EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 244 - August 09, 2009 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

Getting Started with Email Marketing Part 2 - Creating an Irresistible Opt-in

By Lisa Suttora

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Email marketing is an important way online retailers can build an ongoing relationship with current customers and attract new customers to drive sales and repeat business. In Part 1 of this series, author Lisa Suttora explained how to select the right tool for building an email marketing list. Today in Part 2, she covers the right way to build a verified "opt-in" subscriber list.

You've chosen an Email Service Provider, set up an account, and you're excited to start adding people to your mailing list right away! The next step in the process of setting up your email marketing campaign is to create an opt-in form and invite people to sign up to receive your email marketing newsletter.

Opt-In or Preexisting Business Relationship
As we discussed in Part 1, in order to comply with CAN SPAM laws, email marketing campaigns are based on permission based marketing, also known as "opting in."

However it's important to note that Federal law recognizes your right to send email to people with whom you have a preexisting business relationship. (As long as you provide a working unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email.)

This would include customers who have made an online purchase from you within the past 12 months.

But keep in mind there is a big difference between your legal rights as an email marketer and implementing email marketing best practices. You want to be very cognizant of this when building your email list.

In order to mail to an existing customer, send your customer an initial email newsletter that reminds them of their preexisting business relationship with you. A great way to start that email would be to start by thanking them for their business during the previous year and let them know you value them as a customer. As an added assurance, you can also remind them that they can unsubscribe if they wish not to receive further communications from you.

In cases where you do not have preexisting customer relationship, the only way to add someone to your mailing list is for them to "opt-in" on a web page. This is the focus of Part 2 of our series on Getting Started with Email Marketing.

How to Build a Robust, Highly Interested Mailing List
Ten years ago, signing up to receive an email newsletter was a novel and exciting thing. Back then just the offer of a free newsletter was enough to get curious readers to subscribe to your ezine (electronic magazine) in droves.

However, times have changed, and most people these days are experiencing information overload. For this reason, there's more to getting someone on your mailing list than simply putting up a link to your newsletter subscription form and instructing people to "click here to subscribe."

Instead you have to make an irresistible offer to high quality, prospective subscribers - an offer that will have them eagerly sharing their email address with you in order to receive your email marketing messages.

The Email Marketing Mindset
The first step to getting people to opt-in to your mailing list is to get into the "email marketing mindset," because the success of your email marketing campaign largely depends on how you approach it. These four mindset tips will give you the right approach to creating an irresistible opt-in offer:

1) Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to building an effective mailing list. What's more important than the size of your list is the quality of your mailing list. A high quality mailing list is like money in the bank. You'll sell a lot more products to a smaller list of targeted, quality subscribers who actually read your emails, than you will by building a huge list of subscribers who leave your emails sitting unopened.

2) Quality starts with the Opt-In. The way you get people to opt-in will largely determine the quality of the list you build. Of course, once you have the process of attracting quality leads down pat, you can then work towards building a larger list. Your opt-in form/page has one purpose - to attract the right subscriber and inspire them to take action and opt-in.

3) You must "sell" your free newsletter. Even though you're offering a newsletter for free, you need to "sell it" just as you would a paid product. This means clearly stating some clearly compelling benefits to becoming part of your mailing list.

In fact, in some cases, a free newsletter can be a harder sell than selling a physical product. Remember, people are already receiving many email marketing newsletters. They're afraid of getting on mailing lists they'll never get off of. They're afraid of SPAM. But if you're in the mindset that you need to sell yourself and your newsletter rather than passively waiting for people to sign up, you'll be way ahead of the game.

4) Your email marketing newsletter is a service. This is probably the biggest mindset shift that you'll need to make in order to create an attractive opt-in situation for your potential subscriber. A lot of people think in terms of getting their newsletter in front of as many "eyeballs" as possible.

But eyeballs are not opting in to your newsletter - people are!

When you start thinking about how you can serve and benefit a subscriber with your email marketing newsletter, you'll know exactly what to offer them so that they'll eagerly choose to partake in your offer.

Top-Ten Irresistible Opt-In Strategies
Now that you're in the email marketing mindset, let's look at the top ten strategies that can dramatically increase your subscriber opt-in rate and create an irresistible opt-in offer!

1) Get clear on what's in it for your subscribers. Before you set up your email marketing opt-in, you first have to think through who will be reading your newsletter and get clear in your own mind what you have to offer. So many people start an email marketing campaign without thinking through the purpose or the message of their communications.

