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7 Things Your Opt-In Forms Need to Do to Gain Email Subscribers

By Susan Gunelius

The following excerpt is from Susan Gunelius’ book Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound

It’s essential that the copy on your opt-in form excites your target audience and compels them to take action. They need to understand the value they’ll get when they give you their email addresses, and they need to feel confident doing so. To that end, following are seven things you should try to accomplish in your copy:

1. Answer the Question, “What’s in It for Me?”

An essential question that every marketing message should answer for consumers is, “What’s in it for me?” Your copy must explain the benefits your audience will get when they submit your opt-in form.

For example, if you’re not offering a lead magnet but, rather, simply inviting people to join your weekly newsletter list, what benefit do they get from subscribing? Instead of using copy that says, “Subscribe to my newsletter,” a fitness coach could use copy that says, “Subscribe now and get my weekly exercise video to keep the weight off.”

2. Describe the Offer

You must explain what people will get when they submit your opt-in form, or many of your website visitors won’t feel confident entering their email addresses. They have to feel like what you’re giving them is worth more than their email addresses. People are extremely protective of their inboxes, so be very clear in what you’re offering. In the fitness coach example above, the coach could have offered weekly exercise tips, but instead, the copy is extremely clear about what the coach is offering to subscribers—a weekly video with exercise tips.

3. Set Expectations

To boost confidence, it’s important to set clear expectations for what happens when someone submits your opt-in form. The first step is to explain how often they’ll hear from you. Will you email them weekly or monthly? Will you send occasional promotional messages? Again, refer to the previous fitness coach example and notice how the copy says subscribers will receive weekly messages. Leads know exactly what they’ll get and when they’ll get it when they submit the opt-in form. If the fitness coach plans to send additional promotional messages that are separate from the weekly video messages, they could add a phrase to the copy that says, “And occasional promotional messages announcing cool new products and offers.”

4. Build Trust

Many people who you’re trying to capture through your opt-in form won’t be familiar with your brand or will only vaguely recognize it, so it’s important to build trust with them immediately. They need to believe that you’ll deliver on what you’re promising in your opt-in form. To that end, add some proof to your opt-in form to support your claims.

For example, mention how many other people already subscribe in your opt-in form copy, saying something like, “Join 10,000 of your peers,” or “Join 10,000 people just like you.” If your target audience is made up of a specific segment of people, address them specifically in your copy. For example, a fitness coach whose clientele is made up of elite athletes could write: “Join 10,000 other high-performance athletes.” Adding this copy taps into people’s fear of missing out (FOMO). Subconsciously, they’ll think that if so many other people like them are already subscribing to your email list, they should as well, or they might miss something important.

If your form has enough room, include one or more testimonials. For example, if you’re a fitness coach offering a free ebook and you have a testimonial from a subscriber saying they lost ten pounds after using the tips in that ebook, display it on your opt-in form. For less relevant or specific testimonials, you could include copy before the testimonials that says, “Here’s what other subscribers are saying about us.”

5. Include a Powerful Call to Action

Your opt-in form should have a specific call to action (CTA). Most likely, you want people to enter their email addresses and click a button to be added to your email marketing list. Use a large and obvious call to action button in a color that contrasts with the rest of your form’s color palette so it’s easy to see. And use copy that’s action-oriented. For example, if you’re offering an ebook as a lead magnet, use copy that says, “Send me my ebook now,” or “Get my ebook now.” There should be no question what a visitor should do next after viewing your opt-in form.

6. Integrate Your Opt-In Form Copy with the Design

Your opt-in form copy doesn’t have to include every one of these elements. Many opt-in forms are small, and you don’t have a lot of room for copy. Usually, the simpler your opt-in forms are, the better. Also, consider how much information you’re trying to collect from leads through your opt-in form. The more fields you include and the more information you try to collect, the lower your conversion rates will be and the less room you’ll have for powerful messages to attract and convert visitors into subscribers. