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December 17th, 2007

Is Your Subscribe Form Failing Readers?

If you use your newsletter as a lead generation tool, you might be making a huge mistake on your subscribe form–under qualifying readers.

Just Asking for an Email Address is the Wrong Approach

There are many marketing experts who argue that since sending an email newsletter is practically free (per subscriber), you might as well collect as many names as possible.

They argue against asking for anything on your subscribe form beyond an email address. And it’s true that the way to convert the most website visitors to subscribers is to ask for as little as possible.

But, does this approach really serve your audience?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever subscribed to a newsletter just to get the freebie they were offering. That’s what I thought :-) .

And what does it get you? A cluttered computer desktop with pdf files piled high and no time to read a single one of those “special reports.” Worse, it gets you a flooded email inbox as people try to convert you from casual subscriber to customer.

In short, you wind up with less time and more computer clutter. Not good.

And that’s what you do to your subscribers when all you ask for is an email address. They sign up just to get the freebie (or because they’re visiting dozens of sites on the same topic to do research). And then they get overwhelmed with information.

Serving Subscribers Means Qualifying Them

It’s your job to serve your subscribers, not indiscriminately add them. You may think it’s up to your subscribers to protect their email inboxes. But, face it, you know more than they do–they’ve come to you, in fact, because you know more than they do. So, they rely on YOU to tell them whether or not they should subscribe.

And one of the ways you tell them whether or not your newsletter is right for them is by qualifying them.

If you have a relatively well-niched newsletter, you may not need to do much qualifying. For instance, when people visit The Write Exposure’s site and sign up for Newsletters in Focus, they’re clearly interested in newsletters as a marketing tool–which is a pretty small audience.

But, if your newsletter covers a topic of more general interest, you’ll need to help potential readers decide if your newsletter’s right for them.

How Should You Qualify Subscribers?

You can qualify readers in a variety of ways. You can ask personal questions (household income, that sort of thing), you can offer an assessment, you can write a “If you meet these criteria, then you’ll enjoy our newsletter” list.

You can also add questions to your form that you don’t strictly need answered, but that make readers pause before blindly entering their email address and clicking “subscribe.”

For instance, at The Write Exposure’s site, we ask for your first name and general location. We don’t absolutely need this information to send an email newsletter, but asking for it makes potential subscribers hesitate a moment to make sure they really do want to sign up.

When you ask for information beyond an email address, you’re accomplishing two things–keeping subscribers for signing themselves up for something that might not be right for them, and keeping your email list a lot cleaner.

You’ll build a more accurate prospect database (meaning, the people on your list are a lot more likely to be genuinely interested in your services). Plus, your readers will expect a more targeted, relevant newsletter (which makes them a lot more likely to open those first few issues–it’s up to your content to keep them opening, of course, but this will get your foot in the door).

So, set aside the popular advice that it’s best to ask for nothing from your prospective readers and start asking for information that’s going to help you qualify your subscribers. It’s well worth it!

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