Ryan Allis

Ryan Allis is the CEO and co-founder of iContact, a leading on-demand email marketing service. As CEO, he's managed iContact from its start in July 2003 to its current size with more than 90 employees and 25,000 customers worldwide. In 2005, Ryan was named by BusinessWeek as one of the "Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25." Ryan is also the author book Zero to One Million: How I Built a Company To $1 Million in Sales and How You Can Too, published by McGraw-Hill. As an email marketing expert, Ryan will provide guidance in his blog posts on how to enhance and improve your online marketing campaigns.

Last time I talked about some ways to build a large and valuable contact list. I talked about seminars, point-of-sale sign-up forms and events. Customers who you can't meet in person should still be able to join your contact list. That's why it's important to have an effective sign-up form on your website. Here are four tips to creating an effective sign-up form. 

1.Positioning: As with everything else in email marketing, you want your form to be visible without being overwhelming. I've found that the best spot for a sign-up form is  on the top-right of the page, on the left navigation bar or at the bottom of the page after your content.

2.Enticement:  Whenever someone signs up for your newsletter, he must know why joining is a benefit. Remember, it's an exchange: you trade valuable content for a customer's time. It's a good idea to provide a tag line with your form. It shouldn't be anything fancy, just a simple explanation of what the newsletter provides. Try something along the lines of “Subscribe to the Garden Tips Monthly Newsletter now to receive tips, tricks and techniques from experts.”

3.Offer Opt-in Incentives: Another way of providing value is to offer some kind of incentive for joining a list. Customers are likely to sign up if they receive bonuses like whitepapers, discounts or special reports.

4.Form Design: Make sure that your sign-up form is clear and straightforward. I've found that it's best to keep requested information to a minimum. Many sites initially ask for first name and email. You can always request more information if you need to segment your list.

Don't forget to include your privacy policy on the form's page. Make sure that it's clearly stated that you will respect your contact's privacy. 

Next time, I'll talk about some of the challenges we face when trying to get our messages delivered.