The Psychology Behind Asking Users For Their Email Address
Email addresses are the high-value currency of exchange on the web, says columnist Jeremy Smith. Why? Because an email address is a lead. And the only way to get email addresses is to ask for them.
It’s one of the most sought-after bits of information on the Internets.
So, what is this valuable bit of information?
It’s your email address.
Email addresses are the high-value currency of exchange on the web. Why? Because an email address is a lead. And a lead is potential money.
All across the fruited technological plain of the Internet, you’ll see the appeals.
They are everywhere.
They are unceasing,
They are constant.
They are varied.
So, what about you? Are you getting the email leads that you so crave and need?
If not, this article is for you. Even if you are already getting leads and want more, I’ll walk you through the essentials of getting started, understanding the process, and implementing the psychological hacks that make for a truly irresistible appeal.
The Email Address: Nothing Else Matters
(I hyperbolize. But I do so with a purpose.)
Here’s what one marketer says about email addresses and signups:
The lifeblood of any successful blog is the email list.
Wow. Lifeblood, huh? Sounds pretty serious.
And it is. The more email addresses you have, the more marketing clout you possess. The more marketing clout you possess, the more successful you will be.
Email addresses are one of the few tangible pieces of information that you can gain from a visitor. An email address turns into an opportunity to add the site visitor to your mailing list, to a newsletter, or to some other database.
It’s just that simple.
You Have To Ask: You Must Make A Strategic Appeal
The only way to get email addresses is to ask for them. Many a marketing effort has failed on this first point. Marketers are too scared to ask for the very thing that they need.
Once you get across the fear of asking, you’re well on your way to getting.
The Many Ways Of Asking
There are a million different methods of soliciting emails. For me to produce an exhaustive list would be a fool’s errand. Instead, I want to discuss what I think are the most effective methods, sketched out in the broadest of strokes:
- Pop-ups. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but you can’t argue with their effectiveness. Some people curse at pop-ups, but I’m convinced that you can use them with the right audience and in the right situations without ticking people off. I use a slide-in, which is a form of the pop-up that causes less anger.
- Simple forms. I’m a fan of simplicity, because I know that it works. Simple sidebar forms and end-of-article forms work well.
- Variety and persistence. Don’t worry about the one right method. There are a wide variety of methods that work. The method is not the most important thing. What is the most important thing? Allow me to explain…
The Three Laws Of Asking
The most important element of email address acquisition is simpler than you might think, but it’s also rooted in psychology. Here it is.
- Ask for the email address.
- Ask again.
- Ask again.
These “three laws” represent the principle of repetition. Repetition is the path to learning. And if you doubt my claims, then you can spend your time (as I did) reviewing the medical, psychological, and educational scholarly peer-reviewed research on the subject. (Relevant links are included in the sentence, “Repetition is the path to learning.”)
The more frequently you ask and/or remind the user of your request, the more likely he is to give in to your request.
Popular neuromarketing blogger Roger Dooley explains this process in his article, “How Top Conversion Experts Seduce You Into Giving Up Your Email.” Contrary to being some abstruse science, the process of snagging email addresses is no more and no less than asking for it — persistently, and persistently, and persistently.
Take just one site, for example: ConversionXL.
You’re first presented with the appeal on the website main page.
Then, the blog’s main page has a sidebar form.
Finally, there is an email capture form at the end of each blog post.
Third time’s the charm, right? By this time, you should be ready to convert.
The strategy of ConversionXL is in part due to their asking at three critical moments:
- Appeal 1: The front end of the website, when you’re just getting into it.
- Appeal 2: In the middle of the process, when you’re gazing at a list of amazing articles.
- Appeal 3: Finally, when you’ve finished skimming or reading a post.
At any point within that process, a user may be ready to commit to signing up.
Don’t Make The Email Address The Main Thing
When you’re asking for an email address, you must not make it the focus of your appeal. The customer doesn’t care about what you want. She only cares about what she will get.
In other words, don’t talk about the customer’s email address. Instead, focus all your persuasion power on what they, the customer will receive. Then, subtly request the email address.
Here’s an example:
Notice how the draw is for “free digital planning templates.” So far, so good. Plus, you can “secure your online future now.” Nice. There are free templates, fast start guides, and even alerts! Ah, and what is this all about? “You’ll be joining…members.” Hmm, so it’s sort of a membership? Fine! What the heck! I’m ready.
And then, boom, “Get Access.”
Was there any wheedling or pining for the email address? No. There wasn’t even a single mention. The email address request is assumed. The user simply enters it at the bottom of the form, fully persuaded that what she will get in return is well worth the exchange.
The more you talk about the user’s email address, the greater likelihood they will have of getting possessive about it. Focus on the customer’s benefits, not your own.
You Have To Promise: You Must Offer Something Worthwhile
As discussed above, the visitor needs to be able to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t promise something of value in exchange for the visitor’s email address, then there’s no reason why they should give it to you.
This section deals with how to create and present your offer when attempting to capture a prospect’s email.
Strategize Your Gift
Where do you start with asking for an email address? You start with the offer. It’s critical to strategize something that will appeal to the user.
Notice how Noah Kagan, email list builder extraordinaire, asks you for your email address. No BS. No apologies. Just hand it over.
What kind of “gift” will be good enough? What’s the appropriate exchange?
It all depends on your audience. I can’t answer that question for you, but I can give you some advice on which question to ask in order to develop an appealing gift.
