Ask The E-mail Diva: Conversions, Part 2

LAST WEEK, Michelle Madhok of fashion Web site that "shops the Web so you don't have to"--asked for advice on growing her e-mail list with a viral campaign and wondered whether long e-mails were affecting her churn rate. I focused on the issue of converting site traffic into subscribers. In this follow-up column, I continue that discussion and address the length and viral issues.


In addition to considering the motivation of the user, clarity of the value proposition, and incentive to take action, you must also address these prospective subscriber concerns:

Friction Elements in the Process

Your subscription process has three serious sources of friction:

  1. Your sign-up page has banners and text links galore that compete for the reader's attention and send her off in different directions--to sponsors, previous issues, other areas of the site, etc. The focus should be 100 percent on getting the reader to opt-in.
  2. I hope my experience with your confirmed opt-in was atypical. I signed up for e-mail two hours ago and have not received the confirmation e-mail yet. If you eliminate your sweepstakes for referrers, you won't need a confirmed opt-in, which is costing you subscribers.
  3. There are too many fields, optional or not, presented on the sign-up page. At the very least, put optional questions on a second page so sign-up doesn't look so laborious. Many have success with what I call the 1-2 punch: Step 1: a small box to enter your e-mail address and press the "sign up" button; Step 2: additional preference and optional questions, which encourage users to answerwith an incentive. The AAAA SmartBrief registration, which was optimized in conjunction with, provides an excellent example of both the 1-2 punch and a beautifully optimized sign-up page.



Anxiety About Entering E-mail Address

A big red flag for any subscriber is your statement at the bottom of your opt-in form: " occasionally sends out e-mail on behalf of advertisers." People will worry that they'll get a flood of e-mail and that their e-mail addresses will be shared. You need to address these fears --clearly. Better yet, allow people to opt-out of partner e-mails if that works with your business model.

Until you address your conversion issues, do not launch any viral efforts. When you do, remember that viral is not getting people to spread your marketing message (they won't, or at least not in the numbers you dream of); viral is giving people something so interesting, funny, clever or unusual that they feel they must share it. As the WOMMA people will tell you: give them something to talk about. Brainstorm with your team or hire a great guerilla marketing agency to ponder the big question: what fashion-related content will inspire women to share with their friends? A fashion intervention ("Dear Jane, we feel, as your friends, you should know that those mom jeans have GOT to go..."), over-the-top fashion don'ts (unless that's copyrighted by Glamour magazine), worst fashions screensaver (mullets, crocs, the list is endless), designer challenge (which is the $5,000 outfit, which one cost $50?). These are just a few that I thought up in five minutes. With some real time and talent, you can meet the challenge.

A final concern was whether the length of your e-mails is affecting your churn rate. While normally the E-mail Diva will fight to the death defending a long e-mail, yours may be over the top, particularly if it is delivered often. Your opt-in says that it is weekly, but archives show more frequent e-mail contact. If you deliver more than once a week, shorter may be better. If people want to read the content but are overwhelmed by the volume, they may reduce their stress by opting out.

When in doubt, of course, test. Take half of your list and send them shorter or fewer e-mails for a quarter and compare the response and opt-out rates of both groups. While you're at it, ask for the opt-out reason and see whether there is something to be learned.

While links to your site for additional content are always a good idea, repeating your Web site navigation in full with links like "Press" and "Advertising" may not be. Test a modified header with a few important links. And don't forget to optimize for the preview pane and blocked images.

Also test greater emphasis on the bargains offered in your e-mail and a link to the truly wonderful As I tell my husband when he asks why I am compelled to share the amazingly low price I paid for an item of clothing, "women love a great bargain as much as they love a great dress."

Good luck!

The E-mail Diva

Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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