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Increasing Subscribers is More than Offering Incentives – 5 Tips for Improving the Sign-Up Process

Marketing Sherpa‘s 2009 Email Benchmark Guide said to increase opt ins, you should offer real benefits to your potential subscriber.

Previous Benchmark Guides have also said that if you can improve your opt-in conversions on your website by 25-40% – which are not uncommon result during design tests – your list will grow significantly and those new names will provide your highest email campaign results.

Incentives can range from special pricing, to promising not to share personal information, or offering a free download. Incentives may increase an individual’s interest or intent to sign up, but that won’t translate into real numbers if the process is complicated or time-consuming.

Here are five best practices to consider before you begin offering the world to your potential subscribers.

1. Always tell users where they are in the sign up process

  • Provide Breadcrumb trails and/or steps/length of time required to complete the form.
  • Keep initial registration to one page if possible.

2. Validate email addresses before displaying thank-you pages

  • It ensures the user is interested in signing up and not just in getting the incentive offered at the end (which is more a bonus for you).

3. Identify errors to users in a clear and easy to find fashion

  • Suggest reasons for the error and show how to correct it.
  • Ensure this is placed in an an area where the user is going to be
    able to locate it easily (i.e. don’t put it at the bottom of the page,
    or make me work to find it).
  • Offer suggestions – or even little information buttons next to the
    required field to show the user how you want them to fill it out –
    it’ll make everyone happy.

4. Speak the user’s language

  • Use familiar phrases and concepts when asking for information and ensure consistency in terminology use to avoid user confusion.
  • Don’t use internal lingo for processes and forms or even short
    form. If I’ve never been to your site before, how would I know what
    you’re referring to?

5. Determine what is mandatory and what is optional

  • Personal questions – e.g. income, should be considered optional to increase sign up rates.
  • At a minimum, ask for first and last names, email address and some sort of geographical question (i.e) country.
  • Optional questions include: demographics, interests and asking for secondary email address.
  • Ask for more detail once they are a subscriber.
  • Approx. 1/3 of users will change their email address every year so
    giving them an option to edit/add their information on your site is
    extremely important.

There are many sayings that could sum up this post – such as you can
lead a horse to water… The point I’m trying to make is that it
doesn’t matter how many incentives you have. The incentives are the
easy part. First you need to make sure it’s easy for people to actually
sign up – otherwise it doesn’t matter what your incentive is.

If this were a top-ten list, what else would you add as a best practice to follow?