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How to Succeed at Dating: Permission Marketing and Your Site's Sign-up Pages

Online Dating-Permission-Marketing
-- Hi, would you like to get coffee? -- Umm... OK. Sure. -- Great! LET'S GET MARRIED! I love kids! I want a big wedding, then a week in Hawaii. 2 girls and a boy, (after I make partner.) Now Wednesdays is poker night, can we spend every other Christmas with my mom? I like to garden, cook and -- -- You're scaring me. Please go away now.

Of course, you're not that clueless about relationships. But is your site? Take a look at your sign-up processes: your email subscription form, your catalog request page, your Wish List sign-up and Account creation forms.

Does your site treat these processes with care, remembering that every completed form is a conversion? Or is it more like Mr. Eager Lonelyhearts, asking for too much too soon?

Often when we begin working with a client, we find that an otherwise savvy marketer has burdened their sign-up pages with ill-timed and excessive requests for information, resulting in abandonment and missed opportunity.

One example: an online retailer we encountered "teased" visitors with a simple, single field email sign-up form at the bottom of every page on their site. Standard stuff, except that entering an email address and clicking "submit" did not yield a confirmation page. Instead, would-be subscribers were greeted with a second form, requesting 10 more pieces of information, including a complete physical mailing address.

Not surprisingly, the abandonment rate for this form was pushing 60%.

If you can't get your prospects to say yes to coffee... err... email sign-up, what are the chances you'll persuade them to show you their credit card and place an order?

Your website user is a real person. She knows you don't need her street address to send her an email. She knows you don't need billing and shipping addresses to set up a wish list (yes, we've seen that one... often!)

Your user decides what information she wants to give you and when-- based on the relevance of your requests to her goal, and the value that you're offering in exchange. That's why you don't bring a diamond ring to that first date or ask for much more than my email address to... send me an email.

Does that mean you're doomed to settling for coffee, over and over, never getting a second date, only to die sad, cold and alone, without a database full of completely populated customer records?

Nope. But success in online marketing is kind of like dating. You get to move forward based on gaining assent to your series of well-timed, yes/no questions.

As Seth Godin puts it, permission is a process, not a moment. You have time to get where you're going. "Yes" to coffee leads to "yes" to dinner leads to..., and before you know it, you're co-signing the mortgage. Embrace drip irrigation marketing. Get someone to say "Yes!" then, smooth marketer that you are, calmly ask your next question.

Your confirmation pages are your friends. Use these pages to say thanks, and then gather more marketing information.

  • Thanks for your email address! Would you like a catalog?
  • Thanks for the catalog sign-up! Would you like to create an account?
  • Thanks for the account sign-up! Here’s your first, relevant, special offer.
Here's to your second date!
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