipients still click the link to the online version.
We have opted to take the following pragmatic approach for our own Inxmail newsletter: The text of the online version link was shortened to ‘To the Web version’. Directly above this, however, we have placed a call to action. This relates to the main topic of the newsletter and links to the relevant landing page. For example ‘Book your ticket for Internet World now!’
This is a classic example of the AIDA principle in action. The subject line combined with the sender address gets the reader’s the ‘attention’, the call to action awakens their ‘interest’ and ‘desire’ and clicking the call to action or a link in the newsletter results in the desired ‘action’.
New subscribers to our newsletter should be able to find the position of the online version quickly. For this reason, we do not include the call to action in the case of new subscribers. Instead, we present them with a more extensive link to the online version:
Email displayed incorrectly? To the Web version!(Funny anecdote: Our previous text read ‘Email displayed incorrectly or can’t see images? Click here for the Web version!’ The only thing was, because we sent our header graphic as an embedded image, at least one image was always visible!)
We have conveniently implemented this in our newsletter template
Find out more about mobile-friendly email marketing in the two CEO blog articles ‘How should email marketers prepare for smartphones?’
and 'The “mobile” challenge in email marketing'
. And why not visit us at Stand F-080 at the dmexco trade fair
on 15 and 16 September in Cologne, Germany.