If you go on just about any blog, you’re immediately slammed in the face with email opt-in offers similar to the following.
Subscribe with your name and email address and we’ll send you The Best Social Media Marketing Guide Mankind Has Ever Seen.
So you sign up! I mean, who wouldn’t want to the best marketing guide mankind has ever seen? Turns out that incredible opt-in gift is a four page PDF that reads something like…
- Don’t be a jerk. Be nice to other people on Facebook and Twitter!
- Start a blog. Blogs are good and you can write on topics you’re passionate about.
- Use images a lot, because people like to see great images.
- Social media is not just a trend and your business should be using it!
You get the point — it’s information completely lacking value and you immediately feel like you’ve been tricked into giving up your email address.
This common scenario raises the question:
Is it necessary or good to have opt-in bait on your blog when building an email list?
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Broken Promises Don’t Foster Good Relationships
There are two major issues with the type of opt-in bait many bloggers offer. The first problem was hinted at just above — trust. If you say you’re going to deliver tons of value to someone in exchange for their email, you damn well better deliver on that promise.
This is important to the gazillionth power if someone is on your blog for the first or second time. If you break that trust as soon as they give their email, your relationship with that reader is probably shot forever…along with everyone who sees their complaint on Twitter.
Don’t make lofty promises unless you’re going to deliver on them. That applies to blogging as much as it applies to the “real world.” People hate broken promises. (See: LeBron James versus the city of Cleveland fiasco for evidence.)
Bad Subscribers Are Bad
It’s common practice among companies to segment their customers. For example, a business might classify its most profitable customers as “A” customers, somewhat profitable customers as “B” customers, and customers who essentially cost the company money as “C” customers.
Obviously, a company would want to minimize the percentage of customers in the C category and maximize the other two categories.
In much the same way, you can (and should) segment blog subscribers. You want to maximize the number of subscribers who are genuinely interested in what you write and are willing to share it with others.
While you may gain more overall subscribers by having opt-in bait, they’re not necessarily “A” subscribers. In fact, it’s fairly common for people to have junk email accounts they use solely to sign up for free stuff.
A large email list is an incredible force, unless the email addresses on your list happen to be junk “C” email accounts with 3,000 unread messages sitting in the inbox.
Food for Thought
This post isn’t meant to imply that opt-in bait is a bad strategy for getting email subscribers, because it most definitely can be a powerful strategy. But before you save that Word document as a PDF, keep a few things in mind…
- Only promise potential subscribers what you can consistently deliver. If you want to be a little more strategic, make promises to your subscribers at a level just a little below what you can consistently deliver. This will ensure you not only meet their expectations, but also frequently exceed those expectations.
- If you have valuable content readily available on your blog, typically all you need to bring in subscribers is a promise of more valuable content to come. After all, that’s what subscribers genuinely want. You can get eBooks all over the place, but unique, helpful blogs are a minority. Position yourself as a constant producer of valuable content and you’ll have no difficulty building an email list without opt-in bait.
- If you do have a really great eBook, report, case study, or guide – and that means something more than a four page Word document saved as a PDF – by all means offer it as an opt-in gift. Just be sure you tell subscribers exactly what they’re getting and deliver it to them exactly how they expect to get it.
How do you feel about opt-in bait? Have you had a lot of success building an email list with or without an opt-in gift? I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments!
The problem with most opt-in baits is that the overlay-box appears way before the visitor has read the article. It prompts the visitor to leave his email address 15 seconds after he entered the website, which can be extremely annoying.
I really believe this creates a problem on the long term because the user wasn’t actively engaged with the content, he was interrupted and because people are creature of habits, he left his email address. The problem is that after he gets the freebie, and usually the freebie is crap, he will not be engaged with your marketing.
He will probably open the emails you will send, but he will not reply, he will not buy anything you sell, he will be that uninterested user that doesn’t care about your offer, but opens your emails (so he is skewing the data).
What really works for us in developing and maintaining an active list is targeting people that are more engaged with the content (4 page-views on avg, 3 minutes avg) with a behavioral targeting tool like http://padiact.com.
Yes, we get fewer leads, but the quality of those few, doesn’t even compare with that of many subscribers with no interest in our offer. Less is more.