A few months ago I got an email from my friend’s startup. It looked something like this:
I immediately saw a problem – the text to the right of the Subject line was the standard “crap” text that people dismiss. He wasn’t optimizing the email for increased open rates.
When I was at IAC/TDB, the legacy email systems had the same issues. When I upgraded vendors, I also had the templates updated to allow for a smarter email marketing strategy.
Instead of using the “If you can’t see this email” message at the top, we changed the text to act as a content-preview that could sell-in some of the other stories within the inbox/list view. Below you can see the difference during the changeover. The difference in value proposition to users for an open is quite clear — and the updated format was very compelling.
How to accomplish this? You just need to understand that most email programs ( Gmail , Apple’s Iphone/Mac Mail, etc) will pull the first few lines of text as a preview. You want to control that and use it to your advantage.
Originally we designed the email to look like this:
An influential person in the company didn’t like that leading text, so it had to be removed.
No worries, the fix was simple, I just had everything wrapped in a custom “invisible” style to make it essentially hidden:
<span style="font-size:1px; color:#fff;height:1px;">Hidden Text Here</span>
The open rates (which were already pretty high) increased substantially. Several readers consciously noticed the format change, and wrote in with gratitude — it helped them not miss stories that mattered.
As a side note, the “nav bar” at the top of the email [Home…Books] disappeared in the second image because an influential person required that to be killed too. I strongly disagreed with that decision – it was a great source of click-throughs and a “best practice” taught to me by multiple of the top email marketers in the industry ( and backed up with analytics + constantly reiterated each time ). The click through rate dipped because of those links leaving ( people did not click elsewhere ), but the overall numbers increased from the open-rate improvements to offset it.