use a lead magnet to get more opt-ins

Use a lead magnet

It’s not enough to just ask people to sign up for your emails. Most of us get about 47 new emails a day into our inboxes. We spend 28% of our workday managing email. No one needs another email to read.

Visitors need a compelling reason to give you their email address. Not only do they get too much email already, but they are extremely wary of getting spammed, or just simply overmailed. Convincing visitors to give you their email address means you’ll have to offer them something they really want, and offer it in a way that allows them to trust you.

To overcome the first hurdle, email marketers offer signup incentives (also known as lead magnets). If you want to get your site visitors on to your list, you’ll need to offer them a lead magnet and sell them on “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM).

Three types of lead magnets

Lead magnets generally fall into three types: free reports, discounts and free trials.

Consultants, information marketers, B2B businesses and anyone who sells information and expertise usually offers the free report. Retailers and service businesses typically offer discounts. SAAS sites offer free trials.

Whatever you offer, it has to be good. Really good. So good that your visitors will overcome their urge to zoom pass your sign-up box, and so good they are willing to hand over their personal, private email address.

Speeding up incentive development

While free reports can take weeks to develop, it is possible to pull one together in a few hours. Ironically, sometimes the lead magnet that’s created in a few hours will actually out-perform a lead magnet that you spent weeks on. It’s not fair, but you can make it work for you.

Here’s how to get a lead magnet done quickly:

1) Review social media, blog post comments, product reviews and Q&A sites to find out what your audience struggles with. What’s the one thing they really want to solve?

2) Write a short report (5 pages or so) or a checklist that addresses or solves that problem.

3) Keep your report to no more than 5 pages. Also consider offering it as a video or just an audio recording. Sometimes reports that fail in a text format end up doing really well as videos. People are getting more and more resistant to reading. One of the keys to a successful incentive is to make it super-easy for people to consume it – whether that’s bulleted text with lots of pictures, an infographic, or a snappy video.

Don’t skimp on your lead magnet

Think of all the work you do to get people to see your website and your opt-in forms. If you could get 10% or 20% or 30% more results from all that work, what’s that worth to you?

Signup incentives for retailers

Here’s a chart about why people sign up for email lists. This is from the Blue Hornet “2013 Consumer Views of Email Marketing” report. You can download it here for free.

This chart shows how people answered the question “Which of the following is your most important reason for signing up to receive emails from companies seeking your business?”  If you’re a retailer, it gives a pretty strong message about promoting discounts in your email signup form.
why people sign up for emails

How ecommerce sites do email signup incentives

Most retailers don’t offer the classic “free report” as an incentive. Fundamentally, retailers are in the business of selling stuff, not information or expertise, so it makes sense that they should offer discounts on stuff, not information.

When I did my survey of 300 retailers, I paid close attention to what they offered to get people to sign up. Here’s what I found:

how many retailers offer any kind of email signup bonus
Two thirds of ecommerce site offer no incentive to subscribe to their email lists.

Two-thirds of retailers offer no bonus for signing up. Among those who do offer a coupon or other benefit, many do not mention that benefit until the welcome email.

You can see exactly what incentives were offered in the graph below. Notice that there are none of the free reports or surveys offered that businesses or consultants use to entice signups.

a detailed count of exactly which incentives retailers give to get people to sign up, and how frequently they use each incentive
Incentives used by ecommerce sites to entice more email opt-ins

A 10% discount is by far the most popular incentive. That’s good, but 10% off is not a compelling offer. The retailers offering 15% or 20% off may do better.

My figure of 34% of retailers offering incentives is actually high compared to what Internet Retailer found. The Internet Retailer 2013 Second 500 report shows only 83 of 500 retailers offering incentives to opt-in. That’s 16.6% – about half of what I found.

However, the 30% estimate does show up again: The Email Experience Council’s Second Annual Retail Email Welcome Survey from 2007 stated that 32% of welcome emails include “a discount, reward or incentive”.

An alternative to the classic incentive or lead magnet: Offer a course instead of a newsletter

Let’s face it… there’s something a bit lame about the word “newsletter”. It’s not a word that inspires excitement. Asking people to sign up for your newsletter can feel a little clumsy. So some marketers skip it entirely.

They don’t even mention their “newsletter” or “email updates” or whatever you choose to call them. Some marketers just offer a course.

This is basically the same as the classic free report, but it’s broken up into chunks. Each chunk of content is put into one message of an autoresponder (sometimes called a drip campaign) and sent every day or every few days. Information marketers especially have found this content delivery tactic to be far more effective than asking for newsletter signups.

Once people are on the autoresponder, they’re basically on the email list. The marketer can send them messages indefinitely, and some do… until someone unsubscribes. If you deliver good information and send it at an interval that’s just enough to keep people engaged, but not so much as to annoy them, you can keep them on an autoresponder for months, even years.

One of my old sites (I’ve sold it since) had an autoresponder with over 70 messages. People got each message once a week. About 30% of the people who signed up stayed on the list all the way through to message #70. Autoresponders work.

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