Why did they come to your website? Satisfy it. Blog readers are information seekers. Many times, they came to your website from an organic query. For example, my blog gets organic traffic for queries on conversion optimization and psychology. That tells me something. It tells me something about my audience; they’re interested in conversion optimization and psychology. But it tells me something deeper. It tells me that they are interested in knowledge. In order for my email address appeal to be appealing enough, I must give them information that satisfies that craving. Give knowledge.
What is their biggest problem? Solve it. Every niche has its major problems to be solved. What’s your industry conundrum? For SEOs, it’s how to rank better. For conversion optimizers, its how to gain higher click-through rates. For social media marketers, it’s how to build bigger audiences. I’m simplifying things, of course, but you get the idea. Hone in on the problem that your audience is trying to solve, and then provide a way to solve it.
What are they afraid of? Speak to it. Humans operate on their fears. If you can identify those fears and then discover a way to deal with them, you’ll gain instant emotional and cognitive appeal.
What would make them more money? Deliver it. Many professionals who purchase B2B resources have one thing on their mind: More profit. Based on this, what information can you give them that would help them achieve higher sales, revenue, etc? Discover it, and deliver it.
What are the industry buzzwords? Say them. A lot of times, people join your mailing list simply because it sounds good. What makes it sound good? Buzzwords. Whatever your industry buzzwords are, if you use them, you will gain appeal with your audience.
Although the appearance is a bit complicated, there is some true psychological appeal in this popup from Shoemoney.
To get you started on some real giveaway ideas, here’s a quick list:
- PDF Guide
- Privileged content
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, does a great job of providing content for subscribers. He persistently pulls people deeper into engagement with his content, culminating in the eventual conversion for paying course registrants. It all starts with “free downloads,” videos, and other resources.
The Promise Words
There are several words in the vernacular that allow users to know that you’re promising something. Here’s the list:
- Get. This is by far one of the most popular words in the email-snatching industry.
- Free. Everyone loves free. In spite of its near overuse, it’s okay to use it sparingly.
- Sign up. People know what signing up means, and what it requires. This is shorthand for “Give me your email address, because I’m going to send you some emails.” It’s a familiar term and thus a good one. It’s also potentially baggage-laden. Use with caution.
- You. Let’s face it, people only care about one person. The name of this person is “you.” Use this word, and pay attention to the only person that matters.
- Latest. For email newsletters that provide up-to-the-minute information, this is perfect.
- Subscribe. This is another shorthand word, similar to “sign up.” Subscribing is a tad on the mechanistic and impersonal side of things. It’s okay to use it, but be careful.
This form from advertising.about.com uses the term “free” in the headline and “sign up” as the call-to-action button.
Notice how this website allows users to sign up to play an online game. The form leads with the headline, “Sign Up. It’s Free.”
The Power Of Simplicity
It’s easy to overcomplicate the issue. I want you to avoid this if at all possible.
The real power of an email request is not in its promise-upon-promise, but in its absolute simplicity. The simpler, the better.
Here’s an example from Sparring Mind:
Nine words. One form. A button. That’s all it takes.
Take a look at Buffer’s blog. Their form includes three well-chosen words (their brand values), a single appealing sentence, and a simple form with icon.
Roger Dooley’s lightbox popup has a similar simplicity. Although he prefers the two-field form approach, the appeal is straightforwardly simple and brilliantly appealing. Check out those buzzwords by the way: “newest,” “best,” “free,” “smart,” “brainy,” “ideas.”
You Have To Deliver: You Must Give Them Something Of Value
I’m not going to labor this point, because the focus is obvious.
If you promise that you’ll do something, you better make dang sure you do.
Get in touch right away. While their sign-up is fresh on their mind, send them an email so that they know that you are both alive and active.
Give them what you promised immediately. Your customer has jumped through one hoop to get what you promised. Don’t make her jump through any more hoops! While some form of two-step verification is appropriate, you should not require any additional verification, login, setup, or sign-in for them to qualify for your free ebook or whatever else you’ve promised them. Just give them the goods as soon as you possibly can. If you refrain from giving them what you promised, you risk alienating your new lead. Big mistake.
Over-deliver. I’m a huge fan of under-promising and over-delivering. If you’ve promised one ebook, give them two. If you promise a newsletter, send them access to some gated content as well. The principle here is give them more than what you promised. People love to be delighted, and it’s the perfect way to win committed customers.
Stay in touch regularly. There is no magic newsletter velocity that works for all industries. There is, instead, a frequency that works right for you. Stay in touch frequently enough so that your customers don’t forget about you.
You Have To Use It: You Must Take Action Based On The Information You Gain
For all the talk I’ve done on the topic here, you might think that acquiring email addresses is the end goal.
It is not.
Email addresses serve the greater goals of marketing. Email addresses don’t turn into money unless you do something with them.
The most important thing you can do after gaining an email address is to send them an email. Keep the lead warm. Nurture it. Add it to your database. Usher it into your system. Get moving.
This article is not the place to explain the entire strategy of email marketing. (You can read my guide for more information on that critical topic.)
In the meantime, as you labor to grow your email address, keep the end goal in mind. It’s not addresses alone. It’s the value that addresses bring to your marketing efforts and the way that they fuel your business’s revenue goals.
Email addresses are where it’s at. Get them. Get good ones. Get them aggressively.
And, please, don’t be afraid to ask for them. If you ask, you will receive. And the people who do hand over their email address are precisely the people that you want on your mailing list.
You’ve heard the saying, “Focus on the best and forget the rest.” The people who sign up are the best. Focus on them. Ask them. Promise them. And deliver to them.
From that point, you can only succeed.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.