Why Should I Set Up a Subscriber Opt-In System?
You want your business to be more successful. You want to make more money. And you want your customers to be more satisfied with your product and service offerings. What does this have to do with “Subscriber Opt-In?” A lot. A subscriber opt-in is the single most important item to put on your website if you want to make more money from that website in particular, and your business in general.
A website without an opt-in is like a poster on the wall in an empty building. You place some info out there on the internet and hope and pray that people who wander in will react positively – maybe even buy something. It’s basically a crapshoot. But there’s a better way.
A website with an opt-in is a salesperson who never sleeps. It’s out there working, gathering leads, kicking butt and taking names for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And when that salesperson is paired with other traffic-generating techniques, he turns into an entire team of sales and customer relations professionals.
Let’s just assume that you’re making an effort to drive traffic and visitors to your website. But if you’re not collecting contact information from those visitors, you’re wasting your time and money. Even if you’re not paying for traffic, in effect you’re stealing from yourself by not getting your visitors’ names and email addresses when they visit your site.
You see, when you gather your website visitors’ information, you can build email marketing campaigns that talk directly to them over time: Tell them when you’re having a sale. Show them how your quality is the best for the prices. Inform them of all the things you do to make your customers happy. You’ll be able to communicate with them again and again, and let them know that you value their patronage and will do everything in your power to make sure they’re satisfied with every transaction. Not only will you be able to make more sales, but you will also be able to build a quality, trusting relationship with your customers over time, and that is essential to doing business in this day and age.
If your competition has their website visitors’ information, they are beating you, plain and simple. They are talking to their customers in ways that you simply cannot. And you can bet your competition isn’t sitting still. They’re waiting in the wings to eat your lunch. Without an opt-in mechanism to continue the conversation with your customers, you’re leaving money on the table.
Are you ready to start a conversation with your customers? We’re going to tell you how in just a few easy steps.
What Is an Opt-In Mechanism?
It’s called Subscriber Opt-In, or “Permission-Based Marketing.” When set up correctly, it will enable you to get the names and email addresses of your website visitors, legally, transparently, and with their full permission. In fact, just the very fact that they “opted in” means that they actually WANT you to contact them!
Since you’ve read this far, we’ll assume you want to learn how to build a permission-based email subscriber list. That’s why you’re here.
You will need to get your visitors’ permission to send emails to them through a confirmation process known as a “double opt-in.” Before the new subscriber is added to your list, a confirmation email is sent asking the subscriber to confirm his/her intention to sign up by clicking on the link in the email message. If the link isn’t clicked, the address won’t be added. This is called a double opt-in.
What happens if you don’t get their permission? You will alienate them. They might decide to never do business with you, and tell all their friends not to do business with you.
When you do get their approval through the double opt-in, your potential subscribers will be more apt to open and read your emails. They will be more likely to have a good impression of you and your business, because you are providing them with something they can actually use.
Once you have their permission, don’t abuse it by over-selling. Give them content they can use, and sell them only occasionally. Provide a benefit to opening your emails by giving them stuff they can use, whether it’s information, discounts or helpful how-tos and tutorials.
What a Double Opt-In can prevent:
Double Opt-In prevents email addresses with typos from making it onto your list.
Double Opt-In prevents users from signing up (and getting the incentive) using bogus email addresses.
Double Opt-In helps prevent you from being reported as a spammer. Visitors who have opted in can still report your email as spam, but because you have their confirmation, you can readily defend yourself against any complaints.
• Double Opt-In slows down spam-bots from flooding your email list with bogus email addresses, and perhaps delivering a malicious script to your email system.
How do I get people to give me their permission? An incentive.
An incentive, or “ethical bribe,” should have a high perceived value to your prospects, but be inexpensive to produce and easy to distribute.
It should also contain (or be) something that can’t be found anywhere else.
Some ideas for incentives: A free report, free access to web content, a free service, a whitepaper, coupons, webcasts, podcasts, webinars, subscriber-only sales, or a downloadable e-book pdf.
The Opt-In Form
Every word of opt-in form should work toward getting people to subscribe. You will have a text area in which to put your sales messaging located just above the actual form.