But you won't be able to make a compelling opt-in offer until you're clear on exactly what it is you're offering. So before you present your offer to your visitors, ask yourself these questions:

a) Who is my ideal reader? (Male/female? Age Range? Interests?)

b) What do they want to know? What are their problems?

c) What can I give them that will provide service, enjoyment, special offers?

Another way to approach this is with the old adage "WIIFM". "What's In It for Me?" When someone considers putting their email address into an opt-in form and subscribing to your newsletter, there is only one thought on their mind - WIIFM.

What benefit are they going to receive from subscribing to your newsletter?

The answers to these questions will lead you directly to knowing what to say in order to make your opt-in offer irresistible.

2) Name your newsletter. Giving your newsletter a topic relevant, catchy name will immediately give it a higher perceived value and make it more engaging to a potential subscriber. As a result, you'll see a significant increase in the number of opt-ins to your newsletter.

As an added benefit, a named newsletter will also increase readership once a person has subscribed. For example, all things being equal - if you sell exercise equipment and have a newsletter called "Exercise Tips Newsletter" it will not convert opt-ins as well as a newsletter called "Easy Exercise Ezine".

Keep in mind that you don't have to include the word "newsletter" or "ezine" in the name of your newsletter. Shorter names are often more memorable, 2-4 word names at most. "Posh Pets" would be a great name for a newsletter designed for pet owners who like to treat their dogs like humans. "Time Bank" could be a clever name for a newsletter filled with tips and products that will help you save time.

One place to get creative name ideas for a newsletter is to browse ezine directories such as Ezine Locator.

Your newsletter name can be fun, a play on words, or serious, but to get more opt-ins, it must be relevant to the topic and your business.

3) Tell people exactly what they are signing up for. Is it a bi-weekly newsletter filled with tips on how to raise a happy and healthy Labradoodle? A weekly ezine chock full of delicious, 5 ingredient meals? Maybe your newsletter is a membership to a club that gives them exclusive coupons, special promotions and events? Whatever it is, state that clearly on your opt-in page and in your opt-in box.

Note: This doesn't mean that you can never deviate a bit from what you originally promised them, but your offer should convey the key benefits they'll get from every email communication.

Daily Candy, one of my favorite hot niche & trend newsletters, is a great example of an email opt-in form that tells people exactly what they are signing up for and does so in a very engaging way.

4) Provide instant gratification. For your new subscribers, signing up for a newsletter that will arrive in a week can be ho-hum. But opting-in to receive a valuable, free, special report can motivate them to action! Make your initial offer a digitally downloadable free gift and offer your newsletter as part of the package. This way, your new subscriber gets something they want immediately then get the follow up of your email marketing newsletter as a bonus.

Here are a few examples:

  • Sell organizational products for garages? Have a special report created that outlines how to organize your garage using your products.
  • Sell classic car parts? How about offering an online video on how to retrofit a classic car with new leather seat covers.
  • A garden products seller could offer a year-long planting calendar. Avid gardeners would love it!
  • Sell kitchen products? How about a recipe book in PDF format?
  • How about a 50% coupon off your next purchase?
  • Or a special code for free shipping on their next order?
  • What about a list of this month's exclusive deals?
  • Or a special e-course on how to make jewelry with your hand-blown glass beads?

Offering a digital, immediate, download that you give to your new subscriber right after they subscribe can increase your opt-in conversion dramatically.

But don't let the goodies stop there! Your newsletter can also contain any of the above benefits as well. The bottom line when promoting your email newsletter and increasing opt-ins can be summed up in three words: Benefits, benefits, benefits.

When you ask yourself "What service can I provide right now to my potential readers that will delight them and benefit them," you'll come up with creative ideas that will have people happily opting into your newsletter.

5) Banish "Click here to receive my free newsletter." Unfortunately, the most common way that marketers ask people to sign up for their email marketing newsletter is the least effective, and that is, the standard "Click here to sign up for my email newsletter." This directive offers no compelling benefit, doesn't tell your prospective subscriber "what's in it for them" and doesn't give them the confidence of knowing exactly what they will receive.

6) State your privacy policy. Always let your customer know that you value their contact information and you will keep it private. You do this by stating your privacy policy directly on your opt-in form. Your privacy policy would say something like "We respect your email privacy and promise to never sell, share or rent your email address to any unauthorized third party."

