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If there’s one line of text that I cannot stand to see on a website it’s sign up to our newsletter. These 5 words grouped together can be seen anywhere online from small portfolio websites to huge multinational e-commerce businesses.

My issue with this line is that it’s no kind of proposition for the user. You want the user’s email address, that much is clear but there’s nothing in it for them. It’s all take and no give. It’s design laziness.

Work Harder

At times you might see something along the lines of sign up to our newsletter for offers and updates. This is still an incredibly weak proposition. Users aren’t naive enough to really believe that the best offers are reserved only for those willing to part with their email addresses. Updates are even less of an incentive, what even are updates? It’s incredibly vague. I’ll follow your social media accounts if I want your updates, you don’t need my email for that.

Designing The Process

Although I’ve referred to this as design laziness that isn’t a statement aimed solely at designers. The process of a user signing up to a newsletter or list is something that needs to be considered and designed and this can happen at any point. This can fall under the remit of copy, design, UX or just about anyone involved in the project. The offer needs to be more compelling. What are you going to do for me if I give you my email address?

Lead Magnets & Content Upgrades

In recent years value propositions like lead magnets and content upgrades have become synonymous with signup forms. Both are very effective ways to obtain more email subscribers but they’re not necessarily entirely user focussed either.

Lead Magnets

Lead magnets offer a freebie in exchange for a user’s email address. This can take the form of a one-time discount code, an ebook, or something else the user would be willing to part with their email for. As a technique, it works – why wouldn’t it? You’re giving something back.

Content Upgrades

Content upgrades again offer the user something a little extra. Think of a content upgrade as bonus content, they’re specific to the content the user is consuming. It’s not a one-size fits all approach. If the user is interested enough in the content, they’ll very likely want the content upgrade. Again it’s a good tactic that delivers solid results.

The problem with both these approaches is that they’re fundamentally not putting the user first. You’re essentially tricking the user into giving up their email address so you can market to them as frequently as you like for the duration that they remain on your mailing list. Sure they’re getting something out of it but they’re going in with their eyes closed.

Giving Users A Taster

Wouldn’t it be better if users went in knowing what they were signing up for? If you’re planning on emailing them every 2 weeks, let them know. Give them a flavour of what to expect from being a part of your list. If they know exactly what they’re getting in to at the point of sign up, you stand a much better chance of retaining that user on your list over time. It’s tough to get subscribers that actually want your emails, you need to make sure that you keep them once they’re on your list. If that means setting expectations from the off, then that’s what you need to do.

An approach that I am a fan of combines the incentivised method with some information about your list and what happens when you do subscribe. This can be a lot of information to convey succinctly but it’s worth investing the time to get it right. The lifetime value of an email subscriber makes it an investment worth taking.

People Aren’t Numbers

Email marketing is often boiled down to numbers. Subscribes, open rates, clicks, unsubscribes are all metrics that are commonly used but once you start thinking of users as numbers you’re fighting a losing battle. People like to be communicated to like they’re an individual, not like they’re just a number.

A Great Example

This email signup form from By Regina is super clear. Regina’s 46 page workbook is a great lead magnet which is tempting enough for anyone interested in publishing/selling online.

By Regina
She’s coupled this with a simple statement detailing what you can expect from being on the list. Anyone signing up here is unlikely to be surprised by the fact that they will be receiving weekly emails which will in turn result in less unsubscribes.

What Can You Do?

If you’re collecting (or at least trying to collect) email addresses for marketing purposes you can apply a lot of this thinking now. What can you offer in return for an email address? Set expectations for frequency and the actual content or your emails. It isn’t time consuming, you’ll collect more email addresses and you’ll build a healthier list as a result.

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