February 29, 2016

How to Perfect the Art of Email Capture

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Even in an era of ubiquitous social networks, email remains the customer’s preferred way to communicate with a business. Email is also an effective way to drive traffic to your site, and a superior channel for acquiring customers.

Since email is one of the most influential channels for lead generation, email capture is a vital skill for every B2B marketer.

ALSO READ: The Art of Demand Generation Meets the Science of Lead Generation

Email is a powerful channel for customer acquisition

Email is a powerful channel for customer acquisition

These benefits aren’t a surprise to most demand generation marketers. What is surprising is the lack of attention paid to refining the email capture process. Without a well-constructed email capture mechanism, your email marketing empire won’t grow very large.

Too often, marketers underestimate the psychological tug of war happening inside each prospect’s mind when they hand over their email address. People closely guard their inbox, so any attempt to gain access should be logical and empathetic.

3 Ingredients for Capturing Emails

Marketers should always put their audience first, especially when asking for something. In this case, the ask is for an email address.

That might sound obvious, but it’s easy to place your own needs (i.e., more conversions) above the needs of your audience when revenue is at stake.

To gain a better understanding of how people experience an email capture form (otherwise known as a pop-up), consider three things:

  1. The value prospects get in return
  2. The words you use to describe the value
  3. The timing of the offer

Value

Without offering something of real, apparent value to your audience, trying to capture their email address will be an exercise in futility.

To design an asset people will find worthwhile, follow the same guidelines you would use for designing a product or service. Make sure your email capture value proposition answers these three questions:

Who is the target audience for this offer?
What is the benefit you’re offering?
What makes your offer unique?

Every time your content team creates a new piece of gated content, it should strategically answer these questions. With a strong value proposition, people won’t feel under duress to complete your web form; they’ll feel like it’s the obvious choice.

Here’s an example:

litmus email capture

Litmus offers free responsive email templates in a form on the side of its blog. This offer has a high perceived value, because the templates are not only responsive, but also “bulletproof.” Plus there are five of them.

This offer answers all three of the value questions.

The benefit of these templates is that they’ll work on mobile and drive engagement. The offer is obviously for email marketers, and it’s unique because offering email templates isn’t very common.

Words

Offering something of worth to your audience is vital, but effectively communicating that worth is just as important.

Even if you’ve developed an outstanding piece of content that will help your audience in dramatic ways, no one will believe you unless you can persuasively articulate said value.

Behold the power of good copy.

Every email capture mechanism needs two things: clarity and the promise of a transformation or overwhelming value for the reader.

Here’s an example from Contently:

contently email capture

The headline is clear, and the value promised is immense. Becoming a better content strategist means gaining a deeper understanding of digital media, progressing in your career, and doing work that matters.

This copy also pulls from the three requirements of the value proposition discussed earlier because it’s offer is unique to Contently (the company’s blog is called The Content Strategist), and the value resonates directly with their audience.

Contently is testing several other iterations of their email capture form, but this version has been the highest performer since at least 2015.

Percolate’s email capture is another strong example of these two principles:

Percolate

Again, the value is clearly articulated, and the nature of the value is transformative. Percolate sells very powerful software that helps marketers improve content management (among other things), so their audience immediately grasps the value of better “storytelling.”

Timing

Timing is the last factor to consider when building your email capture form. Even if you create an offer of substantial value and persuasively communicate that value, far fewer people will say yes if your timing is wrong.

There are a few different ways to time your email capture.

First, there’s the instant offer, which appears right when someone lands on your blog. Though this technique is an option, it’s not highly recommended.

Asking your audience for something as soon as they land on a new page disrupts their experience and obscures the value that drove them to the page in the first place. This tells your audience that you’re only interested in a transaction, not in providing value.

Consequently, Unbounce recommends never having a pop-up appear before 60 seconds of page time.

A “hello bar” is an alternate method that let’s you keep your offer in front of your audience at all times. The bar sits at the top of the page and follows readers as they scroll, without overshadowing the user experience.

Buffer used this technique in a 9 part campaign to increase email subscribers and found it was the second most successful method for capturing emails.

Buffer's hello bar

Buffer’s hello bar

Second, you can time your capture form to appear after someone has read a certain amount of content.

The only technique Buffer found more successful was a timed capture form that appeared after someone had read more than 60 percent of an article. Sometimes called “slideups,” these capture forms slide into the screen with an offer for the reader.

Buffer slideup

From a user experience perspective, it’s unsurprising that the slideup was Buffer’s most effective means of email capture. These forms are unintrusive, but still command enough attention to draw people in.

The timing is perfect: users have already gained a significant amount of value (or at least they should have) once they’ve read through more than half of the article.

Finally, email capture can be timed to interrupt a user on their way off of the page.

As the name suggests, these forms are triggered when a user indicates they are leaving the page (e.g. they hover over the back button or the browser navigation).

exit intent pop-up

Exit intent forms act as a last call before users exit the page. This works well for the reader since the form only appears after they’ve digested everything they want. There is no interruption while they’re reading the main article, and the dramatic appearance of the form draws the reader back in before they leave.

Like popups, exit intent forms can be very effective. Neil Patel realized a 46 percent increase in conversions using this method.

* * *

Honing your ability to capture emails is a fundamental part of succeeding at lead generation. As a channel, email boasts a superior track record for developing leads. As a data point, an email address is infinitely valuable.

Because email is so valuable and email marketing is so widespread, people are more hesitant to give marketers their information. Employing a logical, empathetic approach to email capture can dramatically improve your success rate.

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