Jun 25, 2010

Tips for a successful subscribe form

The best way to collect email inside your database is to have a subscription form on your website.
To maximize the number of emails subscribing to your newsletter there are a couple of things you should do:

First : Make your subscribe form stand out.
When I visit a website and decide it's worth keeping in touch with the shop/brand I try to subscribe to their newsletter. Unfortunately, too many times still, I start looking around for a subscribe form and it takes me ages (and sometimes I even give up) before finding it lost in the footer or having to search for it in the sitemap or the through the webiste's search box.
I really have to insist: these leads you get directly on your website are probably the best you can get and THEY ARE FREE.
To have this newsletter subscription as visible as possible the best thing is either to place a box with a submit button at the top of your website pages or a button "NEWSLETTER" at the exact same spot.
Be careful: you need to place this on each and every page of your website, not only your home page, people might enter your site from an external link (or a search engine) on some other page and never get to see your home.

Second: Get to the point.
Too often I see newsletter forms where I'm asked a stupidly high number of questions, most of which turn out to be compulsory... If it takes too long to fill out the form and I get stupid questions like "Did Han shoot first?" I'll leave without going through the entire optin process.
Be careful, don't get me wrong here: I'm not saying that having extra information about the people that subscribe is not useful, I'm just saying you have to keep it as short and concise as possible.
If you really want to hammer through a long list of question, either make it plain clear that they are not compulsory (by marking the compulsory one with a star or a different colour) or even better: use a form in several steps, the first one subscribing the user then the next being use for these extra questions.
In any case, once the leads are inside the DB you will have plenty of time to gather extra information (that can be either declarative or even behavioural).

Third: Protect your DB.
Even though your newsletter subscription form can be a great source of high quality leads for your marketing or sales departments, it can also be a threat to your DB.
Robots are constantly crawling the Internet, looking for unprotected forms to post random data there. They are usually robots run by high score spammers who try to make good will marketers be identified as spam sources, because the more legitimate companies get blocked the more likely spammers are to go through (if only spam was identified and blocked then the spam issue would be over wouldn't it?).
By posting automatically random emails inside your DB it will increase the your number of hardbounces in your broadcasts and from the unfortunate valid emails owners, it will trigger complaints.
There are two easy ways to prevent such a thing from happening (and you can use both at the same time), the first is to protect your form using a CAPTCHA, the second is to use a double optin process.
The first method will prevent Robots from posting random emails in your form, the second will make sure the email posted is valid and is the user's own email.

One last thing:
If you plan to use this optin form as an account creation form (or vice versa) and in any case, when you create an account creation form or a login, please make sure your email field is set as an email field (input type=email), I had a really bad surprise earlier today browsing the web with my iPad:
Safari in both the iPad and the iPhone uses the type=text and type=email distinction to change the keyboard layout (quite handy I must say) but also, it automatically sets as a capital letter the first character typed in a text box, when it leaves it normal in an email box. The result was this afternoon that I was getting blocked on a signup page that had the email field set as a text one and it tool me a few tries before noticing that my login was spelled Antonp***@****.com instead of antonp***@****.com.

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