How to write great email preheaders that achieve results

You’ve spent a lot of time making the perfect email campaign – your design is flawless, your content is engaging, and your subject line is carefully crafted. You’re ready to see results.

However, some things may be missing that could affect optimum results. 

Chances are you may have forgotten to write an email preheader for your campaign. It’s one email component that many businesses don’t take seriously, but using that space wisely can lead to many benefits.

In this blog, you’ll find out why email preheaders are so important, how to write great email preheaders that achieve results, and examples of preheaders that work.

Why do you need to write engaging email preheaders?

An email preheader is the summary of information that follows your subject line in an inbox. 

The first line of text in your email message is what most people will see when they review their inbox, so you want it to be compelling. Common approaches to preheaders are:

  • Offering a discount or promotion to your subscribers

  • Enticing readers by mentioning secondary content in the email

  • Using calls-to-action (CTAs) and links to practical content or products

  • Including a link to unsubscribe from your emails

  • Reinforcing the message in the subject line

Preheaders are especially important now that over half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, where people quickly scan through their inbox without reading everything. 

The average person will receive over 100 emails a day, so you want yours to stand out among the crowd. Besides, email preheaders can lead to a 7% higher open rate.  

After your company name and subject line, your preheader is the first place you can offer insight into what your email contains. While your subject line should be the most eye-catching and compelling text, your preheader text is an opportunity to offer a unique message. It’s an extension of your subject line.

One thing to keep in mind about email preheaders is your character limit. Like subject lines, you don’t have a lot of space to work with. Most preheaders are between 85 and 100 characters, though different email platforms have different limits.

3 best practices for writing effective email preheaders

When you have a limited amount of space to capture the attention of your readers, you want to maximize the value of that space. Follow these email preheader best practices to see the best results.

1. Email personalization makes a difference

The more you know about your email subscribers, the more you can personalize their email experience. And personalizing your reader’s email experience is one of the best ways to get results from your email campaigns. 

Here’s why personalization matters when writing email preheaders:

  • You can see an average of 14% improvement in your click-through rates. Your conversion rates can improve by an average of 10% as well.

  • You can see an increase in customer engagement. Almost 75% of marketers have seen an improvement since using targeted email personalization.

  • You can increase sales to an average of 20%. Marketers who use personalized web experiences have seen a boost in revenue. 

If you don’t have a lot of data about your customers, that’s okay. Using their name is the easiest place to start, and you can use it throughout the email for added impact. Even personalizing based on location can drive additional traffic to your site.

2. Ask a question to intrigue your reader

You can create an internal dialogue for your readers by using both statements and questions in your subject line and preheader. You can ask a question in your subject line, then follow up with a compelling statement in your email preheader. 

Consider these examples of subject lines and preheaders:

  • Patagonia raised $10 million in 17 days – Plus, we drove the new Mazda CX-30 – is it fit for adventure? (GearJunkie)

  • How do free tots sound? – Get FREE Tots when you spend $20 at Flyrite Winner Winner Chicken Dinner (Favor)

  • Wouldn’t you like to say “hi” to an elephant? – Enter to win a 5-day trip + safari! (Cairn)

Notice how the offer is more compelling when you ask a question? Even with limited space, these email preheader and subject line combinations provide all the information necessary to entice someone to open them.

3. Use emojis to capture people’s attention

While the use of emojis certainly varies across generations, they’ve become more common in email marketing. Not only are emojis used in subject lines, but they can now be included in email preheaders. When you have limited space, emojis pack a powerful punch. 

Consider these examples:

  • Starbucks Rewards: Come in for ☕

  • Kendra Scott: We love it when you give back with us. ❤️

  • Finimize: And now, relax | The UK braces for Brexit | 🎧 Listen to this brief

Each example is appropriate because they contain only one emoji. It’s possible for more than one emoji to be appropriate, but consider how well your readers will receive the message if you use too many – they can make your copy difficult to read clearly.

Examples of email preheaders that work

When looking for how to write great email preheaders that achieve results, you don’t just want to write a clever email preheader – you want a preheader that gets people to open your emails. These are examples of email preheaders that actually work.

“What’s in your stocking?”

Holidays and special events are the perfect time to send out email campaigns. 

Chipotle Mexican Grill used the holidays to send out an email promotion. Their subject line read, “We got you something extra this year” and their email preheader said, “What’s in your stocking?” The email included an animated graphic of – you guessed it – stockings, plus an offer for bonus points in their rewards program.

A close up of text on a white background

Description automatically generated

Source: Chipotle Mexican Grill

Email preheaders that hint at a surprise offer are an excellent way to increase your open rates – people love surprise offers. Just make sure your offer has an expiration date to create urgency.

“Hurry, promotion ends December 26th!”

Speaking of expiration dates, Drop used one to encourage people to earn bonus points for holiday spending. The subject line said, “There’s still time! Don’t miss out on 10,000 bonus points ❇️” and it was followed up by a preheader that read, “Hurry, promotion ends December 26th!” They combined the expiration date with a significant offer to encourage opens.

A close up of a logo

Description automatically generated

Source: Drop

Email preheaders that inspire urgency are an effective way to improve your conversion rates – no one wants to miss out on a great deal. Send emails like this sparingly to keep your readers engaged.

“We’ll bring your order straight to your door the same day!”

There’s not much that people love more than convenience. Same-day delivery has become popular in major cities, so much so that you can have virtually anything delivered. 

Total Wine & More created a subject line that read, “Get Top Holiday Wines Delivered Same-Day!” which was reinforced by the preheader, “We’ll bring your order straight to your door the same day!”

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

Source: Total Wine & More

Email preheaders that offer value to your readers are more likely to lead to an open. People want to know how you can serve them, so communicate that in your preheader.

“Relax, we can save you time.”

After convenience, people are always looking for ways to save time. An email that serves that up in the preheader can inspire people to click through. 

Ikea started their email with the subject line, “A less stressful holiday is our gift to you,” and they continued in the preheader, “Relax, we can save you time.” A holiday guide was inside.

Chipotle holiday rewards email

Source: Ikea

Ikea didn’t just make an offer they couldn’t live up to – they provided value by actually saving your time. The moral here: Make sure your preheader aligns with your message.

Wrap up

Before you put together your next email campaign, take some time to figure out how you’re going to implement preheaders in the future. Do you plan to write one for every email campaign or just specific ones? Do you want to create custom preheaders or simply optimize the first line of your email?

As you learn how to write great email preheaders that achieve results, these are things to consider. 

Don’t forget these email preheader best practices as you carve out your plan:

  • Personalization can lead to higher open and conversion rates.

  • Asking questions can create interest for your readers.

  • Emojis can be an effective way to communicate in a casual manner.

Email preheaders are a smart way to optimize limited space. Use them to push your readers past any barriers they have about what you’re offering.

Need an email marketing tool that makes it easy to create compelling campaigns? Emma's suite of features can improve your open and conversion rates. 

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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