Do basic audience research to discover who your audience is, talk to them in their own “voice” and address their wants and needs.
All you want is name and e-mail address.
To CAPTCHA or not to CAPTCHA? CAPTCHAs help prevent spambots from accessing your system, but they also inhibit actual real people from signing up. If you have extremely sensitive data that could potentially get accessed, you might want to use one. The mood among internet marketers right now is that they are easily thwarted, and stop people as much as prevent hacking.
Provide social proof that your future content is worth subscribing to. Already having solid content on your site is one form of proof.
Reassure visitors that you respect their privacy and will never share or sell their info.
First of all, don’t use webmail services (Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) to send out emails. These services will detect that you are sending out bulk email, shut you down, and report you to the authorities.
We recommend using MailChimp. Why?
• MailChimp is free for small email campaigns.
• MailChimp does all of the behind-the-scenes work for you.
• MailChimp is easy to set up with a self-hosted WordPress site.
Here are the basic steps to set up MailChimp:
• Create an account with MailChimp.
• Create your first list in MailChimp. Name it to match the incentive, your website and brand, or you’re the series of emails you’ll be sending.
• Download and install the MailChimp WordPress Plug-In on your self-hosted WordPress installation. Make sure it’s the one created by MailChimp, not a third-party plug-in.
• Design your form in MailChimp. Remember to sell the incentive in the text area.
• Link the WP Plug-In (or if your WordPress Theme has a built-in subscription feature) with your MailChimp Account using your MailChimp API Key. Your online form and MailChimp account are now linked.
• Drag the MailChimp widget to the WP widget area, or have your web designer or web master insert the code into your site.
• Alter the widget to match your WordPress theme, or select a WordPress theme that looks good with the widget in place. Alternatively, you can use a theme that has a built-in subscription feature.
What Happens When a Visitor Opts In?
• When your visitor fills out the subscription form, MailChimp will show a “Success, you’ve been signed up! Please look for our confirmation email!” message right in the form.
• When the visitor goes to their email and clicks on the link in the confirmation email (the one you previously set up in MailChimp), they will be sent to the “Subscription Confirmed” page that MailChimp created based on the information you provided when you opened your MailChimp account.
• On the Subscription Confirmed page, visitors are presented with a “continue to our website” button where you can embed a link (in Your MailChimp setup) to a special landing page, or have them land by default back on your home page. If you have set up a special area for confirmed visitors to land (possibly as part of your incentive package) this will be the way to do it. Confirmed subscribers can also manage their preferences via a link on this page, including changing their profile information and unsubscribing.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Once you have built up a list of subscribers, don’t be an idiot and sell it. First of all, nothing you do on the internet can be kept secret very long. Why on Earth would you want to sell your carefully cultivated, loving curated, and extremely valuable list of customers, who gave you their permission to receive emails from your business, for a mere pittance of fifty cents a name? It’s insanity. You will regret it. Don’t do it.
Not convinced? Here’s another reason why you should never sell your list: You can be fined up to $11,000 for EACH AND EVERY VIOLATION of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. How many names are on your list? Do the math. [Link to listing of violations?]
For the same reason, do not buy, beg, borrow, steal, or otherwise procure email lists. MailChimp is really, really smart software. It won’t let you import lists. And if you attempt to manually add contacts through your own opt-in mechanism (which would be impractical and pure insanity), eventually one of those people will flag you as a spammer.
What happens when you’re flagged as a spammer? Ever had a root canal? Multiply that by ten thousand, and then add the Chinese Water Torture, and you’re starting to get the picture. Seriously, you don’t want this pain. You’ll be forced to provide the following information: The IP address that the opt-in came from. The page that the visitor came from before they opted in. The time-stamp for when they opted in. The particular offer they opted in for. And so forth. It’s like marathon teeth-pulling session and you’re the pull-ee. You just don’t want anything to do with this sort of torture.
Let MailChimp do all of the email sending and email list management work for you until you better understand the ins and outs of managing email lists and campaigns. Even then, MailChimp has a robust tool set for you to use.