So you're saying there's a chance...

Do you check email on your smart phone or laptop more? In our go-go-go world, I'm guessing you answered, "smart phone." It's so easy to get sucked into notifications when anything pops up on our phones... that beloved "ding" telling you it's time for some distraction! Intriguing content will only pull us further into the rabbit hole. Ah, music to email marketers’ ears. Preheader text is proving to be a successful tactic when trying to draw consumers in. That's right, NOT subject lines. (Not to say subject lines aren't still important in increasing open rates). Let's discuss what preheader text is and the three ways you can start optimizing your own email marketing campaigns.

What are Preheaders?

Preheaders are the short text that follow the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox.


Companies are using email more than ever to communicate with their customers, but there is one universal challenge that all companies face… Getting their customers to open their emails. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to market to their customer base, it helps build relationships with leads or current customers by speaking directly to them. Emails also can be used to thoughtfully build loyalty and trust in your brand. With that being said, fixing the problem of unopened emails is imperative.

 Preheader text in emails are becoming a savvy way to hook consumers and plays a big factor into whether your email is opened or not. Think of the back of a book, the headline of a newspaper or a 10 second ad – you have almost no space/time to grab your audience’s attention. Better make it count!

Strategy 1: Preheaders & Subject Lines Working Together

How about this email for commanding attention?


 I received an email notification on my phone with the subject line “Today is the very last day you can buy ANYTHING!” I think my heart stopped when I read this (It was around Christmas time when I was considering this as a gift for my mom). I immediately opened my inbox to see the preheader text saying, “Just kidding.” This is a fantastic way to join forces between your subject line and preheader, like peanut butter and jelly. 

Your preheader text appears so closely to your subject line that you may as well use this to your advantage and create a complete story rather than two separate parts of an email campaign. The way CLN&DRTY made their subject line and preheader work together created magic – I opened their email!

Strategy 2: Displaying preheaders correctly in the inbox

  • The first option is to not display a preheader at all, instead many companies will use the first few words of their email body in place of the preheader text. For this option to be successful, make sure you have a great opening line in your email, resulting in less work for you!
  • The next option is to have a visible preheader. If you have a preheader in your email but haven’t done much with it, you probably are already doing this option. What this means is that the preheader you see in the inbox is also visible in the template.
  • The last option you have is to use a hidden preheader, this allows you to have preheader text that follows the subject line but will be invisible in the template once the email is opened. This is a great option if you need to enhance your subject line or add valuable information that you don’t want to include in the body of your email. If you go with the hidden preheader option you will need to code it in the Source (HTML) part of your email template.

Strategy 3. What Not to Do When Using Preheaders

Not all companies utilize preheaders as well as they should. Let’s look at a few emails that will show us what not to do.


Subject line: “Yeti Coolers: New Order #1-00970442”
Preheaders: “To view this email as a web page, click here. NEED HELP?”
What’s wrong with this: This was common to do in the past and it gives the recipient the option to view the image in the browser, however this provides NO sales pitch or hook that will convince your customer to open your email.  

Wells Fargo Online

Subject Line: “Financial Habits to start this year

Preheader: “Financial health habits to practice all year long.”
What’s wrong with this: Repeating financial habits all year in the preheader is repetitive and doesn’t communicate anything new to your customer. You want to engage your customers. Here are some quick ways to increase email engagement

Things to keep in mind…

It’s not about having preheader text… It’s about increasing clarity of value for the customer.

Having a preheader created by your top email marketing manager does not guarantee a positive response. It’s important that you use preheaders to deliver the value you are bringing to the customer with the email you are sending them. If your preheader doesn’t reflect value then it may just be repetitive and distracting to the receiver.

Preheader performance typically matches subject line performance.

According to Jon Powell, former CEO of Kravco Company and now Managing Partner of SeventySix Capital, says that a well-crafted subject line may increase opens but will always at least double the impact on clicks – the same seems to be true for preheaders. By using preheader text in your emails, you will provide your subscribers more relevant content and increasing the chances of them opening it and taking action. It's important to use best practices to optimize your preheaders and soon you will realize the benefits it brings. If you have any questions about how to further improve your email marketing tactics, we're here to help