How to Optimize Email Address Collection Online
To businesses, the opportunity to collect email addresses from website visitors is the single most important opportunity that each visitor represents from an Internet marketing standpoint. Once a visitor leaves a website, the opportunity to market to them directly has vanished until (and worse yet, if) they return. Markets, both online and offline, understand the need for “stickiness.”
Savvy businesses marketing on the Internet, can, and indeed should, take full advantage of this opportunity by applying some email marketing industry best practices to maximize the likelihood that a website visitors will exchange their information (first name and email address) for something relevant and of value. Good examples include ebooks, whitepapers, free consultations or anything else that can assist your visitors in their information needs. For B2B marketers in particular, this can often be a potential client or prospecting performing research as part of their buying process. An example offer to entice visitors to submit their email is the Essential Guide to Internet Marketing (see graphic in upper right hand corner of this page for an example CTA – Call to Action). View the offer as a great opportunity to establish the business brand and expertise to website visitors well beyond when they exit the website.
Seven Solid Email Form Optimization Tactics
Here are 7 email form optimization tactics to collect more email address from a website
- Resist adding optional fields to the email form. Again, ask yourself what is the minimum amount of information required. Some marketers assume that quantity of email form submissions is not negatively impacted by the addition of optional fields. In practice, however, experience has shown that visitors are less likely submit forms that have additional fields as they perceive increased complexity and time investment to complete the form submission, even if those additional fields are clearly designated as optional. Carefully consider the addition of optional fields for this reason.
- Offer must be perceived by visitors as relevant and valuable. Offer needs to be compelling enough for the visitor be willing to exchange their personal information for, otherwise, the email form submissions will suffer (less emails submitted/collected). Remember, the offer is a reflection of the business and will be the first thing the visitors sees after providing their personal information. See this example offer. WARNING – Make sure that visitors don’t receive a poor quality offer that makes them feel short-changed for the exchance of their email address or they will no-doubt revoke permission to email market to them by hitting the unsubscribe link in the first email received.
- Test several CTAs (i.e. links, buttons that say things like “Download Now” – see example call to action here). Several CTAs should be tested to see which ones yield the best conversion rates. Sometimes a change as simple as font size, color, position or location of a CTA can have dramatic effects on the offer conversion rate (i.e. number of forms submitted/emails collected).
- Double Opt-In Email Collection. Make sure to use a double opt-in form (user submits email on form, then clicks on a verification link in an email sent as a result of the form submission) to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance while weeding out the bogus email addresses. This way Internet marketers can ensure that they don’t get short-changed and can email market to visitors after they have left the site, while doing so in conformance with FTC email marketing regulations.
- Don’t wear out your welcome. Follow email marketing best practices on frequency of emails sent, which will vary by industry, audience and email marketing content. Twice a month is a good starting point for upper bound on frequency of emails sent. Test increased/decreased frequencies until the open rates suffer, at which point, adjust. Too frequent use of email marketing will result in a larger than normal unsubscribe rates, which is a great signal that its time to throttle back on the email frequency.
- User auto-responders to send a thank email to the visitors. Show users that you appreciate them taking the time to fill out your form. You can also include in the autoresponse email links to other offers of potential interest that can be used to help build a customer profile, both through their behaviors and actions and the information submitted. This simple action will help businesses stay top of mind to visitors after they have left the website. It also makes it easy for the recipient to continue the engagement by clicking on links in the email after they read the awesome ebook that they just downloaded. Here is an email form with autoresponder example. Go ahead and try it 😉
Asking for less information yields more data for email marketers when it comes to website forms used to collect email information online. Email is a great way to stay connected with visitors long after they have left a website. First name (for personalized email marketing) and email address for the initial form submission works best, then add additional fields for other forms that users encounter on subsequent form submissions to help qualify leads. This allows Internet marketers to build a lead profile as the visitor returns and is required, for example, to provide a phone number, business name or physical address in exchange for the next offer.
Over time, businesses can build a customer profile though lead nurturing, so the key is not to try to get it all the visitor information at once and end up with nothing. Keeping the email collection form simple removes user-perceived barriers to providing their email address. As the number of forms fields increases, the conversion rate (ratio of page visitors to form submissions) will decrease, even if additional fields are optional. This is especially true for sensitive information such as birth date, social security number, mother’s maiden name and others. So keep it simple and reap the email marketing R and R (Rewards and ROI!)