Thursday, July 12, 2007

Subscriber Lists: The REAL reason website visitors won’t give you their email address

I’ve experienced some amazing growth to my newsletter since I started publishing it again a in June. However, from the amount of traffic my website and blog generate, I always feel like I should be getting more subscribers.

So, I’ve been pondering the question, “What are some of the things that make people not subscribe, even when they, ostensibly, like and continually visit your site?”

I majored in Sociology, so am curious about this from a “how and why human beings do what they do” point of view, as well as from a business/marketing viewpoint.

Following is one major stumbling block I came up with – from personal experience. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

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One Very REAL Reason Web Surfers Won’t Subscribe to Your Newsletter/Ezine

Most automatically think of the privacy issue when it comes to whether or not to subscribe, eg, they will sell my email address. I never think about this anymore, because any marketer worth their salt knows that they have to guarantee that as a matter of course.

The following is what keeps me from subscribing to a lot:

Don’t Sell Me! I subscribe to a very popular tech-oriented newsletter. It’s one of the few things that I do subscribe to.

The only reason I subscribe to it is I tend to have very little interest in technology, but realize that I need to keep abreast – even if only peripherally – of what’s going on in this genre.

I receive between 1-3 emails a day from this publisher. One of their daily contacts is their newsletter, which I find very informative. BUT, they also pitch a lot of products from their advertisers.

While I expect a sales pitch from time to time when I sign up to a publication – even if they say they won’t do this – it’s annoying to get 2, 3 and 4 sales messages a day.

If I’d known this when I signed up, I never would have – even though their newsletter is great.

So, you may be thinking, “Why don’t you just unsubscribe?” Well, I did. BUT, I still receiver their emails.

How to Get Unsatisfied Subscribers to Stay on Your List

When I unsubscribed, their little pop-up screen gave a message that read somewhat like, “It will take between 5-7 days before your email is removed from our system. Please forgive any correspondence during this time.”

<> Why haven’t I been more persistent about unsubscribing? The short answer is, I’m way too busy to follow up on minor annoyances like this. The other reason is, quite frankly, their content is very interesting.

I’d venture to say that 60% of their topics interest me and even though it frustrates me that that are such slaves to their advertisers, obviously their content makes me want to click. So, it’s a love-hate relationship I have with them.

In the end, who wins? They do because I continually open their emails and have even considered purchasing some of the products/services their advertisers push.

So, how do they get me, an unsatisfied subscriber toa large degree, to stay on their list

Well, one, they make it hard to unsubscribe. I don’t know if it really takes them 5-7 days to remove me from their list or not. But, obviously, this “delay” tactic is working. EVEN THOUGH, I do not recommend this. When subscribers ask to be removed, it should be done immediately.

The most effective thing they have going from them though is their useful, timely, relevant content. They serve a purpose for me -- keeping me “in the know about technology.”

The overall point I’d like to make here: From a human perspective, most of us don’t like to be sold to. BUT, if you give us a good reason to hear you (eg, read your newsletter, subscribe to your ezine), we will leave the door open to be sold to over and over again.

So, considering this, what can you do to turn visitors into subscribers? In this case, let potential subscribers know how often you will – or perhaps more importantly – will NOT, contact them.

Many newsletter publishers tell us up front how often we will receive their newsletter, but they don’t tell us how often they will contact us overall.

I know I’d feel a lot better about subscribing to a website if I had an idea of how often they’d be popping up in my inbox.

Moving forward, this is a policy I’m going to implement (look for it in the next newsletter).

How Often Should You Contact Your Subscribers?

This depends on your publication, your niche, your audience’s expectations, etc. I think though that a good rule of thumb is at least monthly – at a bare minimum. Otherwise, you run the risk of your subscribers forgetting who you are.

The whole point of a newsletter, ezine, etc. is to remain top of mind with your database so that when they are ready to purchase the type of product/service you offer you will be the first one they think of. Minimally, monthly contact establishes this.

The more often you can “comfortably and unobtrusively” contact your database, the better. The reason comfortably and unobtrusively is in quotation marks is that if contact is too often, you run the risk of having subscribers unsubscribe, which is in essence chasing off business.

But, you may be lamenting, “I want/need to contact my subscribers more often. How can I do that without running them off?”

When Should Contact Be Daily?

There are some instances where you can, in my opinion, contact your database daily – and have them look forward to the contact. Eg:

“Joke of the Day” emails, “Find the ___ and Win a Prize Contest,” “Daily Update on ___”.

You must prime your audience for this type of contact though. Let them know up front that in addition to your regular newsletter, for example, that you also send a “Joke of the Day,” to “lighten their load.”

I don’t think most visitors subscribe the first time they visit your site. There is a wooing period – kinda like dating. Sure, you get me intrigued on the first date – enough so that I want a second one. I’m even more impressed on the second date, enough to look forward to a third date.

I may even “investigate” you before our third date (eg, read through a few months of your blog posts and or tool around your website for awhile).

Loving what I see, I look forward to our third date (eg, the next newsletter). So, I take action (eg, subscribe) – instead of waiting for you to do so.

The Bottom Line: Remember, people subscribe to things that will help them solve some type of problem they have. Whether it’s making money, saving time, cutting down on their commute, marketing more effectively, etc. Most are after a benefit.

Keep this in mind every time you communicate with your audience – and they will think of you as a go-to, informative source – and subscribe.

<>Your Thoughts: I’d love to know what you think about this. What is the thinking process that makes you go: “Yeah, this is worthy of me typing in my email address? What makes you be a regular reader, yet not a subscriber?”
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