Choosing a Few Good Words for Preview Pane Impact

Our creative team here at Bulldog recently passed around this compelling post on the value of spending time considering the preview pane view of your emails. Not because they aren’t already sold on making message choices that take the preview pane into account, but because there is nothing better than having reliable statistics to back up your actions. One stat cited in this post: 64% of people who are offered preview panes start using them as their default (MarketingSherpa, 2007).

The editor of our monthly newsletter, Marketing Watchdog Journal, was particularly enamored of the post (she’s the one who sent it around) because it validates the time we’ve been spending on the preview pane view of the newsletter. For the past several months we’ve been playing with rich media, adding a relatively simple video component to the newsletter and watching the effect on metrics such as open rates and clickthroughs. Video is a more and more compelling part of the online marketing experience, and the technology and availability of production facilities are making it more accessible to marketers (see my earlier post on embedded video in other areas of our prospect engagements). So it’s really not a question of whether we were going to add video to the newsletter, but how to go about it.

In our June newsletter, we combined the ongoing video testing with a preview pane message that highlighted the availability of said video. A simple text message, appearing at the top of the newsletter, highlighting the availability of video: “In this issue of Marketing Watchdog Journal, you’ll learn how to apply social media to BtoB marketing. View the video introduction for more!” The results: Open rates up 30%, clickthroughs almost double the previous month.

I’m not ready to isolate that preview pane message as the sole reason for the open rate jump. The topic, the subject line, the deliverability of the newsletter all play a role, and Bulldog’s analytics manager would pass out if I announced I was ready to draw conclusions after a single test. But those numbers were certainly gratifying—the seeds of our own reliable stats to back up our actions.

—Amy Bills