Prospect-pleasing newsletter sign-ups: How to plant the seeds for high conversion rates

By Kim Ross
Prospect-pleasing newsletter sign-ups: How to plant the seeds for high conversion rates


How do you get more people to sign up to your newsletter?

I believe it boils down to one essential component and an optional ‘cherry on the top' that dictates whether your site visitors hit the exit button into Never Return Land, or sign up to your emails with the type of enthusiasm that I'm feeling now that the season in New Zealand has turned to Spring...

A season of new beginnings and hope where everything smells of daffodils - that is exactly the mindset you want to create for your site visitors when they lay eyes on your newsletter sign up form.

So, what are the ingredients that will create the enthusiasm you need to get people signing up to your newsletter series?

The essential ingredient is a powerful call to action (CTA).

The ‘cherry on the top' is the incentive that you design your CTA around.

Tantalizing incentives

Let's look first at how to choose a tantalizing incentive that will have your site visitors immediately thinking you're their new best friend.

It's important to keep in mind that the value of your incentive is all about the perceived value rather than financial value. The aim here is to offer an incentive that costs you relatively little, but is of high perceived value to the market you are offering it to.

A popular option is to offer a free content-based product that is conditional on the user signing up to receive emails.

That's all well and good, but what is your freebie going to be about? Relevancy is key here. The perceived value of a free eBook on collecting antiques is unlikely to be high on a site that attracts World of Warcraft players.

An incentive that is of high perceived value to the user will not only be relevant, it will also be helpful, engaging, and give people more than just a great read - it should give them something they can and want to act on.

This does require some creative thinking on your behalf, as the incentive needs to be customized to suit the specific needs of the visitors to your site. Here are a few thoughts to get the ball rolling...

  • eBooks, reports , guides and webinars: Quality content is important here, but of far greater importance is how you package that content - how it becomes relevant and useful to your visitor. This should be obvious in the title of your eBook.

Here are some examples of words and phrases that help do this and invoke curiosity:

"How to...

"Secrets to...

"Do you make these X common mistakes...

"X top tips for X you can use now...

"The very best of... (I'm sure you've got at least one album in your music collection that begins with this one!)

  • Checklists, self assessments and software templates: These are great because they are immediately useful to your visitors and they don't require that much work from your end. They can also prime your visitors further for that enthusiastic mindset you want them to have when you begin sending them promotional emails.

Your Call to Action: What language speaks to your customer?

An impressive incentive is like great food at a function. You can have attendees eating out of your hand because you've pulled out all the stops - but your effort will go unnoticed if you can't get anyone to attend in the first place.

This is where your call to action needs to step up. On the web, you want your call to action to generate immediate action.

The call to action "Click here" is certainly succinct but is simply not enough on its own. Your visitor wants to know WHY she should click there, and what will happen when she does - is there further action required?

Note: I view the entire newsletter sign up form as a call to action. The examples that follow illustrate the type of tone, language and components you may choose to use on your form, not the CTA in its entirety.

The tone that you use in your call to action needs to suit your target market. Are your prospects the type of people that will respond well to ‘bullying' type tactics like:

"You'd have to be stupid not to sign up and receive your free report now".

Or is a better response likely from using old-fashioned courtesy such as:

"Please enter your details to receive your free gift right away"

You also want to consider the narrative voice you use. Are you telling them what to do (as in the previous examples)? Or are you putting words in their mouth that they ought to identify with? For example:

"Yes, I'd like to get my free gift on x right now"

Notice that in all examples I've added some kind of urgency to the call to action, such as "now" and "right away". Creating urgency is essential to get prospects taking action before it's too late.

What I haven't included in my examples is an explanation of why to sign up, other than to receive the free gift. Drilling home the benefit is going to help you seal the deal here. For example:

"Yes, I'd like to know the secrets to X so that I will never be X again. Sign me up now"

This may come after you have listed the benefits of your incentive in more detail, and will act to reinforce exactly how it is relevant to your prospect.

Remember to avoid jargon when writing your CTA. Are your prospects likely to know what ‘HTML version' or even ‘PDF' means? Telling them they will receive something that is unfamiliar to them may work as a deterrent.

