Don’t waste your prime e-mail real estate with bad content. Use a preheader and navigation to pull readers into your message.
Stefan Pollard wrote this column before his death on May 14, 2010. For an online tribute to Stefan, see "In Memoriam: Stefan Pollard."
The space at the top of your e-mail message is some of your most valuable real estate. Yet, many marketers fail to maximize their top-line content with ineffective navigation and lack of a useful preheader.
A strong preheader delivers key information for readers who can’t or don’t enable images, while navigation helps them move either down into the message or bypass the message and visit the areas of your website that interest them more.
Here’s how to make sure the preheader and your navigation (whether using inline navigation links or message design) work together to pull readers into the message.
Begin With the Preheader
Start with these tips for effective preheaders:
This extends to the view online/view mobile copy. Wordy directions such as "If you are having trouble viewing this e-mail, click here to see it online" just take up space. Say "View Online" or "View Mobile," and hyperlink them.
Your sender address, subject line, and preheader work as a team to help answer these questions. One or two shouldn’t do all the work.
Right-justify utility information (view online/mobile, contact phone numbers, etc.). It’s still visible in the full screen but clearly secondary.
When promoting a limited-time offer, your subject line could say "Three-day Sale" and your preheader could begin "Ends 5/21/2010."
Include your top-level navigation with your preheader testing, because the two can work together or against each other. Some elements that have always been fairly hidden in a bottom navigation bar will get better results for you at the very top in a preheader, but only testing can tell you that.
What Navigation Can Tell You About Your Recipients
Many e-mail messages just replicate the corresponding website’s navigation. That’s a mistake. E-mail readers likely have different needs than Web visitors. So, don’t just transplant your Web navigation bar to your e-mail template.
Study where recipients are clicking on your messages. A navigation link that draws few clicks should get reassigned elsewhere in the message. In its place, test navigation items that drive to deeper categories and resonate with the central call to action.
Conversely, clicks can also point you to new opportunities, both for refining your message navigation and in your e-mail marketing program itself. A low-lying link that draws disproportionate clicks can get moved up higher, making your e-mail more relevant to your recipients.
Suppose one of your most popular links is "New Products." You can use that information to create a new, behavior-driven segment of your mailing list with recipients who are more interested in what’s new than in your regular weekly offer.
Until next time, keep on deliverin’!
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Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.
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