Who wants to read the news without campaign ads flying all over the screen? Who wants to plan a trip without a demand for your email address covering the beach photos? How about being able to check out the half-price ski pants at an online store without having to create a login? When did annoying people into divulging personal info became central to every fucking website on the internet?!
My mom always said to use words like fuck sparingly. Shit, asshole, dickhead — those are needed for daily communication. But powerful words like fuck should be reserved for the truly deserved. Somehow that’s become every goddamn website developer on the internet.
When I first started working with Northern Outdoors they were paying a marketing firm a monthly fee to help them collect email addresses from website visitors… with an f’n popup. The firm kept pointing out the great numbers of email addresses submitted. There’s no denying that was true, but at what cost? and I’m not talking about the monthly management fee. There’s no way to track the ratio of submitters to pissed off customers and lost potential customers.
So I couldn’t prove annoyance with numbers, but I could offer a different approach. Create solutions instead of pointing out problems, right? The giveaway. People will happily offer up their email address and/or other personal info if you give them something for it. And you don’t have to get all up in their grill about it. The Northern Outdoors Snow to White Water Giveaway offers visitors ski lift tickets in the winter and rafting vouchers in the summer. The giveaway is promoted on the blog sidebar, various links throughout the website, and via social media. When running a Facebook ad for the giveaway people share the ad and tag their friends. Friends telling friends to give up their info! That’s a lot friendlier than a screen takeover (leading to “fuck yeah” instead of “fuck you.”)
The giveaway has been ten times more effective than the popup, and 100% less obnoxious!
The giveaway is not the only way to garner email addresses from site visitors (I’m not sold on compiling an email list as a marketing priority anyway.) Offering discounts, encouraging blog subscribers, and fun contests are all effective means to build that contact list — and all can be done without a popup! The real key with email though, if you must, is offering first contact on important information that people want to receive – eg in Northern Outdoor’s case snowmobile trail conditions direct from Trailmaster Jim (who’s too busy grooming to be chatting it up on social media.)