7 Ways to Write Preview Text that Boost Open Rates

There’s no doubt about it. Subject lines do much of the heavy lifting in getting your promotional emails opened. Recently, I was involved in a split test where one subject line beat the other by just over 200%.

However, the subject line doesn’t go it entirely alone. It gets help on two fronts. One is the From line (a line marketers should pay more attention to, IMHO.) The other is the preview text.

As you may know, preview text (AKA the preheader) is a short line of copy that gives you a “preview” of the email message. It’s often displayed just after the subject line or just below it. Not all email clients show the preview text, but many do.

Preview text is becoming increasingly important in promotional emails because if the reader doesn’t like the preview, they may not open the email.

It’s like noticing a BIG SALE! sign at a storefront, peering through the window, and not liking what you see. So you don’t bother to go in.

Preview text is tricky to write. Unlike subject lines, there isn’t a mountain of split test data to confirm what works. More like a hill. However, based on that hill and my own experience working with clients, here are a few approaches worth trying.

1. Contrast with the subject line

Does your subject line rely on creating intrigue? Example: Has your marketing copy been to BALI? Then in your preview text, take a more straightforward approach. Example:  Four ways to write more compelling benefits using the B.A.L.I. technique.

If your subject line states the benefit or offer more directly, try a little intrigue in the preview text.

2. Take another swing at it

In your subject line, you have one chance—and precious few words—to say something that motivates the reader to open the email. Example: White Paper: How COB technology lowers insurance costs in distribution facilities. 

The preview text gives you a second opportunity to make an impact. So explore how you can state the same message but in a new and interesting way. Example: Discover the insurance savings potential for your operations.

3. Establish rapport

It’s tough to break the ice and make a personal connection in a subject line. You just don’t have the room. But you do in the preview text. That is where you can be more conversational. If appropriate, you can even personalize the preview text with the reader’s name. Example: Steve, I’m excited to share these tips with you.

4. Highlight the outcome

Many subject lines focus on drawing the reader’s attention to a problem, need or goal. Example: Do you make these mistakes when writing preview text? That’s essentially the Before in a before and after story. So in your preview text say something about the After—the outcome. Example: Write stronger preview text with these 7 tips.

5. Offer a bonus or incentive

Are you offering a bonus, discount or another incentive that isn’t mentioned in the subject line? The preview text can be the ideal place to promote that. Example: Take 10% off when you register today.

6. Create a sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency is a time-honoured principle in persuasive copywriting. That’s why Last chance… in a subject line often works well. But when you haven’t played the urgency card there, consider doing so in the preview text. Example: Registration ends at midnight.

7. The Cracker Jack Box technique

The whole point of preview text is to give you a peek inside the email before opening it. So, if there’s something of value in the email itself—a discount coupon, lists of tips, a breakthrough insight—highlight that in the preview text. Example: Tip #4 can double replies to your prospecting emails today.

A final tip: Read your preview text out loud. Although the numbers are still small, people are increasingly listening to their emails with the voice assistant feature on their phones or via Alexa, Nest, or Google Assistant. You want to make sure your preview text sounds as compelling as it reads.


This article was originally published as a LinkedIn Pulse article here.

Recent copywriting articles

Next steps

Read to turn your sales team into top-performing sales writers! Get in touch today to discuss booking an initial 90-minute training session.