The most glaring problem I see on the business (or charitable) websites I visit is the lack of a form, clearly visible on the home page, to encourage visitors to opt in to an email list. The owners of these sites, frankly, are failing to take advantage of one of the best assets for putting up a website at all.
When I give talks to business people, one of the caveats I preach over and over again is that the most important reason to even have a website is to build an email list of qualified, interested prospects who willingly volunteer to receive information from you.
It is NOT enough to put a lame comment like “For more information call 1-800-XXX-XXXX.” Folks, it is not going to happen. They are not going to initiate contact, you have to do it. So give your visitors incentives. Bribe them! Give them self-serving, “what's in it for me” reasons to fill out a little form on your home page that asks for their names and email addresses.
So here are ten, plus one, reasons why your site should have a clearly visible place for your visitors to opt in to receive informative emails from you:
- An opt in form enables you to build a list of people who have an interest in what you offer. Direct marketers have long quoted the mantra, “the money is in the list” for good reason. A list of interested prospects or repeat customers is the most valuable asset any business can have.
- An opt in list allows you to target people who have given you permission to market to them. Read Seth Godin's modern classic, “Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers” which introduced the worlds to the concept of getting prospects to opt onto your list by providing free information that solves problems specific to your target market or helps them achieve certain goals that are, again, unique to your targeted prospects.
- The people on you opt in list have self-selected themselves as your target market. This means you will no longer have to use the shotgun approach of trying to advertise or send direct mail to huge numbers of people. Seth Godin calls this getting prospects to “raise their hands” and identify themselves as people have needs your product or service can address.
- The people on your opt in list WANT to receive your messages. As long as you don't bombard them with sales messages and provide them with a lot of useful, helpful information, they will continue to look forward to your emails.
- Since most autoresponders require the person to confirm their request before they receive your information, you avoid accusations of spamming them.
- Speaking of autoresponders, they are a software program available for minimal cost that sends out your emails automatically. The visitor fills out your opt in form, next receives an email that asks them to click a link in order to confirm that they wanted to receive the information, and then they are sent a second email with the requested info. Then they will receive your pre-written emails with additional information at regular intervals. This means your entire marketing program can be put on autopilot by using opt in forms and an autoresponder.
- Sending out emails to the people on your opt in list is free. In an age when advertising and other forms of marketing is simultaneously becoming more expensive and less productive, email marketing to people who have requested your information is a true bargain.
- An opt in form allows you to have repeated contacts with people who would otherwise be one time visitors to your website. Let's face it, a website is like a screen door on a submarine. Most visitors come to your site for about a minute and then leave. Very few people will buy on their first visit to your website. But if you get their attention and give them and incentive to opt in to your list by offering them some very useful information, you can nudge them again and again (again let me repeat that this works best if you continually give them useful information along with your sales and marketing messages), until they buy.
- Continuing this last thought, opt in marketing defeats the hazard of one-shot marketing. Most people will not decide to buy on their first exposure to an offer. They need repeated exposures to absorb all of the benefits you offer and to develop a belief that your claims are true.
- Opt in marketing can position you and your company as experts if done right. Offering free information puts you in a whole different category of people who want their business. Both the initial piece that entices them to opt in, and the ongoing emails that give you additional opportunities to communicate your message to them, show them that you are capable of solving their problems or helping them achieve their goals.
BONUS REASON: Perhaps the best reason of all for having an opt in form on your website is that your list building efforts allow you to build a relationship with your prospects. Over time, you become a known and trusted source and advisor. Because you take time to educate the people on your list, your credibility climbs through the roof. And nothing in business can beat a relationship built on trust and credibility.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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