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Make the Most of Your Site's Sign-Up Experience

Use these 6 tips to improve your sign-up form and welcome letter.

The "join my mailing list" sign-up box on your website makes it easy for visitors to add themselves to your e-mail list. If you don't have one already, it's easy to add. At sign-up, you have the opportunity to gather some very important preferences from your new subscribers. You have control over the sign-up form they fill out--and the welcome letter they receive after they join your list. Putting a little extra effort into both can make a big difference.

Here are some helpful tips on how to make the sign-up experience easy and engaging for your visitors--and how to make it a more effective marketing tool for you.

Sign-up Form: Get the Right Information
Get a correct e-mail address. When people sign up for your list, they may type in an incorrect address without realizing it. Have them confirm their e-mail address on the form before they're added to your list. Otherwise, the e-mails you send them will bounce back--a lost opportunity for both you and them.

Only ask for what you can use. While it may be tempting to know 20 fascinating facts about your new subscribers, most people don't want to spend more than a few seconds filling out a form. So keep it short and sweet. Only ask for information that helps you send relevant and targeted communications. Requiring just a name and e-mail will get you the highest number of subscribers.

Give them choices in the form of unchecked boxes. Put your subscribers in the driver's seat. Let them decide what communications they'll receive and how often. Do they want your monthly newsletter or weekly reports? Do they want promotions and event invitations? By enabling your subscribers to sign up for different communications, you can build segmented lists you can use to send more targeted e-mails.

Do you want your old subscribers to know about the new categories? Send them an e-mail asking them to update their profile or preferences. This will ensure your current customers--possibly your most valuable customers--are receiving communications from you that speak to their interests and needs.

Welcome E-mail: Get Them While They're Hot
According to a recent MarketingSherpa study, your welcome e-mail is likely to be the most opened e-mail you'll send. You want to take full advantage of this chance to engage your new subscriber. Here's how to make the most of this great relationship-building opportunity.

Tell them what to expect. Your sign-up form doesn't tell subscribers much about what they'll receive from you. Sell them on the value of being a member of your list by highlighting the content--from great events to money-saving discounts--your future e-mails will include.

Reward them instantly. Subscribers are at the height of their interest when they sign up for your list. Validate the wisdom of their decision to subscribe with an instant reward. If your e-mails are educational, provide links to past articles or issues you have on your website. If your e-mails are promotional, offer a discount or an incentive to encourage them to take immediate advantage of what you have to offer. Restaurants do a great job with this. I've gotten many welcome e-mails that include a coupon for 20 percent off or a free appetizer.

Lead them back to your website. You've worked hard to make your site a great place for visitors to get information, so make sure your welcome e-mail links them back to that information.

When a new subscriber joins your list, it's the start of a new relationship you hope will be a long-lasting one. Your first contact will make a big difference. It's your chance to get prospects connected and get the relationship going and growing.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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