As email marketers, we could take a lesson from the Native Americans. They famously used every part of the buffalo they hunted, putting it to use in over 70 different ways so that no part of it would go to waste. It’s a lot easier to send an email than it is to bring down a 2,500 pound bovine with a hand-made bow and arrow, but the attention of your audience is no less scarce a resource. If you are going to track, chase and aim for that attention, make full use of it. To do that, consider every part of your message as an opportunity to make a connection, elicit a response, or deliver a brand impression:

Pre-Header Text: This is the copy that sits above the HTML or header graphic in your email, and is the first thing your subscribers see. If they are on a mobile device or have their email clients set to not download images in the preview pane, it may be all that is visible to them. Commonly it delivers a logistical message like “Can’t see images? Click here to view online.” It should provide that housekeeping function, but that’s not to say that it is all the pre-header text should do. If your message is promotional and designed to elicit a direct response, such as a conference registration or a membership renewal, why not put the same message in the pre-header text along with your housekeeping:

Save $200 on the Annual Meeting if you register by this Friday!
(Can’t see images? View online here.)

Organization Based on Engagement: Most email messages are structured so that the most important content is at the top. What “most important” means varies from one organization or message to the next, but it generally refers to the parts of the message that are most likely to command attention and generate clicks. But studying Click-View tracking (the feature in Real Magnet that allows you to see exactly where all the links within the message are coming from) often reveals that the bottom of the message performs well in click-through as well. This is because of one of two reasons. The first is that your email is particularly engaging. You can’t always predict that of course. But the other reason you ‘ll see activity at the bottom of a message is when your subscribers are particularly engaged. I’ve done some analysis based on groups receiving messages and have found that subscribers who are more engaged with an organization (those who open or click on messages more regularly) are more chronology-agnostic with emails. They will click on items at the top or bottom of messages with equal frequency. It makes sense, when you realize your engaged audience is reading the entire email. Knowing this, don’t be afraid to put the content aimed expressly at your most engaged subscribers at the bottom. They’ll still find it, and it frees up real estate at the top for the less engaged subscribers who aren’t as likely to work their way all the way down the page.

Sidebars: Many organizations are promoting several initiates simultaneously – an upcoming conference, new product launch, a webinar series, and other programs. But emails are most effective when they focus on a single initiative. If you’d like to use your emails more like your website, design a template with a sidebar that you can use place graphics in to promote some of the programs that are off-topic to the message content. Think of them as “house ads” that you’re running within your email. They do not detract from the focus of the message, but provide another opportunity to make an impression with your company’s key initiatives.

Footer: Like Pre-Header Text, the Footer plays a largely logistic role, most often just communicating your organization’s address and unsubscribe links in compliance with CAN-SPAM laws. But the footer can work a lot harder than that. Like the footer on your website, your email can contain the same links you display online, from social media icons to links to your “contact us” and “about us” pages. You can also load it with fresh content, like links to your most recent blog posts, or the latest whitepapers in your library. Or use it as the last chance to make a lasting brand impression, and incorporate a bold design or resonating tagline you want your subscribers to take away.