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Making the Most of the Preview Pane in Your E-Mail Marketing Messages

Your prospects and customers may catch their first glimpse of your marketing e-mail in the preview pane of their e-mail program. Use this valuable e-mail real estate to entice your audience into opening your message — or at least saving it for later reading.

A well-designed preview pane increases your open rate and prompts your users to read portions of your e-mails in more detail before deciding to read more or take immediate action on the calls to action within your e-mails.

Designing your e-mails to maximize the content in the preview pane involves placing text and design elements at the top of your e-mails in strategic configurations. If you can fit your message entirely in the preview pane, you have a winning layout, but often your e-mails have to deliver more than a minimal amount of content.

When the preview pane alone isn’t enough, use the following tips to encourage your audience to dig deeper into the message:

  • Insert a short sentence of plain text at the top of your e-mails that tells your audience who you are and what your e-mail contains. If you use a permission reminder at the top of your e-mails, briefly highlight the contents of your e-mail in the permission text.

  • Make sure your e-mail is no wider than 600 pixels. Most e-mail programs match the screen resolution of the user’s computer, and e-mails wider than 600 pixels may exclude some of your content. Most e-mail templates are already 600 pixels by design, but you can check the template’s style sheet or table width tag to be sure.

  • Place a headline directly under an image that spans the width of the e-mail. It highlights the content in your e-mail that appears below the preview pane.

  • Include a table of contents (TOC) in your e-mail. Add your TOC in a row near the top of your e-mail or in a side column in the e-mail. If you use a TOC in a column, make sure it appears at the top of your e-mail.

  • Use the same colors for borders, backgrounds, and other non-image design elements. A consistent color helps reinforce your brand when your e-mails use various formats.

  • Avoid using text at the top of your e-mails that fails to hint at the details that appear below the preview pane. For example, an e-mail newsletter that has the date, issue number, and month at the top of the e-mail fails to describe the content of the e-mail newsletter in detail.

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