Last week, we sent out an email that had the following preheader: Not sure what you're looking at? Click here to View In Browser instead!
We took a bit of heat for it on Twitter from a few folks in the email marketing community. There was more to this conversation than highlighted below, but this was the gist:
Alex Williams of eROI tweeted, "preheader should set up the email and get them to open." Jordie van Rijn of EmailMonday replied, "Preheader is a place, not a function. Some use for web version only: no best practice. but practice can be broken." Alex followed with, "in 2010, a web version only pre-header is a missed opportunity."
I love conversations like these because they make you think. Who is right? Alex? Jordie? Neither? Both? Alex and Jordie are not only super-smart email marketers, but two gentlemen whom I consider friends. I can see both sides of what they are saying. If fact, I agree with Alex that the "preheader should set up the email and get them to open." That's what I tell clients all of the time. However, we chose to mix it up a bit. Did we do it wrong? Did we break the best-practice rules?
Best Practices, Rules, Doing it Wrong
The topic of best practices is one that resurfaces in the email marketing world all of the time. People always want to know what the "best practice" for subject lines or calls-to-action or copy is. As email marketing advisors, we often lead with the standard answer of "it depends." I can't recall whom I heard this from first (maybe Morgan Stewart?), but instead of thinking about best practices, we should be reframing the discussion as "practices that are best for you."
Think about that for a second: Practices that are best for you.
Now, go back to the example above about the preheader. Was our use of that valuable real estate a "best practice?" Likely not if you subscribe to the strict definition. However, would it be considered a practice that was best for us? Maybe. As it turns out, the email we are debating was not very image-heavy. In fact, you could consume the message in its entirely without loading images. We had one text-linked call-to-action in the email pointing to a very specific promotional offer. So maybe including a link to the Web version was not only unnecessary, but also a poor use of the preheader. As Alex said on Twitter: the "preheader should set up the email and get them to open."
However, what if leading with, "Not sure what you're looking at?" did in fact get folks to open the email? Maybe it was just different enough to cause a subscriber to pause, to not simply delete without reading. Maybe this preheader led to more opens?
How can you tell if one preheader works better than another? Simple: Test. In this example, if our goal was more opens, we could have tested a few different preheaders:
· Basic: Can't see images? Click here to view in a web browser.
· A bit unique: Not sure what you're looking at? Click here to View In Browser instead!
· Detailed: Special Offer Inside. Open Now!
· Call-To-Action: Learn more about this offer now (link "learn more" to the special offer landing page).
1. Think carefully about what you include in the preheader. It's valuable real estate.
2. Best practices = Practices that are best for you. It depends.
3. Test. Test. Test.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on preheaders, best practices, and/or testing. Please share in the comments below.