It’s Monday 7:00 AM, and as you begin to welcome the morning, you check the emails you received over your nightly slumber. There are four new emails from various brands.

It’s Monday 10:00 AM, and you receive a new email from a colleague over your desktop.

It is only 10:28 AM, and you receive another ding on your phone. It’s a new email from your favourite store.

At 11:50 AM, you start your lunch by checking your emails.


Over 90% of U.S consumers check their emails daily. As digital media continues to expand and shape the way we move through our lives, email continues to be the leading tactic to reaching a desired audience, even more than social media.

As a marketer, crafting an email can be the easy part. However, getting your prospects to open the email can be difficult. Your email content, such as the name, subject line, prehheader, body copy, call to action, and design, doesn’t have to take days to perfect as long as you remember the key communication pieces when you begin your strategy, giving you a completive edge.

In my own inbox, I see well-known brands miss opportunities to optimize their emails to increase open rates. Although there is no magic formula, there are various ways marketers, copywriters or designers can optimize their emails without impacting the content inside.

Example of Tangerine Bank and Sportscheck not optimizing their email sender profile and preheader text.

Over 90% of U.S consumers check their emails daily.

I recently researched the best ways my employer can optimize our own emails as we begin to redesign and move over to Marketing Cloud. Below are the results I came up with and sent to my department.

What I learned

I spent several days researching email best practices and browsing through our test emails and my own email accounts to get a robust understanding and to challenge of how my employer can stand out for our products and services through our email sender profile, including mobile design.

Mobile compatibility is crucial

The use of email still continues to grow and more people are using email multiple times a day. Mobile phones have become our remote control of our lives. Over 90% of U.S. consumers check their email daily, compared to 50% for social media. Of these consumers, 82% of them read email throughout the day on their mobile devices. To keep up, email marketers and desingers should optimize their email copy and design for mobile compatibility.

Why it’s important to stand out

According to Marketing Sherpa, business to business organizations who use personalization in their marketing materials see 47% improvement in open rates and 42% increase in clickthrough rates over organizations that have a low levels of personalization. As we move towards responsive email templates, crafting the content in a way that sets us apart and connects with our audience is important.

Overview of Findings

The areas I focussed on were:

  • Sender Name
  • Email Subject Lines
  • Email Preheader Text

Emails list on a laptop screen isolated on an desk, office background. 3d illustration

Sender Name

There is no perfect formula when creating a sender name. Although a smaller name means it will show up well in mobile, it’s best to focus on quality vs. quantity of characters and your audience and content. Having a consistent sender name not only keeps brand recognition, but also ensures email providers see you as a trusted source.

Deviating from your typical sender name – by using the name of a person at your organization instead of your brand name, for instance – can boost or destroy your open rates depending on how recognizable that name is to your subscribers.”
– McKenzie Gregory, Content Marketing Manager for Emma marketing team

Changing your sender name has the risk of getting the email tagged as a promotional email and sent to the “promotion” folder in Gmail or spam and junk folders.  It’s even trickier in a consumer environment when changing or shortening a sender name because the brand is not recognizable and appears untrustworthy. For example, if Facebook used “FB” in their sender name, they may confuse the receiver and think it’s spam.

So how about in a B2B enviornment?

This is an exception. Although your brand still runs the risk of losing recognition and credibility, there are ways around it. For example, if the sender name is unique to the brand, like Betty Crocker or Marc Zuckerberg, it can be be used. Otherwise, it’s best to stay with the company name in the sender name. Also, never use an email as a sender name. Email providers like a name attached to the IP address .

Email Sender Name Tips:

  1. If you put a name, choose an identity that your recipients will recognize immediately. Ensure you can say where it is from. The from name has to let the recipient know that the email content is of use to them. In most cases, a recognized brand name (i.e.REALTOR.ca) can impart this information.

