It's time to re-examine your top line. You can’t afford to waste a single line in your eMail message, whether it's a gorgeously-designed, artistic-quality HTML or a no-nonsense, all-business, plain-text message.
It's time to take a fresh look at your top line. This tiny but significant area in your eMail message can help tilt the balance in your favour when readers are zipping through their inboxes looking for which messages to open and which to delete.
You need to re-invigorate the top line to optimise your eMail message and make it stand out from the crowd. eMail users have become more sophisticated in the ways they deal with eMail, compared with just a couple of years ago. With overflowing inboxes, eMail clients provide ways to make rapid decisions on what to read. Understand and take advantage of these tools to get your eMails read.
Have a look at your own inbox and look for the first sentence in the eMail that’s displayed after the subject line - this is the "snippet" text. Typically, the snippet will show the copy of the first line of an HTML message, or the first sentence of a text message.
This is how different eMail clients view the top line:
Outlook (B2B focused): short line of text in the auto preview
Gmail (B2C focused): PC users see some shaded text after a shortened subject line. Only sender, subject line and date sent are show in the Macintosh version
Yahoo (B2C focused): it renders as a pop-up when you mouse over the subject line in the inbox preview
Very often the top line contains a “Click the link to view the web version” or some similar bland statement. These are valid statements but they shouldn’t be on the top line. Have a look at the top line of our Down2Earth eNewsletter.
This valuable area can be used instead to build value and interest. A well-worded snippet complements the subject line and helps your prospects, especially those who use mobile readers, decide whether to delete, save or to read the message immediately.
There are three benefits: you have more words than simply the subject line alone; you can create more excitement about your email; and the top line will appear as a “snippet” in the preview pane. This helps readers decide on what to do with your message when they are deluged with eMails.
The combination of image blocking and the use of a preview pane means the top line might be the only text readers see from the eMail body text – so make the most of it!
Have a look at these startling statistics, courtesy of Jupiter Research:
8% of eMail users sort their inboxes using a handheld device
The average reader spends 2 to 5 seconds deciding whether to read or delete a message. With many people, no more than half a second to two seconds are used to take in all the information – sender line, subject and any visible snippets
18% of heavy eMail users read eMail on mobile devices
Your prospects aren't sitting patiently at their desks, scrolling slowly through their over-full inboxes. They're using mobile phones, Blackberrys and other handhelds deleting everything that looks uninteresting.
Some typical Snippets
Here are some examples
"Click here to view this eMail with images"
"Having difficulty viewing this eMail? Click here"
"If you can’t see this eMail, click here"
These statements seem reasonable enough. Statistics show that not enough people are clicking through to the web versions to make it a sensible use of the space. None of these statements mentions the purpose or offer of the eMail, leaving the prospect to decide whether to read it or not, using the subject line alone.
The top lines above have two common failings: none of them refer to the eMail content or include the company name or brand. An opportunity has been lost to stand out from the crowd and persuade your prospects to either pause or save for later reading.
Certainly post a link pointing to your web version but it must not be the first sentence in your eMail. If you feel you must place it there, at least include your company and brand name.
These top lines are better because they speak about a need or issue the prospect might have:
"Stats Article: Top 10 Search categories
"Widget exhibition registration deadline and special discount code"
"Thank you from the Widget Company"
"Video on 2008 eMail marketing trends”
"Entire 2008 collection at Wembley"
So, what about snippets that really work? I went through my entire inbox and couldn’t find a single example that was up to scratch!
Three steps to better snippets
First of all, you'll need to create a new snippet for each message. Yes, it takes a little extra time, but a better open rate will be the result.
Step #1 Re-invigorate
Offer eMail: repeat the offer (discount, free delivery) with an invitation within the “Link to the web version” text. For example, "To claim your 10% discount, click this link"
eNewsletter: put a news headline (top story, titbits, etc) in the top line with the “Link to the web version”
Order or action confirmation: refer to the order or action and provide a thankyou as appropriate (there is no link needed)
The first two examples require a new top line with a direct link, while the third utilises a template. Producing a new top line will take a few extra minutes each time, but the increased effectiveness will more than repay the effort. The confirmation will not require a link unless you host confirmation pages on your website.
Step #2 Check it out Examine how the new top line will appear in different desktop and web eMail clients on different platforms – PC, Macintosh and mobile.
Step #3 Test Carry out an A/B test, sending your standard eMail message to one half of your list and the new version to the other half. Did you notice better response rates? Even if you didn’t, keep trying this approach with your next two or three broadcasts and keep an eye on open rates. Also monitor the click rate on the top link to see if it's getting used.
Why action is required NOW
The important lesson is this: you can’t afford to waste a single line in your eMail message, whether it's a gorgeously-designed, artistic-quality HTML or a no-nonsense, all-business plain-text message. The top line is your opening shot to tell the reader that your message has value and should be seen. If you aren't optimising this line, you're throwing away another opportunity to make your message stand out in the inbox.
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