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Six Winning Ideas for your Landing Page (and How to Avoid Incentive Program Risks)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In this issue of List Building for Bloggers you will learn:
  • How list-building incentive programs can harm you
  • How to make incentive programs work without complaints
  • Six great ideas for your subscription activation landing page
As usual, at the end of the article is a set of action items for you to put into practice right now.

[This is the ninth article in the List Building for Bloggers series – Click here to read all the #LBB posts]

Incentive Risk

In prior articles on List Building for Bloggers I've talked about using incentives to help accelerate list growth; they're an easy way to get people to opt into your list.

The problem with incentives, however, is that you do get a certain proportion of "tire kickers" who'll opt in to get the goodies and then opt out as soon as they can. Not especially ethical, somewhat frustrating, but it comes with the territory.

However, there's a bigger risk when using incentives that can affect your deliverability and your relations with your email service provider (ESP). What you can see is higher complaint rates - sometimes significantly so - with subscribers properly opted in via incentive programs. ESPs and ISPs really, really don't like high complaint rates, so reducing complaint rates is essential. And incentive programs can create complaint spikes that you want to minimize.

Why does this happen? Well, for several reasons:
  1. If the opt in to your mailing list wasn't explicit when the user signed up for the incentive, then any increase in complaint rates is justified: you don't have permission. It doesn't matter if "consent" is buried in the competition rules - if the user didn't explicitly opt in, you're spamming them.
  2. If the content you're sending them is unrelated to the incentive, then you'll see high unsubscribe rates.
  3. If your incentive program is run on your site by a third party service, which (for the sake of argument) properly dual opt-ins the contestants before giving them the reward, you will still get high complaint rates if the link between you, the service and your mailing list is unclear.
  4. If you run the program through a well-run third party service and you delay importing the contestants, your import won't be timely, and so many contestants may have forgotten that they got that coupon from you three weeks ago. Result: high complaint rates from the forgetful.
  5. If you run your import from your contest provider and then immediately send out a mailing, you're going to get high complaint rates because you haven't given your entrants time to read your welcome message before you hit them up with your mailing. Again, this will raise complaint rates.
  6. Your next mailing is too "salesy" and new recipients will perceive you as a spammer.
It's all too easy to fall into some of these traps - it can happen to the best of us now and again. How, then, to manage this risk and stay on the good side of your ESP, ISP and protect your reputation?
  1. Have your incentive program add entrants directly to the mailing list by incenting them to join the list in the first place. This way there's no ambiguity about what's happening, there's no import process to run through, and you can deliver the reward via an autoresponder or custom landing page once the subscriber activates. This eliminates pretty much all the issues outlined above. Everything is timely and relevant. So, instead of "Enter your email address for a $5 discount" your incentive is "Subscribe to our mailing list for a $5 discount" - it makes a big difference!
  2. For contest-specific forms, make the opt-in clear and explicit. Remember, you need to get permission. Whether you run your own form or out source to a third party contest management or fulfillment firm, you can easily add an opt-in checkbox to the form via APIs (FeedBlitz's APIs are here; this one easily adds an opt in checkbox to a form). Why? Because if there's anything to take away from this series it's that permission and relevance are key, and without them you're getting a one-way ticket to Complaintville.
  3. Be timely. If you have to import people into your list from your incentive campaign, do so as soon as is practicable after the entrant is validated. Ideally within minutes, and certainly that day. That way your entrant will still remember your promotion.
  4. If you can tailor the opt in confirmation mailing for your properly run incentive program, have it make clear that signing up will add them to your mailing list. Setting expectations early and often is a great way to reduce complaints and unsubscribes.
  5. Use your autoresponder and / or import message to remind them how they got into your list. So don't make your note say "Welcome to the SuperWidgets Mailing List" - instead make it "Thank you for using our $5 coupon - Welcome!" (or whatever) and use the note to make it clear that they're now on your list as they agreed to be when they signed up.
  6. Use an autoresponder to follow up a few days later, perhaps for a survey ("Did you use that coupon?" or "Tell us how you liked our widget") or something helpful ("Five online stores where you can spend redeem the voucher") or another offer ("10% off if you buy from us with discount code PQRS"). If you respectfully keep in touch with useful, valuable information you will see much greater engagement, even if a "regular" mailing hasn't gone out yet.
  7. Don't rush your next mailing. Autoresponders aside - which should be immediate - if you've imported a bunch of incentive program entrants don't blast them five minutes after the import completes; it's too spammy. You haven't given them time to read your import message yet. Be patient and wait till tomorrow. It's worth it.
Follow these tips and your incentives programs, whether you run them yourself or outsource, will rock your list with engaged, happy subscribers who won't complain on the first mailing.

Six Top Landing Page Tips

The most import piece of online real estate in the email subscription process is the post-activation landing page - what a subscriber sees when they wrap up the dual opt in subscription process. At that point they're excited about joining the list - they just went through dual-opt in for you - and are engaged with your content.

The activation landing page is your best chance to make the most of that excitement. While your mileage may vary, here are some thoughts for how you can direct that energy to benefit you:
  • Deliver a reward. A PDF eBook, white paper, coupon, a discount on a product / service - whatever it is you can use the landing page to deliver it to your excited new follower.
  • Offer more subscriptions. Got more niche lists or partner sites? Invite the reader to sign up for them. Running other programs? Ditto. Your landing page can also reduce any friction associated with these actions by auto-filling any applicable forms with information you know about the new subscriber (minimally, their email address).
  • Ask for a referral. They like you; have them tell their friends! You can use a simple form for this.
  • Leverage social media. Have a "tweet this" or Facebook status update form available where your new reader can say "I just joined the MegaCorp mailing list for the latest on antique flange sprocket hobbyists" in a tweet, Facebook status update or LinkedIn note. Spread the word.
  • Build what @ProBlogger calls a sneeze page of popular posts and deliver it here. This keeps the new subscriber on your site while they're excited about you and inclined to explore. Great if you monetize via ads.
  • Don't go overboard! Pick one, maybe two of these ideas and have clear, direct calls to action. Otherwise you'll simply confuse the new subscriber and all their energy and excitement may dissipate in a cloud of confusion. You don't want that.
Go ahead, optimize! You can also run different calls to action on your landing pages to see which work best. Test, measure, optimize; rinse and repeat.

Your Action Items

  • If you're running an incentive check that you're compliant with the best practices outlined above.
  • If you're selecting a third party incentive or fulfillment service ensure that they use confirmed dual opt in and can get you your entrant data quickly if they can't integrate via API.
  • If you're not incenting subscribers ... why not? Fix that!
  • Build your activation landing page using one of the top tips.

For FeedBlitz Users

Next Up

On how integrating social networking data and your email list can creat an anti-social network. Rules of the road for mailing followers, friends, contacts and fans.

About List Building For Bloggers #LBB

Written by Phil Hollows, the FeedBlitz Founder and CEO, List Building for Bloggers (#LBB) is a series of posts to help you make the most of your blogging by harnessing the power and capabilities of email, the universal social network, with your bog and social media communications. No matter whether you're a novice or a more advanced blogger, there will be something for you to learn, apply and benefit from in this series. Click here to read more about #LBB

P.S. If you think your friends or followers would find this series valuable, please retweet on Twitter or "Like" on Facebook using the buttons below. Don't forget to use the #LBB hashtag when you do. Thank you! And if you have a comment, contribution or something else to say, please comment too. :-)

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1 Comments:

Blogger Phil Hollows said...

Yes, I know it's the tenth post in the series but I'm not counting last week's recap, making this the ninth "real" article. So there :)

12:16 PM, January 13, 2011  

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