  2. If you decide to use a person’s name, remember to attach an identity the recipients will recognize.
    For example:
    Instead of: Sharon: your invite for this year’s networking reception
    Do: Sharon from EventBrite: your invite for this year’s networking reception


  3. If you decide to use your brand name, but have different audiences, make each name unique.
    For example:
    Instead of:Wordpress: best practices for your website
    Do: WordPress for Authors: best practices for your websiteTwitter: optimize your ads
    Twitter for Business: optimize your ads


  4. Do not shorten the name, such as “BR” for Banana Republic or “FB” for Facebook. No one will know what BR and FB means.

  5. When using a real name, the email must be used in conjunction with the appropriate email and not a “no reply” email. In the U.S, commercial emails must have an identified from name and email.

Sender name character length

Mobile character limit:

  • Windows phone: 17 characters
  • iPhone and BlackBerry: 24 characters
  • iPads are: 23 characters
  • Android: 32 characters

Desktop character limit:

  • Outlook: 25 – 30 characters
  • Gmail: 20 characters
  • Yahoo: changes depending on size of the browser, so can be limited to 14 characters

How to decide?

Remember to balance character limits with descriptive value. It’s best to stick with 20 – 25 characters and add optimized descriptive subject lines and preheader text.

Woman using mobile phone

Email Subject Lines

Thought leaders do not have a magic formula when developing subject lines and there are various ways to invite a prospect to open an email, such as ““Start a 14-day FREE trial – discover more”. However, it’s always a best practice to lead with value and test to see what works for the audience and the product. For example, use A/B testing to determine if there is a general increase in open rates when trying to decide between two subject line ideas.

Marketing Sherpa: add value and remove call to actions

In one webinar from Marketing Sherpa, they recommended to avoid leading the subject line with a call to action because it means the prospect has to do something. After A/B testing numerous emails, Marketing Sherpa recommends a visual benefit followed by details to entice the prospect to click.

Example:
“Book now to save 30% on hotel stays this December in Boston”
Why this does not work: Why this does not work: Book now(is the CTA) to save 30%(BENEFIT) on hotel stays this December in Boston(DETAILS)

Instead, they recommend adding the benefit first to tell what the prospect will get.

Instead, try “Save 30% (BENEFIT) on hotel stays in Boston(DETAILS)
or “Holiday shopping(BENEFIT), historic tours(BENEFIT), and more Boston traditions(DETAILS)

Both of these are giving the prospect something, rather than asking them for something. This implies value and not “I have to do something to get something”.

Avoid: Buying or Refinancing? (DETAILS) Check out [company name] (CTA)
Do: Own your home sooner (BENEFIT) with biweekly payments(DETAILS)

HubSpot: use call to actions

In contrast, HubSpot recommended using call to actions for higher click rates: Subject lines are similar to calls-to-action, in that you want the language to inspire people to click. Subject lines that begin with action verbs tend to be a lot more enticing, and your emails could be drastically more clickable by adding a vibrant verb at the beginning.”

Unfortunately there was no research to back up the statement, so it’s crucial to conduct A/B testing on your own emails to determine what your target audience reacts to.

Email Subject Line Tips

  1. For the consumer side, it’s best practice to ensure the list is cleaned up for first names. Consumers may put a false name and it makes it obvious the brand is pulling in tags and not actually creating a personalized email.

  2. Although we can try as hard to optimize our subject lines, always strive for clarity with an authentic value prospection. When we present an authentic value proposition, the clarity is the persuasion.
    Avoid: Buying or Refinancing? (DETAILS) Check out [company name] (CTA)
    Do: Own your home sooner (BENEFIT) with biweekly payments(DETAILS)


  3. Consumers respond to the product name in subject lines, or any personalization such as names, locations, and specific personalized segmented details. In 2012, Aweber, a software, tested their newsletters for an entire month. They split their list in half and sent the same email content to each list. However, the only difference was the subject line. In group B, the list used the prospect’s name. In each email sent to group B, they saw a 5.13% higher average open rate and 17.36% higher clickthrough rate.

Subject line character limit

Desktop character limit:

  • Most email providers cap subject lines at 40 – 50 characters. However…

Mobile character limit:

  • 40% of all emails are now opened on mobile devices, so the first 20 – 30 characters must count. This is the optimal length, however, the content of the subject line is still prominent.
This is an example of my inbox. Most brands comply with the mobile character limit (yellow box). But my eyes automatically went to the longer versions in the red box because it stood out. All the characters won’t show up in mobile, but the subject line in prominent in my inbox.

Young man with glasses working on his notebook, with a fresh cup of coffee nice and early in the morning, getting the business out of the way nice and early in the day

Preheader Text/Preview Text

Preheader text is the text right after subject line and it’s a valuable opportunity to engage the audience as an effective way to increase open rates.If you don’t insert preheader text in the code of your email, most email clients, all apps except old versions of Outlook, Lotus Notes, and Blackberry will pull a preview from the first 75-100 characters of the email’s content.

In this screenshot, the red boxes show the automatic text that gets pulled. In a template I was testing for my employer, the entire preview section where a prospect could read more information was not optimized, making “gibberish” text from the attached images, view in browser, and language preferences.

Preheader character length

Mobile character limit:

  • Windows phone: 40 characters
  • iOS Yahoo App: 50 characters
  • iOs Gmail App: 50 characters
  • Blackberry: not supported
  • Android Yahoo App: 45 characters
  • Android Gmail App: 100 characters

Desktop character limit:

  • Apple Mail: 140 characters
  • Lotus Notes 8.5: not supported
  • Outlook 2013: 35 characters
  • Outlook 2016: 35 characters

Webmail chartacter limit:

  • AOL Mail: 75 characters
  • Gmail: 100 characters
  • Yahoo:
  • Outlook.com

Email clients have different character limit, making it best to keep preheader character limit to 30 – 40 characters to ensure content is optimized for the majority of email clients.

Sources used for this blog

Allen, O. (2018). How to Write Catchy Email Subject Lines: 19 Tips. [online] Blog.hubspot.com. Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/improve-your-email-subject-line [Accessed May 2018].

Campaignmonitor.com. (2018). How to Determine the Best Length for Your Email Subject Lines. [online] Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2015/12/best-email-subject-line-length/ [Accessed May 2018].

content: MarketingSherpa, M. (2012). Email Marketing: 17.36% higher average clickthrough rate in 7 personalized subject line tests. [online] MarketingSherpa. Available at: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/article/case-study/1736-higher-average-clickthrough-rate?_ga=2.35455016.862743825.1526042666-1464424105.1526042666 [Accessed May 2018].

content: MarketingSherpa, M. (2012). Email Marketing: 17.36% higher average clickthrough rate in 7 personalized subject line tests. [online] MarketingSherpa. Available at: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/article/case-study/1736-higher-average-clickthrough-rate?_ga=2.35455016.862743825.1526042666-1464424105.1526042666 [Accessed May 2018].

Eckerle, C. (2017). Email Marketing: Five ideas to increase your email’s perceived value | MarketingSherpa Blog. [online] MarketingSherpa Blog. Available at: https://sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com/email-marketing/increase-emails-perceived-value/?_ga=2.16274303.853693589.1526042154-1169376415.1526042154 [Accessed May 2018].

Gregory, M. (2012). [online] Content.myemma.com. Available at: https://content.myemma.com/blog/whats-a-good-email-open-rate [Accessed May 2018].

Hawkins, A. (2016). Email Marketing : The “From” or Sender Name is Your Friend!. [online] FreshPerspectives Blog. Available at: http://www.freshaddress.com/fresh-perspectives-blog/email-sender-name-tips/ [Accessed May 2018].

About the Author Sarah Stone

Results-driven marketing and communication professional. I have experience in multi-channel marketing programs such as social media, web design, print promotion, and content and email marketing.

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