I Hear You Knocking, But You Can’t Come In

Let me ask you a question. Suppose a new restaurant opened in your town, and immediately took out an ad in the local paper with the following offer: “Send us $20 and we’ll send you some food.” Would you take them up on this proposition?

Although my actual on the job restaurant experience is limited to a couple of summers as night cook at the International House of Pancakes in Manhasset, New York, even a food service novice like me knows that this is not an effective way to bring in restaurant customers.

Without knowing more about what kind of food they serve; what other patrons think of the restaurant; or at the very least when the food will be delivered, it’s likely that only an extremely hungry person with no other food options available would jump at this “opportunity.”

And yet, this is exactly the type of offer you are making when you invite visitors on your web site to, “Enter your email address to receive our E-Newsletter.” As a potential subscriber — unless I’m very hungry and without any other options — I’m going to first want more data about what I’m getting into.

Consequently, when it comes to getting potential subscribers to sign up on your web site, the single most effective thing you can do is to create a separate, stand alone,

E-Newsletter-specific sign up page.

In other words, rather than asking people to simply enter their email address in a little box on your home page (which requires a big leap of faith on their part), create a link to another page, and fill that with relevant newsletter information (click here to see a sample of how we do it for this newsletter).

What exactly do we mean by, “relevant newsletter information?” I’m so glad you asked. This is what we mean:

• Tell them what your newsletter is all about. You (and possibly your mother) may think it thrilling to receive the E-Newsletter of XYZ company just because. But for us non-blood relatives, the hook is the content that you provide, not the fact that you provide it. Give visitors to this page a one or two sentence description of what to expect, including how often and on what day you’ll be publishing.

• Archive past newsletters on your site and provide a link to that archive. My kids think it’s so funny that the high-end-ultra-natural-no-additives-farm-fresh-we-love-the-Earth supermarket we go to gives out so many free samples in the store. My daughter has gone so far as to suggest that, “if you could find a place to hide here at night,” you could live free forever on the stuff they just give away.

Why do they give away so much for free? Is it because management has lost its edge after years of eating nothing but boneless, skinless, low salt, free range chicken nuggets? Of course not! It’s because they know that if they let you taste some of this stuff, your kids will force you to buy 10 times more (and this time with real money).

A newsletter archive accomplishes the same thing. Potential subscribers get a taste for your newsletter before committing, thereby reducing their perceived risk at signing up to hear from you.

• Include testimonials. It’s one thing for you to talk about how great you are, but when others do it, it has much more impact. As you publish each month, you’ll undoubtedly receive some positive feedback about your E-Newsletter. When that happens, immediately zing back a thank you email and a request to “use your name and words on the testimonial page of our web site.” In my experience, 9 out of 10 of these people will say yes.

• Assure visitors that you’ll protect their privacy. Either by linking to another page that states your privacy policy, or by simply inserting a few words that promise not to share personal information outside your company, you want to in some way guarantee potential subscribers that they have nothing to fear by signing up. Nobody wants more unsolicited email, and your end of the bargain involves managing that risk for them.

Bottom Line: You go to a lot of trouble to produce a great newsletter and drive people to your web site in the hope that they sign up for it. Don’t forget to leave the door wide open when they finally come knocking!

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