Emails may not come immediately to mind when you hear the phrase “above the fold,” but marketers in every industry, every niche and every specialization know what “above the fold” means. It means, simply, to put your very best stuff front and center where it will definitely be seen – above the actual fold of a newspaper, what you can see on a landing page without scrolling (“above the scroll”), the cover photo and profile details on your Facebook page, the front of a postcard.
Email marketing can take advantage of the psychology behind “above the fold” design as well. Where the fold is in an email may not be as intuitive as for other types of collateral, but it exists nonetheless.
In an email or email newsletter, the subject line and preview pane represent prime “above the fold” real estate.
Subject Lines Serve as Attention Getters
Certainly you are aware of the vital importance of subject lines in today’s SPAM-filled world. If your email makes it past junk and SPAM filters (which analyze the subject line in relation to the content of the email to determine the fate of the email), the subject line will very likely determine whether or not your email will be opened or read. Here are three quick tips for writing effective subject lines, particularly for professional audiences:
- Tell your readers what is discussed in your email, leading with the benefit to them – what they will get out of reading it
- Maintaining relevance to the content of your email, keep it as short and concise as possible – you don’t want such a lengthy subject line that it wraps onto two lines in the preview pane or requires left-right scrolling to read it all
- Intrigue your readers by posing a question that relates to your topic and titillates their curiosity or desire to know the answer
The Preview Pane Email Design
Don’t assume that just because you have crafted an ingenious subject line that your recipients will automatically open and read your email. More than 85% of B2B and B2C email are previewed prior to being opened, so what you include in that oh-so-essential preview-pane-worthy space is critical to email marketing effectiveness.
While different email programs will display different amounts of your email in the preview pane (it all depends on the program as well as each individual user’s settings), expect that at least the first two or three lines of copy from your email will be visible in the preview pane.
Here are three tips for creating preview pane content that will inspire your readers to further investigate your email:
- Lead with a compelling offer, story or benefit – Starting with the very first line of copy, present a unique offer that your readers will be interested in or introduce an intriguing story that relates to your message.
- Don’t let your salutation eat up your valuable preview pane real estate – Remember that only the first two or three lines of your email will appear in the preview pane, which may include empty lines and paragraph breaks. Move your salutation to begin after the headline or introductory paragraph so that the preview pane won’t merely display “Dear XXX”.
- Repeat image verbiage as text – Keeping in mind that images may not render (as they are entirely dependent on the recipients’ settings), make sure that your first few lines of text introduce your topic even if an image at the top of your email or email newsletter does so as well. Eye-catching graphics are wonderful, and some of your recipients might even see them in their preview panes, but unfortunately others will not. Even if you have a headline embedded in that pretty image, repeat it in the copy of your email as a headline or in your introductory sentence.
Testing your subject lines and preview panes for optimal “above the fold” design is vital. The best way to test how effective your email design, verbiage choices and content are is to use a formal process like A/B split testing.
If you don’t have the resources to perform A/B testing, then create a few different test email accounts through various free email service providers like Hotmail, Gmail, Windows Live Mail, etc. Send yourself test emails to see exactly how the emails and email newsletters render through each platform. Ask a few friends, family members or associates to help you with your testing process and add them to your distribution list. Solicit their feedback and request screenshots of how the emails appear in their inboxes.
Remember, one email will look significantly different through different email programs… emails that look fantastic in Outlook 2010 might look entirely wonky in Outlook 2007 or like they have been tossed around in a virtual tornado in Outlook’s Web Mail. Testing will help you identify these issues, as well as optimize your subject line and preview pane “above the fold” real estate.
Maximize the effectiveness of all of your marketing collateral by taking full advantage of “above the fold” design, regardless of the medium you are using: emails and email newsletters, websites and landing pages, or brochures and other print materials.