The initial sign-in (or sign-up) screen is a good opportunity to ask clarifying questions and get detailed information on each customer. You can ask questions about their e-mailing preferences (daily, weekly, monthly), shopping habits, location, psychographics, and more. Only ask questions that will help you deliver more relevant e-mail messages. Potential customers usually only answer additional questions if they see the value in giving that information: a pregnant mother may be interested in getting offers/advice timed to her delivery date; the car repair buff may self-select to get information about certain types of cars and not others. Only ask for state information if it is very relevant, such as for special offers and shipping issues that are location-specific. For example, it is possible to ship scarves to all 50 states but not wine. In some cases, such as loan applications, asking lots of detailed questions is okay. But it’s not the norm for a basic e-mail marketing opt-in, so make your clarifying questions count. Every question asked will reduce the likelihood of someone completing the sign-in form. Most forms ask only for a first name and e-mail address. That’s it. Pick your marketing questions wisely.
Questions can also be asked after sign-up, as you get to know your customers better. Additional questions will help further refi ne and segment the lists. Every purchase (or action such as downloading a white paper) can be added to a customer’s profile with solid database management. Even nonpurchase browsing can be tracked if your website has a sign-in that relies on cookies (for example, you can browse Amazon anonymously or signed-in). An easy way to get clarity on how to deliver e-mails that users want is being up front and e-mailing new subscribers to ask them a few questions to help serve them better.
The opt-in page can also be a place where customers determine the format of their e-mails (text versus HTML), frequency (daily, weekly, monthly), and types of communications they want (newsletter, coupons, tutorials, etc.). Most third-party e-mail management companies have representatives or account managers who can support marketers on best practices or have e-books or FAQs with tips on their websites.