Back in the day, I was a dating fool. From my first middle school dance through the high school mixers, college frat parties and the post-graduate bar scene, I broke just about every rule – not because I was some rebel. No, I just didn’t get it. It’s a wonder I ever got married.
Now, with the clarity of hindsight and the experience of an internet marketer, I see that many of my mistakes are the same ones marketers make when adding email signup forms to their sites. Looking for a new girlfriend or boyfriend has plenty in common with looking for a new email list subscriber.
So…even though the memories make me shudder, I share with you four dating mistakes email marketers should never repeat:
1) The “Hang-Out Where No One Can See You” Approach
This was my favorite technique in middle school. While the cool guys would walk the dance floor and ask the cutest girls to dance, I would hang out on the top row of the gymnasium bleachers in the dark. It’s tough when you have acne and braces.
But you can’t connect with prospective dates if they can’t see you. Same thing with prospective subscribers. Don’t hide your signup form in the dark. Put it in a prominent place on your homepage. On inside pages, include the form or – at the very least, include a link to the form in a prominent place on every page.
Laura Roeder, makes it easy to find her email sign-up form. It is featured front and center:
2) The “Pleased to Meet You. Let’s Start Dating” Approach
By high school, I mustered the courage to attend mixers and even ask girls to dance. I really had this conversation with a girl I’d never met:
Me: “Wanna dance?”
<Five minutes of “dancing” (quotes intentional) to Carry on My Wayward Son>
Me: “Great song.”
Me: “I’m Tom.”
Her: “I’m Jane.”
Me: “Cool…ummm….Do you want to go out with me?”
Me: “Never mind.”
I left the mixer.
If you’re going to ask somebody to have a relationship with you, be prepared to tell them why? Same thing with prospective subscribers. On your signup form, explain what’s in it for them. Tell them what you’ll send. Tell them how they’ll benefit. You can do this in a few sentences immediately above the form without consuming too much valuable web page real estate.
You: “Sign up for my newsletter”
Prospective Subscriber: “Why?”
Are you ready with an answer?
Notice how 37 Signals makes the benefits of joining their newsletter clear:
3) The “Implied Trust” Approach
In college, I frequented a bar near campus where I often met women who live in town but didn’t go to our school. Some had a rough history with my schoolmates so trust was a big issue with them.
I had a crush on one of these women. After talking with her a few times at the bar, I finally mustered the courage to ask her out.
“No way,” she said. I wilted, convinced that she hated me. In fact, she liked me, but she didn’t trust me because she’d been mistreated and dumped by another guy from my school.
If I had been more clear in my intentions – “I’m not looking for a one-night stand” – she would have been more responsive.
Same thing with list subscribers. Sorry to tell you, email marketers, but many of your prospects don’t trust you.
Many think you’re a spammer.
Many think you’ll sell their contact information. If you’re one of the good ones, say so. Don’t assume that your prospect will trust you. Be explicit. Tell them you will protect their privacy. Tell them you won’t sell their contact information. Be explicit about how often you might email them, and keep the promise.
Zappos makes it clear that you are safe in their hands on their newsletter sign up form:
4) The “Pester Them Until they Succumb” Approach
There’s a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. I crossed that line for about one month after college. I began to strut my stuff. Straight, white teeth. Nice complexion. A better haircut. Nicer clothes. It all contributed to my go-for-it attitude.
The problem was I couldn’t take “no” for an answer. I asked her to dinner.
She said, “No,” and I thought, “That’s OK; I’ll ask again next week.”
And I did. The next time I saw her, I said, “I know it didn’t work with your schedule last week, but how about dinner this week.”
Again, she said, “No.” I asked again the following week. “No,” again. I never saw her again. I think she decided to hang out at a different bar, a bar where she wouldn’t see me. I don’t blame her. People don’t like to be pestered for dates.
People also don’t like to be pestered with opt-in requests. Some sites use pop-up or pop-in forms for their email opt-in request. Those forms have many advantages – including the fact that they put you in the middle of the dance floor (see #1 above). But you cross the line if that form appears every time someone visits your site.
If you use one of these forms, program it to appear only one time or two times (you or your web developer can do this with cookies). If you must ask again, do so sparingly. You can program the form to appear every 30 days. But even then, you run the risk of pushing that form on people who have already said, “No” or have already said, “Yes.” In either case, your persistence will be annoying.
Digital Photography School has a pop-up newsletter form on their site. But, they can take “no” as an answer. The pop-up doesn’t appear again after you decline.
I hope you learn from my mistakes. I eventually did. I learned from my mistakes. I’m happily married, and I run a successful internet marketing firm. Here’s to strong, enduring relationships – with a significant other and lots of happy email subscribers.