How To Best Capture Newsletter Signups

The other day I was catching up on my Twitter feed and my 5-year-old comes over and taps me on the arm and says: "Father, when you are done reading I would really enjoy some time playing with you..." Nope. That's not how it goes. "STOP JUMPING ON THE COUCH!... DON'T THROW YOUR LEGOS DOWN THE STAIRS!... STOP KICKING THE DOG!" My son is not a monster - he just wants attention and is behaving in a way that he feels is the most effective way to get it.

Sometimes I feel like my 5-year-old is in charge of some people's internet marketing! [Pop-up obscures the news article I was reading.] SIGN UP NOW TO RECEIVE TIPS ON [BLA BLA BLA]!

A newsletter list is one of the most powerful and effective marketing resources you have as an author. It's a group of people who trust you, who want to hear more from you, and value what you have to say. While social media is an important factor in your online marketing plan, it's really the first step in building your online audience in a solid and effective way.

So, how do you get people to actually sign up for your newsletter? Here are a few strategies to put into practice: 

  • Make the signup form attractive and enticing, offering a free download or other incentive like 10% off their next purchase on your website's store. Noisetrade is an easy way to offer free ebooks or excerpts too.
  • Placement is critical. Make it prominent but not annoyingly so (see below). Placing signup forms at the end of our blog posts is very effective. When someone finishes reading our helpful information or entertaining post, they will want to hear more from you and sign up.
  • It's all about the content! (Never gets old, does it?) If you have helpful information or entertaining posts, people will want to get more in their inbox. And of course that means you have to deliver! Give them a good reason to sign up with your content and then have a plan to keep them engaged and coming back for more.
  • Have your target audience in mind when coming up with the language for your form. If your audience is not business or marketing focused, do not use marketing or corporate speak - or business clip art! Word and image choice matters.
  • Always keep in mind attraction as opposed to promotion. People are smart. They can smell a "pitch" from a mile away. A personal connection is much more meaningful and trusted than a commercial one. Put yourself in your reader's shoes - which would you prefer? 

And this brings up another issue we'd like to discuss...

A few weeks ago we received an email from a subscriber asking about popup newsletter subscription forms. Are they more effective? You bet! Are they the most annoying part of websites that use and abuse them? Yep! Popup subscription forms are very controversial. Telemarketing is extremely effective. How much do you trust and want to engage with the companies and politicians that use telemarketing services?

Here's something we want to challenge you with - and this is something for you to decide for yourself and your audience: do you want to market at readers or do you want to connect with them? Do the terms "conversions" and "leads" turn you on? I personally prefer and respond better to words like "relationship" and "trust."

What reaction do you have when browsing websites that have a popup form that obscures the blog post or news article you were in the middle of reading? What about the slightly less annoying but still distracting boxes that appear when you get close to the bottom of the post? As a website designer I personally avoid websites that use these effective but annoying tactics to try and collect my contact information. But I acknowledge that most people aren't as bothered by such things as I am.

It all comes down to the message you want to send. Popups (especially ones that keep coming back on every page load) show that you are a smart marketer, but also that you care more about the quantity of subscriptions than the quality of relationship you have with your subscribers. There is lots of evidence out there that supports this - a bigger newsletter achieved with popup forms generally means less engagement.

But if you are interested more in short-term high conversion rates - there's nothing wrong with that. There are ways to employ popup forms that are less obtrusive and more appealing. You can still use popups in a way that sends a "relationship" message. It all boils down to timing + placement + message. Ultimately you need to use the tools you choose in a way that will help you fulfill your goals as a part of your overall business plan. 

Trust and meaningful relationships take time and a lot of work - and just like with my 5-year-old, learning to communicate in a respectful manner requires mutual respect, maturity and insight into other people's feelings. These sorts of methods and their results take time and careful planning to develop. But if done right, in the long run you should find the results to be much more rewarding.

TAKE ACTION NOW: In the comments below, what have you found to be most effective when it comes to connecting with readers and gathering newsletter subscribers? Do you like the popup newsletter subscription notices? What is your personal preference/opinion? We'd love to hear from you!