Don't stress about perfecting your CTA right away. It's impossible to know what phrasing will convert best without testing it, so get a few versions up and see which one proves its worth.

Once you have your thoughtful incentive, together with your well-planned CTA, you'll soon see the grass looking greener as your newsletter list begins to grow with enthusiastic prospects.

Of course your newsletter CTA can come in many formats - an opt-in box, a popover box, an entire squeeze page, subtle in-text references... that's another blog post in itself. We do have some excellent tools that will help you create the right message for your prospects though. Check out our opt-in box generator and our popover generator tools now. 

Have you found some CTAs and incentives to work better for your market than others? Share your experiences below.

Kathaleen Dunford 14 years ago
Hi Kim,

Your post must surely be a CTA because it left me wanting more.

Yay!!!! Spring has finally sprung here in Australia, too. The fresh fragrances coming from budding shrubs and blooming bulbs (daffodils, freesias...) and the chirping of birds are incentives to take oneself outside equipped with a laptop to breath in the fresh air thereby cleaning out the cobwebs of one's mind and improving our websites and building our email lists.

Wishing everyone the very best of luck.
James Pruitt 14 years ago
Hey Kim, Awesome Post. I have been seeing a lot of really bad Calls to action lately. It can often be the difference between conversions and people just browsing on through.

For mine, I find that it really depends on the niche. also, what type of sites I am running. I can get a way with a more laid back call to action on my blogs than on my static sites. It also depends on how formal my crowd following me is in the niche that I am tackling.
Justin 14 years ago
Great content once again. I'm in the process of setting all this up myself so I figured this would be very helpful which it was. Thanks!
jack flagg 14 years ago
great post! (and I'm not just spamming.. :) .. anyway, the thing about not using jargons in CTA, so true! Not all people know what a PDF is on ebook for that.. It's safer to sa 'report' or 'newsletter' or series or tips,email..

Neo Kanobi 14 years ago
Kim, once again another great POST !!!!

I really enjoy reading your gems of wisdom,

Great examples !!!

Keep up the great job.

Until the next post :-)

Christopher Sneed 14 years ago
Just heard about the earthquake. How is everyone there? Very sorry to hear about that. Hope you are all ok.
Edward McThorn 14 years ago
Everybody OK after the earthquake?
Andrew @ Blogging Guide 14 years ago
I've noticed that adding an image helps with my opt-in conversion have the option to opt-in displayed in numerous place on your web site.

Virginia Perl 14 years ago
Thank you, Kim, for my introduction to opt-in copy. It is 8 A.M. here in Eagan, Minnesota, USA (on a Saturday holiday weekend) and you have already made my day.

The opt-in tool alone confirms my decision to go with Mark for my instruction in affiliate marketing. Owning both Blueprint AND Jetpack has me referencing and cross-referencing so it's taking me a little longer than my fellow students. I expect to get to the opt-in copy task next week sometime.

One thing for sure though, is that I'm having an absolute blast with all of this, and there is no question that I've found my passion.
Kim Ross 14 years ago
Thanks for the concern about the earthquake - we are all ok :) working from home, still yet to find out what kind of condition our office is in!
@Virginia: Glad you are liking Affilorama so much :)
Ghani Tuamanuka 14 years ago
Glad to hear that everyone is okay. Be blessed and stay safe.
lawmacs 14 years ago
Thank for the heads up here there are some solid advice here that must of us are missing the "Call to Action" this is what we need to use to drive visitors to take the neccessary action may it be a sign up or a sale
MyMarketingSamurai 14 years ago
What a great post you have there KIM. Thanks. I really enjoyed it.
Kristie Chiles 14 years ago

Glad you guys are alright! Over here on the coast of Georgia, our worry is always
hurricanes! Glad you survived the blast!

Thanks for the tip about adding an image and the calls to actions are my page
is about to change right now! I'd be stupid not to listen to the X ways to get
more optins : ) LOL Kristie
Krystal 12 years ago
That hits the target pefretcly. Thanks!