preheader-textI’ve written many times about how important an email’s subject line is. With subscribers spending less than 4 seconds (Litmus) deciding whether or not to open and read your email, the subject line provides a useful tool for grabbing their attention quickly. But, the subject line isn’t the only item in your toolbox for this purpose.

More and more email clients are displaying pre-header text in their message previews. For example, on Gmail and iOS devices, the pre-header text is given almost as much prominence as the subject line:

iOS:

Iphone Inbox
Gmail:

Gmail Inbox

Unfortunately, the pre-header text is something which is often ignored by email marketers. But, used correctly, it can be a useful tool to increase the open rates of your messages. Here are just some of the ways you can make the most of your pre-header text:

Extend Your Subject Line

Studies have shown that, generally, shorter subject lines perform better than longer ones. 6 to 10 words is widely considered to be the optimum length for subject lines. However, it’s very difficult to craft an enticing subject line with so few words. It’s inevitable that you’ll occasionally miss out pieces of important information.

Rather than having to cram everything into one short subject line, you can use your pre-header text as a continuation. Use the subject line to catch your readers’ attention, then you can use the pre-header text to reel them in. Debenhams did this recently:

Debenhams Pre

The subject line of this email actually says very little, other than insinuating that it contains Mother’s Day gift ideas. It’s might catch the attention of someone who’s shopping for Mother’s Day but, by including details about their offer in the pre-header text, it’s likely that many more people will be interested in opening the email.

Let Your Readers Know What’s in the Email

Your subject line should give readers an idea of what an email’s content is but, as I mentioned before, this can be difficult when you have so few words to play with. As well as being a continuation of your subject line, your pre-header text can also be used to reinforce its message. Take this example from¬†HotUKDeals:

Deals Pre

The subject line of this message lists some of the deals and offers that are detailed within the body of the email. But, as you can see, in my email client, some of it is cut off. HotUKDeals have obviously anticipated this happening, so they have used their pre-header text to explain exactly what is in the body of the email. This could encourage someone to open the email who may have initially dismissed it based on the subject line.

Offer an Incentive

Sometimes, even the most well-written subject line isn’t enough to encourage a subscriber to open your email. Many will only open an email and click through if¬†they are offered an incentive to do so. Look at this example from Wool Overs:

Wool Pre

The subject line lets their readers know about more styles being added to their clearance sale. While many of their subscribers will be interested in this, there will be some for which this isn’t enough. To entice these people, Wool Overs have included a 10% off code in their pre-header text. If an incentive like this helps to convert even a few subscribers, then it has done its job well.

If it’s something you’ve not considered before, spending time on your pre-header text could yield significant results. Just make sure you’re testing it regularly to ensure it keeps working for you.