September 17, 2014

Capturing Email Addresses: 5 Basic Guidelines

Sending regular emails to your subscribers is the most powerful way that you can generate constant new business online; outclassing even paid search for effectiveness. In this post we look at the best way to capture email addresses via your website and the right way to build your email list. (i.e. don’t spam everyone  you’ve ever heard of within your industry).

1. Sign up form in a prominent position.  Of the relatively few technical businesses that produce a regular email newsletter, almost all make the sign up form practically impossible to find. It’s in the footer. Or there’s a link in very, very tiny text. It seems that there is a slight embarrassment about using such a blatant marketing tactic as this.  Remember, your newsletter is full of useful information that will be of genuine use to the recipient. Make the sign up form obvious and prominent – at the top of the page.

2. Write a dedicated sign up page. Write a page that spells out all the advantages of receiving your emails. And if you are offering a free report in exchange for an email address, make sure you outline what’s great about the report as well. Just to be clear, writing ‘Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest news on all our products‘ does not spell out the advantages. Present the link to your sign up page on various pages of your site as well as in other places, such as your print brochure and email signature.

3. Don’t overdo the sign up fields. Try not to have too many fields for your visitor to have to fill in. Gathering information is great, especially if you want to segment your lists for more personalised emails later on, but the more mandatory fields you include, the fewer sign ups you are likely to get. A good compromise is putting <Name> and <Email> as mandatory, but allowing the visitor to decide whether to fill in <Company Name> <Position> <Industry Sector> etc.
NB. Some forms just ask for an email address and that’s OK, but if, like me, you head your emails with Dear <Name> then you’ll need to collect that as well.

4. Clear Field labels. However many fields you decide to have, ensure they are clearly labelled. The label should be to the left of the field if there’s room. Above the field is OK but below is confusing. Avoid choosing a design that only allows for labels to be shown within the field itself, only to disappear once the user starts filling in their information. It makes for an uncluttered design, but studies have shown that visitors often forget what they should be typing and find the lack of fixed labelling annoying.

5. Opt-in and Double Opt-in. If you obtain a bunch of email addresses for likely prospects and send them your e-newsletter you are spamming them. This is illegal in the UK.  Good practice is to send your emails out to only those who have elected to subscribe via your website form. This is called ‘opting-in’. Double opt-in is where your email newsletter provider sends them an email asking them to confirm their subscription by clicking a link.

A grey area: Many businesses add all their customers and everyone who’s ever asked for information to their list as a way of growing it quickly. This is up to you. Personally, I ask customers verbally whether they’d mind (they usually don’t) but I do add people who have filled in the ‘send me information’ form in my site. (but not those who have asked me to quote). Your choice.

Remember, in all of this, the quality of your list matters. 1000 subscribers who really are interested in highly polished lenses is a much better list than 10,000 who will never buy.