This not only helps build subscriber confidence in your mailing list, it also ensure that you're complying with the CAN SPAM laws.

7) Make it easy to subscribe. Don't make your new subscriber work to sign up to receive your newsletter. While it might be tempting to request a complete name and address from every visitor that stops by your website, requesting a full name and address to subscribe to your ezine is overkill.

I recently started to subscribe to a newsletter that I was interested in and not only did they request a full name and address, they also ran the free newsletter through their shopping cart as a zero dollar order. A major conversion killer!

The standard in email marketing is to ask for a person's name and email address.

Even better is to ask for their primary email address. You would be surprised at the number of people who will enter an alternative email address. And you want to do your best to get your emails into their primary inbox. Asking for their primary email address doesn't guarantee they will give it to you, but if you ask for the primary email address, you're more likely to get it.

8) Offer segmented mailing lists. If your business warrants multiple newsletters, don't try to subscribe everyone to one general list. Vague, general opt-in forms are the kiss of death for your opt-in conversion rates.

For example, the default newsletter name offered by eBay's email marketing program is "General Interest". Unfortunately many people keep that default list name and then find that no one signs up for their mailing list.

In this day and age, no one wants "general interest" stuff. Time is precious, and we're a society of long-tail, niche-interest readers. We want our information directly tailored to our needs and interests.

For example, if you sell kids products for toddlers to teens, you'll want to segment your mailing lists so that the parents of toddlers can get early childhood news and products and the parents of teenagers can get on the teen track.

Lisa Woody, co-founder of the online pet store Fun Stuff for Dogs, offers several different special-interest publications. Lists segmented by dog size, freebies, even funny dog tales, allows visitors to her website to choose exactly the type of newsletter they want to receive. This type of segmented opt-in approach not only converts at a higher opt-in rate, but more importantly, also generates a higher quality subscriber for the chosen list.

When a subscriber signs up for the "Little Dog Stuff" mailing list, Lisa knows exactly what to offer them in the newsletter. Readers of "Funny Dog Tales" are likely to enjoy the humorous dog products sold at FunStuffForDogs.com.

If you're just getting started with your email marketing campaign, take a look at whether or not you should segment opt-ins upfront. Even if you only start with one mailing list, as your business grows your email marketing campaign will expand. So be on the lookout for the time that you should set up your next newsletter segment.

9) Provide a strong call-to-action. Your subscribe button should be prominent and be a strong call-to-action. A text link will not convert opt-ins as well as a noticeable subscribe button.

10) Gather new subscribers from multiple places with an opt-in page. To build a robust mailing list, you must collect opt-ins from multiple points of contact around the web. Many people put an opt-in form only on their website home page. But you should also have an email marketing opt-in box on your blog and on multiple pages throughout your website.

Additionally, you'll want to set-up a one-page website called an opt-in page that is used solely for the purpose of driving traffic. In fact, you can have any number of these, each targeted to a different audience.

With an opt-in page you can send traffic from Twitter, Facebook, from the signature link in your emails, from a business card, a package insert - the possibilities are endless. And all will be directed to a carefully worded, irresistible offer on your optin page!

When you implement these ten irresistible opt-in strategies you'll engage your prospective subscribers, delight them with a valuable offer that will connect with an interest they already have and give them confidence that when they receive their next email from you, it will be a quality publication!

Coming up next: Your mailing list is starting to grow and it's time to put out a quality newsletter! But how do you create a service driven, profitable newsletter? One that builds relationships with your subscribers and as a result, generates sales with every mailing? In Part 3 of our series to be published in a future issue, we'll reveal the components that go into a successful email marketing campaign and show you the different types of mailings you can use to connect with your customers and increase your sales.


About the author:

Lisa Suttora is an ecommerce expert and founder of WhatDoISell.com. Since 2004, Lisa has specialized in helping online entrepreneurs master the marketing and product sourcing skills they need to build unique, thriving businesses in today's top online marketplaces. WhatDoISell is one of 34 eBay Certified Providers worldwide. An author and nationally known speaker with more than 15 years of online and offline retail merchandising experience, Lisa brings a fresh approach to the topic of what to sell and how to sell it. Enjoy more business building tips and strategies for marketing your online business at http://whatdoisell.com/tips, keep your finger on the pulse of today's hot trends with the free Hot Trend Alerts newsletter, and visit Lisa's blog at lisasuttora.com.


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