List Building: The Four Questions Every Email Capture Page Must Answer

From the folks at Marketing Sherpa, who just can’t help themselves when it comes to sharing fabulous, results based tips.

April 17th, 2012

This week I’ve been reading the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook featuring W. Jeffrey Rice, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), as the lead author.

This handbook is full of great and actionable email advice, but Jeff particularly pointed me to the section on providing new subscribers with explicit expectations on what, when and why they will receive email after opting in.

Since it applies equally to B2B and consumer marketers, I wanted to share those tips and tactics with you, along with a fourth email element — privacy.

Here is the set-up straight from the MarketingSherpa handbook:

The time spent researching and developing eye-catching and memorable promotions that attract new subscribers is an enjoyable process for most marketers. However, equivalent effort and energy needs to go into reassuring the potential subscriber that your company is reputable and trustworthy. This is because after you have caught the consumer’s interest, and they are listening attentively, the new subscriber needs to feel safe to exchange their email address for a “special” offer.

Setting expectations right from the start of the relationship will reduce anxiety in the registration process and enable you to collect more qualified leads. Taking the time to inform new subscribers of what you will deliver yields more long-term subscribers. Adding a “join my mailing list” box with just a space to type in their email addresses will not effectively communicate expectations.


The 4 subscribers’ questions you want to answer at registration

–          What will I get from you?

The focus here is on the incentive to register, and not the value of the content. Let the subscriber know what type of communications you are going to send them, and to quietly promote the content, display a sample email or newsletter with evergreen content that will be relevant to the subscriber.


–          When will I get it?

This one is easy — just let the subscriber know how often you will be sending messages. A better idea is to allow that new subscriber set their own frequency preference for your email.


–          Why should I sign up?

You want to answer two subscriber questions: “Why should I care?” and “What’s in it for me?”

Explicitly spell out the features and benefits the subscriber will receive in detail. Be descriptive and fact-based with this copy.

What you want to avoid is simply saying, “Sign up for our FREE newsletter.” Write from the subscriber’s point of view and explain how the opt-in for your email program will help the new subscriber solve challenges and eliminate pain points.


–          Privacy – how will you handle the data I give you?

Provide a link to your privacy policy at registration, and an even better tactic is to provide a very simple bullet-point list of the main aspects of your privacy policy.

Be sure to explain that the subscriber can hit the link to the full policy, but providing the basic information in a very easy to digest form can help reduce anxiety about sharing personal information in the opt-in fields.


Designing the registration page

Obviously part of the design and content of the registration page involves answering the four questions just highlighted in this blog post. Here are a few more tips to make the most of that click that landed a potential new email program subscriber on your registration page.


–          Creative consistency

Make sure the landing registration page looks similar to the ad or email that earned that click. This means using a consistent brand image, language in the copy, and tone so the new subscriber knows they are at the correct place.


–          Getting the sign-up is the only call-to-action

In MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Certification courses, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, makes it a point to emphasize that there is no place for “unsupervised thinking.”

Your registration page has one goal – to capture an email address. This means:

  • Don’t sell your products or services on the page
  • Don’t promote events
  • Don’t provide links that navigate away from the registration page.

You should, however, do that type of promotion on the “thank you” page new subscribers are sent to after a successful opt-in.


–          Third-party validation works

I’m going to pull this advice right from the handbook:

Third-party endorsements can go a long way in reducing a potential opt-in’s anxiety and apprehensions in sharing their email address. A well-written endorsement from a satisfied customer can evoke confidence and trust in your brand.  A video testimonial can be even more effective as people cannot resist hitting the play button.

A softer and more low-key endorsement tool is a subscriber counter. Seeing how many other people are benefiting from your email communications can establish you as a reputable source of information in the minds of potential email members.

Comprehensive pictures of the actual incentive gifts or newsletters can bolster the credibility of your brand and message. Conversely, consumers may interpret stock photos and generic sketches as insincere and hurt your brand’s integrity.


Keep your form fields short and simple

Research from MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report found that 65% of marketers reported new subscribers filled out forms with one to five fields.

Consumer marketers often only asked for a name and email address. B2B marketers usually wanted a job title and company name as well.

One exception to this, for companies with limited sales resources, is that adding more required fields provides both Marketing and Sales with more information to immediately begin the lead qualification process. This particular tactic applies more to B2B marketers than consumer marketers.


For more information, check out this video of Dr. Flint McGlaughlin speaking about how to craft an email and match the message to the decision patterns of the recipient of the email:


To wrap this topic up, Jeff told me this:

As our work life and home life continue to overlap, so have the communication tools we use every day. For the B2B marketplace, it’s common for the technology used to purchase backsheets for photovoltaic modules to be employed in the same manner as that used to select a new golf club.

This shared practice reveals that their customers’ priorities are not with the communication channels – direct mail, email or face-to-face meetings – but rather the relationship it has with the brand. The channel merely delivers the solutions the customer desires on the media tool they prefer, making the channel subservient to our relationship.

With the customer in control of which of the brand’s channels he or she wants to communicate, it is even more important to set expectations and only deliver what content was agreed upon. If the expectation is not met, the customer in one click can cancel his or her subscription.

3 Cures For Sick Email Campaigns

Thanks to Heather Fletcher of Target Marketing for these tips, especially #3 about tabled html.

Tabled HTML is always the winning bet. Whoa, it’s so 1999 that Third Eye Blind should be playing in the background. Seriously though, email clients aren’t exactly bastions of innovation. Anchor your creatives in tabled HTML to ensure that they render as you intend. Depending on the client, certain elements of other doctypes may render as planned. But, at the end of the day, <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN” “”> is the only markup document type that is 100 percent correctly parsed by all email clients.