Four Steps to Optimize Your Acquisition Process

Let’s be real. All marketers want a bigger, better email list. The larger our contactable universe, the more conversion opportunities we have. That said, a large poor quality list can negatively affect inbox placement rates and performance. In addition, a rocky start to the email relationship can hurt subscribers' perception of your email program. In this post, I detail four areas you want to focus on to create a good first impression both with your subscribers and your mailbox providers.

1. Create a Compelling Opt-in
It pays to have an easy to find, well-designed, and well-positioned subscribe button. Pay attention to the following and tweak as necessary:

  • Form Placement–A lightbox subscribe form or footer opt-in field are not enough to call it a day. Sometimes site visitors need multiple opportunities to sign up for your program. Include opt-in options in relevant and anticipated locations (alongside “Offers” or “News” content as well as within the footer of all web pages).
  • Form Design–Make sure your opt-in captures attention, is intuitive, and doesn’t require the subscriber to jump through multiple hoops. If you do have hoops, provide a clear explanation for why they're necessary. Check out this post for more tips to optimize your opt-in form.
  • Benefits–The majority of users understand that email contains news and offers but spelling it out can help drive more opt-ins. Be sure to call out anything that makes your email program special by describing the benefits for subscribers.

2. Mitigate Risk
Don’t fall into the “bigger is better” trap of email acquisition and end up in a deliverability hole. We work with countless clients who trace their inbox placement woes to their opt-in process. Be upfront and set clear expectations with your soon-to-be subscribers and save yourself a hassle down the line. The following can help reduce risk:

  • Explicit Permissioning–A pre-checked box during the purchase path can be tempting as a list acquisition strategy but this is also an excellent way to sabotage yourself down the line. Pre-checked boxes go hand in hand with negative subscriber behavior like complaints and negative Sender Reputation Data (SRD) feedback. These behaviors can have a swift and unpleasant impact on placement. If subscribers don’t want to be on your list, trust me, you don’t want them there.
  • Consider Validation–Everyone makes mistakes. As more people access content on mobile devices, more mistakes are made entering email addresses. When call centers, in-store personnel, or gated content comes into the mix, erroneous email addresses can be even more common. Consider using a list validation service either periodically or in real-time to keep your database clean. This is especially important if your welcome email sees a high number of bounces. 
  • Set Expectations–Let your subscribers know what to expect from your email program. There are very few instances where unexpectedly high email volumes prompt positive reactions from subscribers.

3. Craft a Confirmation Page

The subscribing process is part of the customer experience. So, not providing a confirmation page/message is the equivalent of not saying “Thank You” when a transaction is completed in a store. It’s not 100% necessary but it can leave the customer unsure of whether the transaction has completed. This is not a great way to end the subscribing process. The following suggestions ensure your email relationships kick off in a positive way:

  • Confirm the Subscription–Let subscribers know they successfully subscribed and thank them for doing so. If your confirmation messaging does nothing else, it should communicate these two points. Don’t let your brand be the weird cashier that doesn’t say anything.
  • Reiterate Benefits and Set Expectations–Sometimes we need to process information a few times before it sticks. Remind your customers your emails are valuable and reiterate when they can expect them and the kind of messages they will receive.   
  • Avoid the Dead End–Now that they’re all fired up about your email program, funnel them into some of your best content. If you are using a lightbox or distinct confirmation page, don’t force them to close a window to get to the good stuff, include it as a clear call out on your confirmation page.

4. Make a Good First Impression

Now that they’re part of your email program, give new subscribers a proper welcome. For your welcome and/or onboarding series, pull out all the stops when it comes to email design and content. The first few emails you send are typically opened at a higher rate and set the tone for your program. Those first impressions can make a big impact.  Consider including the following in your welcome/onboarding experience and check out this post for additional examples:

  • Thank/Welcome Subscribers–It’s the polite thing to do.
  • Reiterate Benefits–Yes. Reiterate the benefits…again. You don’t have to go overboard but it helps drill those value statements in.
  • Strut Your Stuff–If you have really cool features on your site, shopping tools, popular content, or interesting information that creates a better customer experience, this is one of your best opportunities to get it in front of people. Is social important for the brand? Include a social-focused email in your onboarding program. Is your app amazing and associated with higher conversions? Include it in your onboarding.
  • Drive Subscribers to the Preference Page–This can be useful for getting additional information and creating a more relevant, meaningful experience. It shows subscribers that you care about their experience and can help contribute to longer, more loyal relationships.
  • Don’t Do Too Much–Don’t cram everything into one email. If you have a bunch of great things you want to showcase, create a series of emails that guide the subscribers through different focus areas.
  • Test, Test, Test–You’ve heard this a million times before and you can roll your eyes all you want, but you and I both know this is a really important step. Your onboarding emails create first impressions with all of your new subscribers so do some testing to make sure you’re getting it right. Test the content, the flow, the offers and the subject lines.


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