Getting visitors to opt-in to your mailing list (via your website) provides a great way of directly communicating with them at a later time, in fact it should be one of your on-line marketing priorities. Imagine if you lost your Facebook page or Twitter account (and it can happen), how would you contact your audience?
Having a list of email subscribers keeps control in your own hands, rather than relying on a third party platform, and gives you a direct path to people that, by subscribing to your list, have qualified themselves as being interested in what you have to say. If they arrive on your site, read a little and leave you have nothing. As the old adage goes “the money is in the (email) list” and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
What you’ve first got to think about is that, from your visitors point of view, why would they want give you their email address? They usually won’t want to be contacted unless you have something interesting or useful to say or offer.
If you think you can simply add an opt-in form to your site and people will immediately fall over themselves to sign-up, then you’re sadly, misguided. Try it for yourself and see what happens. There needs to be something else in place to get that all important email address, and incentives are a great start.
So you’ve got to give visitors some incentive, provide some benefit to them in return for their email address. They have to want to get communication from you for some perceived advantage. Generally, people don’t like to be sold to, so you need to get over to them that you’re looking to help them to either solve a problem or achieve a goal rather than sell them something, and communicating the benefit of your offer is vital if you’re to succeed. Answer the question “What benefit is in it for them”.
Benefits can be short-lived, and particularly relevant to one piece of content (content upgrade) or could be more long term focused and offer ongoing value. If you capture an email because of a content upgrade you should look to keep them as a long term subscriber by having a strategy in place to provide ongoing value and support, otherwise they will simply opt-out straight away. Check out my in-depth list of opt-in incentive ideas.
Sell the benefits – Use wording within your opt-in form that sells the benefit of this incentive to your visitor. “Increase productivity with my 5 efficiency hacks” or “5 efficiency hacks that will increase productivity”, obviously make it relevant to your particular incentive, answer the question. “Why do my visitors need this incentive?”
Don’t promise something you can’t produce or provide and never ever try to mislead subscriber’s. Be honest, and reliable at all times. Once you break trust it is unlikely, unless you have history with them, that they will ever forgive you, and why should they? Check the section about credibility, capability and trustworthiness (below), for more information.
Offsetting the risk for subscribers
If I am the visitor on a new website I consider the risk reward balance of becoming a subscriber. Asking myself “If I give this person my email address can I opt-out if I change my mind?” So adding some text to your opt-in form saying that subscribers can opt-out easily at any time, and will not be pestered thereafter, will help to reduce this concern.
The main fear for many visitors, that prevents them from subscribing, is being swamped with spam emails that don’t offer any value to them and that become a pain to get rid of. Knowing they can click a button and never see your mail again is a big risk reducer. “One click to unsubscribe at any time – guaranteed!”.
Another concern is email addresses being sold onto third parties without the subscribers permission, and this should never happen, but sadly does. Make sure you state that there is no risk of this happening if they sign up with you. “We will never spam you” or “We will never share your email address with anyone else” or a combination of the two will help.
Adding extra value
When a visitor lands on your page they probably don’t know you, they don’t particularly care about you and your brand, or want to build a relationship with you, what they want is to get some benefit from you and your site. It’s your job to answer their question, “What’s in it for me?” The benefit should be so good they just can’t resist to sign up. The promise of insider information, better quality bonus information, discounts, rebates etc. and they’ll get that exclusively if they sign up.
This content can be hidden on your site, free from being indexed like your other content, on a page rather than that a post so it doesn’t appear in the blogroll. There are a number of WordPress plugins that will help you keep this content off your sitemap or navigation. Contact me for more information about this.
Other considerations for getting email opt-in’s are:
Getting people to see your page in the first place is of paramount importance, but the traffic volume alone is no good, you need traffic that is interested in your offer, so targeted traffic is what counts. Laser focus your marketing messages to speak to people who are interested in your niche and only them. Check this post for more information.
Once they arrive on your site, you need them to stay around long enough to see your opt-in box, so having content that will keep them engaged and on your site long enough to get the chance to opt-in is another big part of the jigsaw.
There needs to be some demonstration of value in your content that makes the visitor think, “I like this enough to sign up”. Think about it, if the content on a site you visit is not engaging or of high quality or relevance, are you going to sign up for their email newsletter?
You need to be thinking “I can get some value from this person” to even consider signing up. There’s got to be an interest from the visitor in the subject matter, and then they have got to like your take on that subject matter to want to stay around and hear more from you.
