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Five Days to Increase Your Newsletter Subscriptions – Day 3

Now we’ve covered the subscribe box and privacy, just how much information should you be asking subscribers to provide? Some organizations get a little carried away here. Let’s take a look at how to pare down that list so that you aren’t turning people off.
Day 3: Required Subscription Fields
The amount of information you can ask for is directly proportional to the value of the subscription, factored by the depth of their relationship and trust in your organization. In other words, if you provide vital industry stories or case studies, you can probably ask for a lot of information. But if you are a retailer looking for more names to promote store sales, you might want to keep it to just an email address.
Another consideration for your company could be a need to qualify who you are sending information to. While email is cheap, there are still costs, including content development costs, and therefore understanding who your subscribers are and who your best prospects are could be vitally important to how you assign resources and budget.
Let’s take a look at a couple examples in the Consumer and Business markets.

Consumer Newsletter Subscriptions
The rule here is to keep it as simple as possible, especially if you are in a commodity market and want people to try you out to see how you differ from the competition. Tiger Direct is a discount computer store that allows users to sign up with just their email address, click submit and they’re done!
You might find a more beneficial practice for your business is to allow for one click email signup, but then give a reason to subscribers to provide you with more information. Land’s End does an excellent job of this, by providing customization options on their subscription confirmation page. Users can customize their newsletter frequency (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) and product selection (Men’s, Women’s, Home, etc), or ask for a Text version.
They are now two pieces of information closer to converting a new subscriber to a customer. The information you ask for should be directly relevant to the content options you can provide your subscribers and meaningful to their purchase interests.
Business Newsletter Subscriptions
B-B is not that different, but often there is a greater need to understand more about the prospect and their purchase intent up front. If you serve multiple industries, the terminology they use and business processes applicable may be very different between say, financial services and healthcare or government and retail, and therefore you want to be communicating to those industries in language they understand.
Similarly, where your product solutions are divided by verticals you definitely should be collecting that industry specific information. IBM does this for their IBM Software newsletter in a multi-page process, but because they are only asking one or two questions at a time that users can readily identify as benefiting them, it doesn’t seem too much.
Few businesses these days seem to offer the one-click, email-only-required approach discussed for consumer newsletters above, but opt for either a simple one page form, e.g. CIO magazine, or ask for users to register to get access to more areas of the site or updated news, e.g. Jupiter Research.
Many businesses focus their email collection efforts on white papers or demos, and then ask if you want to also get on their mailing list, e.g. Return Path and Siebel. This makes sense where your content needs to be tailored to an industry or business function, and for understanding where your subscriber sits in the decision-making tree.
The bottom line: do not ask for information that you will not act on and does not appear to be relevant to your potential subscriber. In fact, ask for as little information as possible to subscribe, then offer a few preferences questions that, again, you will be able to act on to provide a better newsletter.
Good luck and please send your examples!
Tomorrow we look at an often forgotten part of the registration process, but your first opportunity to convert new sales: subscription confirmations.