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Communicating your message in an e-mail preview pane

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While experts have always warned against putting important text and images below the fold, a new study by e-mail marketing technology provider EmailLabs takes this admonition one step further. According to the report, the majority of b-to-b e-mail newsletter subscribers use the preview pane of their e-mail client, and nearly half (49%) don’t enable blocked images.

The report found that 90% of newsletter subscribers have access to a preview pane, and 69% said they frequently or always use it. Also significant: 53% of respondents said their e-mail clients or ISPs automatically block images in some or all of their messages.

“What is so important about this is the industry has been dealing with these disabled images and preview panes but no one really understood how big the problem is,” said Loren McDonald, EmailLabs’ VP-marketing. “We now have a good stake in the ground at how prevalent this is and the impact of it. You seriously need to rethink the design of your e-mails.”

McDonald had these suggestions to help marketers make the most of the preview pane:

  • Banish images from the top—or keep them very small. Make those first inches count by including copy that all viewers can see. Text and, to some extent, HTML are viewable on most e-mail clients and Web browsers. If you do use images, keep them to a minimum size (smaller than two to three inches in height) so, if users are scrolling through, they can see the entire graphic in the pane.
  • Reacquaint yourself with HTML-based ads. Innovative shapes and sizes catch eyes on a Web page, but they may not be the best choice for an e-mail newsletter. Try including HTML text-based ads which, McDonald said, have worked well for EmailLabs.
  • Don’t forget the basics at the top. Sixty percent of respondents said sender name and e-mail address remains the most important factor that they look for in a preview pane when deciding to open or read their mail. Subject lines, headlines and teaser copy follow in importance, according to the survey.
  • Put the fine print at the bottom of the e-mail, but do keep some administrative elements above the fold. McDonald suggested including “View Web Version” and “Update Profile” within those first crucial inches, as well as an opt-out link, which will help you avoid spam complaints.
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