British Edwardian Postbox -- how many people are on your mailing list?If you aren’t using your website to build a mailing list, you really are missing a trick.

At EggCup Web Design we understand the power of social media and use it everyday to build relationships with new clients. But despite what the doomsayers might say, email definitely isn’t dead. And since people are (hopefully) coming to your website anyway, you have a golden opportunity to build a mailing list.

In this tutorial I will discuss what I think is the most important thing to get right when adding email an email collection strategy to your site: making sure your attempts to collect visitors’ personal details doesn’t undermine their trust (and in turn lose you a potential customer).

Give a little, get a little back

I fill out lots forms on the Internet. I’m always trying out new web services, apps, and downloading freebies. And usually I have to hand over my details before the vendor lets me get to the good stuff.

That’s fine though, because I recommend the same approach to my clients: build an audience by giving something away for free;  capture their details, and offer them the opportunity to subscribe to your marketing materials.

And if somebody’s willing to hand over their details to you in exchange for your great freebies, then we can safely assume they’d love to receive your newsletter too right?

Maybe. But not always. In my opinion you need to be sure that the process you use to collect mailing list subscriptions is always an opt-in, not opt-out.

Maybe you think I’m splitting hairs, but I think it’s important. I prefer to send great content to people who want to read it, and I don’t like being sneaky about getting those people onto my mailing list. Call me naïve if you like, I’m just trying to make the web a better place.

I want out

The difference between opt-in and opt-out is simple: opt-in is the good-guy. If I want to subscribe to your newsletter, I will tick the box thank you very much. If I don’t, nothing will happen because the box will be unticked by default when I submit the subscription form.

With opt-out however, the box will be ticked by default, so if I miss it, or get confused by the accompanying text (which all too often seems deliberately confusing) the system will add me to yet another mailing list.

When to opt-in

To illustrate the difference, consider any web form that you’ve filled out recently. Normally there will be a checkbox near the bottom somewhere that says something like “Tick to receive our newsletter”. That’s perfect, I might just give you a go, and if it doesn’t work out I know I can always unsubscribe.

On some sites, that box has already been ticked for me. My first reaction isn’t “oh how helpful, I was going to tick that box anyway”, it’s normally more along the lines of “hmmm, that’s sneaky…”. It leaves a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth, and it damages trust. What else could they be trying to trick me into? I’m pretty certain I’m not the only person who thinks like this.

Build your mailing list by offering great content

There’s simply no need for underhand tricks. If you fool someone into receiving your marketing content they’ll just unsubscribe anyway, or worse, mark your email as spam because that’s the quickest way of getting rid of the problem. Far better to win people’s hearts and minds with great content and make them want to subscribe.

The practice that will earn you the most brownie points from me is known as double opt-in. At EggCup we use Mailchimp to manage our mailing lists, and this is why they recommend using double opt-in.

We can help you create your mailing list

We know how to make Mailchimp sing and dance, and we can show you how to build a mailing list of engaged subscribers off the back of your website traffic.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have the time to produce content for a newsletter as well as your blog. We can link the two together so that you can send out a regular digest of your new blog content to your subscribers. This is the best way to get previous visitors coming back to your site for more!

Contact us to find out more about how we can help.

And finally, if you’d like to receive a monthly digest of content like this in your inbox, be sure to subscribe to the EggCup mailing list.

Image by Paul Anderson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons