How to Get More Subscribers On Your Mailing List With These 5 Relationship Rules

By Gina Broom
How to Get More Subscribers On Your Mailing List With These 5 Relationship Rules


A lot of the relationship rules that I'm about to cover may seem a little cliché, and anyone who's active in the relationship niche will recognize them pretty quickly.

But the interesting thing is how these simple rules are so in tune with the best practices for an amazing opt-in process for your mailing list. 

You might be thinking, how on earth did you make this connection?

It all started when I was talking to my brother about my view on marketing, considering I come from a media background. I admitted that once upon a time, with a dream of creating movies that make tears leak from people's eyes, I really thought that anything to do with marketing must be super boring. He always had a much more natural interest in these kinds of reality-based topics. 

But since I've working in marketing (and studying it!), I've found that it's actually some of the most interesting stuff I've ever known! When I mentioned this to my brother, he agreed and added that it's pretty much a study of human psychology. And you know what? It very much is.

As I did my research for this post, I noticed all of my notes were turning up words or ideas that are commonly found in standard relationship advice.

  • Honesty
  • Communication
  • Trust
  • Compatibility
  • Understanding what's important to them​
  • Giving is just as important as getting

​It made me think, am I trying to get opt-ins or take my potential subscribers to couples' counseling?

The point is that when you ask people to subscribe to your list, you're asking them to invest time and energy into your brand. You're asking them for a type of relationship, and they need to know you're not going to break their heart. And by heart I mean inbox... with spam...

How Important is Romancing the Customer, Really?

Before I launch into all the rules I'd like to share with you a great quote that Oli Gardner, co-founder of Unbounce, has given me to highlight just how important this is for your marketing strategy:

"When you're trying to romance new subscribers, the most important thing to remember is that it's not enough to simply deliver a charming pick up line. 

You need to present your brand's core values at every stage of every transaction. Each micro touch point adds or subtracts from the experience. 

It starts in the ad, in the email, in the tweet, it continues on the landing page, moves to the confirmation page, stalls during the typically lame and bland default welcome email, and any subsequent follow up. 

Respect your prospects and customers in each of these moments and you'll build a lasting relationship."

- Oli Gardner, Unbounce

So! May the opt-in courtship lessons begin, so that your landing pages and forms may look less awkward than this guy:

​awkward romance

Rule 1: Understand Where They're Coming From

What desire is already on your readers' minds when they arrive at different opt-in forms on your site? Understanding this is the key to conversions that are less likely to opt out later or lay dormant.

The reason I say "when they arrive at different opt-in forms" is that you'll get different people finding different themes through different means. 

This means that no single rule will apply across the board. It's like last week's post, there's no "one strategy fits all" with marketing, including your opt-ins. So make your approach generic at your own risk. 

You have to ask yourself these questions:

  • Where does the majority of the traffic to this location come from?
  • What have they likely clicked on to get here?
  • What, then, are they likely looking for?

I'll break it down into the main locations for you. 

A) How to Think About Squeeze Page Opt-In Audiences

squeeze page

Question 1: Where does the majority of the traffic to this location come from?

Answer 1: The traffic to your squeeze page will likely be from paid traffic. 

Question 2: What have they likely clicked on to get here?

Answer 2: They would have clicked on an advertisement or promotion of yours. Whether it was a solo ad, a social network ad, or a search results ad, you've put an ad somewhere that has interested that person.

Question 3: What, then, is it likely they're looking for?

Answer 3: The key lies within the wording in your ad. Most marketers think like this:

  • I have a mailing list opt-in squeeze page.
  • I need to get traffic to it.
  • I'll try paid advertising.
  • What do I say that will get lots of people to click through?

This thought process starts at the conversion you want, and ends with an audience. That is not optimal. It's focused on getting as many people as possible through to your page, but you don't actually want most of that traffic because a lot of it isn't relevant for your business. 

From a purely marketing perspective, the whole point of leads is that eventually those leads will turn into sales of some kind. If you get the wrong traffic, you'll only get a low opt-in rate, a high opt-out rate, and a waste of time and money. 

You need to flip this around so that you're thinking of what your audience is looking for first, so that you can target the right people. 

People who need what you provide = Your ideal audience

(and therefore...)

Your ideal audience = People who already need what you provide

If you can figure out exactly who needs what you have to offer and target those people  which becomes easy when your site offers exactly what they're already looking for (how convenient!)  then you'll be on your way to success. 

Find the best phrase for summing up the solution you have to offer, and put it as the heading on the ad, AND as the heading on your squeeze page. You want to have that direct match between what the ad is saying and what your page is saying.

This way, the people clicking on your ad are the people who want what you have to give. They get what they expected to get; you get a higher conversion rate and a lower opt-out rate. Plus, your leads are more likely to evolve into sales.  

B) How to Think About Pop-Up, Sidebar or Bottom-of-Post Opt-In Audiences 

pop-up and sidebar

Question 1: Where does the majority of the traffic to this location come from?

Answer 1: The traffic to these opt-in forms will likely be from free sources such as SEO or social sharing, as they usually sit on content pages. 

Question 2: What have visitors likely clicked on to get here?

Answer 2: They would have clicked on a search result, a post promoted on Facebook, or a link from another website.

Question 3: What, then, is it likely they're looking for?

Answer 3: These people are usually looking for more information about a particular topic. What is the main focus of your site? What does your content help visitors learn about or accomplish?

Once you understand this, you can start to test different opt-in headings that encourage visitors to continue getting value specific to their needs from your site. Also think about when they might be most likely to want more information.

For example, someone who has scrolled down your page for more information will be more invested in your topic than someone that clicks away after only looking at the top of your page. 

Rand Fishkin talked about this in one of his Whiteboard Friday posts. He said that people who sign up later are more likely to be loyal. 

It's like a relationship. If you get married after the first date, how likely is it that the marriage will last? Compare that to how it might be if you get to know each other a bit first to suss out compatibility. 

You might decide that your best bet is to place your pop-up form 3/4 of the way down the page. I can't tell you what will be best for your audience, as every website's audience is so different, but you need to be sure to think:

  • Who is coming here for this information?
  • What do they want?
  • What can I give them with my newsletter list that will really help them with that?
  • At what point on my content pages are they likely to be most ready for that offer?

Remember you can always change it up and use trial and error to find what your audience likes best.

2. Be Honest

It saves you both time and helps avoid fall-outs (or opt-outs).


Don't be afraid to let your readers know everything they need to know, no more, no less. The reason I say no more, is because you don't want too much text on your opt-in form. You'll only overwhelm them. 

But too little? You could lose visitors because you haven't convinced them that they want to be on your list and that it won't be bad for them. Letting them know exactly what they’re in for builds trust.

Some would argue that being too specific will cause people think, "oh actually that's not what I'm looking for" and go away. If you've been completely honest about what you're offering, then you don't want that subscriber anyway, because they'd be highly likely just to unsubscribe or refund later on.

It's kind of like cliché romantic advice: “If they dumped you, then they obviously weren't right for you anyway!”

When you're honest, you're more likely to get your actual target audience to be more confident signing up, thinking "Oh, yes! That's exactly what I'm looking for!"

Put it all on the table. Yes, you might get less quantity. But you'll get more quality.

Here's an example of why this is particularly relevant:

If you were selling solo ads, marketers wouldn't just ask you for subscriber numbers, they’d ask you for the success rate of your list. You can even see evidence of that in the lesson advice on solo ads here.

A higher interaction rate is more important and useful not only to people interested in solo ads, but to your own success with your list! This is so much better than sheer numbers (especially if you’d otherwise just annoy the many people who don’t want to be there and put them off your brand). 

What to Consider Being Honest About in Your Opt-In Form:

  • How often do you mail out? (How often do you think your ideal audience would like to receive something?)
  • What will you do with their information? (This is a chance to reassure them that you won't give information away to third parties)
  • Who would benefit most from subscribing to this list?
  • How exactly would they benefit?

3. Personalize Your Communication

Act as a human, not a company. Place subscribers on the same level as you to create and maintain a strong relationship with them.

Too often with marketing strategies there is a lack of humanity. People respond well to humanity. It connects people to your brand on a much deeper level and allows you to build a relationship everyone feels good about.

Here's a picture of me on our end-of-year work-do where we went rafting:


Yes I am pulling rabbit ears behind my workmate's head. How do you like me now? 

An example of how personalization has already had a huge impact with email marketing is when President Obama sent "Hey" as an email subject line. It had the most success out of all of his emails.

He wrote many emails (and subject lines) with a personal style, even though he was in such a powerful position. He put himself on the same level as everyone else, and made himself a friend to all, and boy was it successful, as you can see here

obama email subject success

I'm going to cover two ways that you can personalize your opt-in process. They can make all the difference: 

A) Add an Image of a Person to Your Signup Form 

If you've got a good picture of yourself and you don't mind associating it with your brand, this can be a really great way to build trust and show the person behind the scenes.

Suddenly people can see who they'd be getting messages from. It's a bit like calling someone on a phone versus video calling them. When you can see the person, not just hear the voice, it's a lot easier to trust someone. You can read them. They're not just a faceless entity. 

B) Make Sure Your Confirmation Email has Conversational Elements

Your confirmation email can make or break a subscriber's opinion toward receiving mail from you. If it's too stiff they might regret signing up or mentally dismiss future mail. 

  • A conversational headline will likely include a greeting or populate their first name.

Example: "Hi [first name], confirm your email here and we'll get you on the road to [their goal].

  • A conversational opening to the email won't be too formal.

Avoid words like "Greetings" in favor of words like "Hi."

  • Conversational email content will show an interest in your subscribers, as though you were a host at a party.

Think of it like this: You've walked up to someone and said hi and they've just said hi back. What do you say next?

Your subscribers have signed up to your list for a reason. Let them know you think it's great that they're interested in that topic, and that it's really important for them to know about X, Y and Z.

Then let them know how you'd like to help them with their goals, and what you've got to offer. 

4. Show Subscribers You Care by Taking Pride in Your Appearance

Some design features are proven to convert more leads than others.

The ideal design for your opt-in form and squeeze page is something simple and to the point. There's no need to be too fancy or wordy, as they're going to take it in at a glance. Clarity is the most important thing. 

A) Don't Distract Subscribers With Too Many Options: Only Give Them the Option to Opt In, Nothing Else. 

Specifically for a squeeze page, if the main goal of the page is to get someone to sign up to your mailing list, make it the only action they can do on that page. If you have anything else that that can click or do, you're only distracting them from what you really want to achieve. 

Remember landing page mastermind extraordinaire, Oli Gardner, whom I mentioned earlier? He calls this the "attention ratio" of a page. 

attention ratio

If your page has one place for visitors to opt in, but also three other links to other places on the same page, then the attention ratio would be 3:1. If the main goal is to get them to sign up, why not eliminate those three distractions?

B) Make the Actionable Button Stand Out With Contrasting Colors

It doesn't matter what color you decide to make your form, or what color you make your button, so long as they're not the same. Contrasting colors make the button stand out, and the act of opting in more obvious. 

For example, if you had a blue form, then an orange button would stand out nicely! A blue button might not say "HEY!" like you need it to.

Here, have a color wheel:

color wheel

Basically, whichever color your form is, you want to consider a button that is the color directly opposite on the wheel. This will make it stand out and be as obvious as possible. 

5. You Gotta Give a Little to Get a Little: Offer Subscribers a Gift 

An incentive or opt-in bribe is always more successful than just saying, "Hey, sign up because I want you to." Offer the right gift for the audience you're targeting. 

One thing we always encourage (because it works) is adding an opt-in bribe, such as an e-book or an mp3 recording (basically a podcast) full of useful information for subscribers.

It's kind of a way of saying, "hey, I'm invested in making this about you, and not just about me. You're giving me your email address and the ability to keep in contact with you, and so I'm going to hold up my end of it and provide you with some great value."

It also gives you another nice little visual to add to a signup form or squeeze page: 

opt in bribe

There are three main ways to get an opt-in bribe like this:

  • Pay a freelancer to create one on the likes of Upwork (costs some money, takes a bit of time, but not much work).
  • Create one yourself (doesn't cost money, but takes more time and work).
  • Get 3 options that are already made for your niche with AffiloJetpack, as well as a whole series of newsletters to send to your mailing list (costs money, but no time or work).

Don't Forget Your Takeaways!

- It's important to think about your ideal audience, and keep that information in mind whenever you make a decision about your opt-in forms and squeeze pages. 

- Be sure to be honest with them in every way that could be relevant to you, so that you attract the best audience for a healthy responsive list. 

- Don't over-complicate the design or distract them from the main purpose: Signing up.

- Experiment with the timing of your pop-ups and the locations of your forms. 

- Have a button that is a contrasting color to your form.

- Don't forget to personalize your messages however possible: Build that strong relationship!

Question: I'd love to know, do you do anything specific to personalize any part of your opt-in process? If yes, then what? Does it work well? If not, what do you think you could try? Let's discuss it!