Placement of opt-in
You should consider placement of your opt-in form, do you put it in the sidebar, and if so at the top, middle or bottom? In the post itself, and again where is best? There is no definitive answer to this, the best advice is to test for yourself and see what works best for your audience. Some ideas for placement testing include:
- Sidebar – top, middle, or bottom separately and altogether,
- within the post itself – above the fold or bottom of post or both
- It’s great to include an opt-in form on both the “homepage” and “about us” pages, and again test multiple locations and see what works for you.
Make it stand out
As well as considering the location, it’s important, wherever you place your opt-in form, to make sure it stands out and is noticed. Use the rule of contrast, and make your form the opposite colour to the rest of your website. Visitor’s must be drawn to your opt-in form and the human brain is hard-wired to notice things that don’t match the rest of the environment, that stand out.
Number of fields
Think about how many fields you’re asking the visitor to fill in – my testing shows the fewer fields the visitor has to complete the more subscribers you will get. On the flip side I have seen research that suggests converting subscribers to paying customers (further down the sales funnel) tends to be better from leads who originally opted-in via forms with more fields, so as always test variations and see what works for you.
Credible, capable and trustworthy
Credibility, although last to be discussed here, is without doubt the most important element you need to sell anything online. If you can prove you know what you’re talking about, you know your niche, your product or service, you’re three quarters of the way to achieving online success.
Credibility builds trust, and gives your audience confidence you can deliver the results they are looking for. Credibility comes in the form of customer testimonials and reviews, case studies, demonstrations, free samples, free trial periods, social media following and interaction, before and after photos, published income statements, in fact anything that shows you can do what you say you can do, and the better you can demonstrate this the easier selling will be. Think of why you shop at Amazon (for instance), is it because of their stunning website design, the colour of their sidebars or footers?
You buy from Amazon, because you trust them, you know they can deliver what they say they will, and when they say they will, you can check out product reviews, you can return it if you’re not happy with it when it arrives. If I didn’t say it before “Credibility is key”.
There needs to be so much more in place to get subscribers onto your email list than just having an opt-in form on your site. Without subscribers, selling online, while not impossible, is much more difficult for some type of businesses. This varies depending on the type of niche you are involved in of course, my photography studio business sells lots of experience vouchers online without needing to get subscribers (although I still collect the emails of visitors to send promotional offers to), but this seems to be very different for none physical businesses that sell things like digital products and solutions, where getting subscribers is much more important in the sales process.
Below is a list of elements you will need to get visitor’s email addresses.
- You’ve got to get targeted traffic to your site in the first place,
- Provide good relevant content to engage your visitors and keep them hanging around, also the more of this content there is and the longer you have been around helps in the perception of credibility
- Have an opt-in form generator such as Thrive Leads to capture your visitor’s email address and an auto responder such as Mailchimp or Aweber to deliver the relevant incentive promised,
- An opt-in incentive and the wording used to sell the incentive to your visitors. Also think about an ongoing strategy for offering continuing value that requires staying subscribed to get access to it. (list of ideas here)
- Risk reducers – using reassurances such as:
- We will never spam you
- We will never share your email address
- You can opt-out with one click at any time, but please give us a try
- Positioning of the opt-in box:
- On the home page
- Within post above fold and end of post
- On the “About us” page
- In the sidebar
- Don’t overdo it though, sometimes less is best.
- Number of fields the visitor has to fill in – keep to a minimum.
- Make sure your opt-in box stands out, use the rule of contrast when deciding what colour to use, which involves looking at the predominate colour of your website and picking the colour opposite on the colour wheel
- Most importantly – being perceived as credible, capable and trustworthy – trust elements, money back guarantees, free trial periods, income reports, testimonials, review, case studies, list of major brands you have done work for, TV appearances etc. Without credibility, I doubt having all the other elements in place would lead to much success, it is the single most important ingredient of selling online, and off-line for that matter. If you were to consider what to spend most time on improving, it should be this. As I said earlier, I sell lots of photo experience vouchers online, and the main reason for this undoubtedly being seen as credible, capable and trustworthy.
Once you have all the elements, described in the preceding paragraphs, in place you have a fighting chance. Test all of the variables to see which is more effective with your audience, it’s an on-going process of testing, and re-testing. There is no magic bullet, and what works for one doesn’t guarantee will work for someone else. Don’t assume you know best either, use your hunch as a starting point and test against it.
Just a word of warning regarding testing. Don’t change more than one element at a time and make sure you are getting sufficient volume to make the results meaningful. This will be hard when starting off, because you will obviously not have the volume of visitors, but online success is not achieved overnight, and measuring performance from the start is what will give you an edge over other newcomers, and ensure you have taken a solid first step.
While you’re here, why not check out our marketing guide here.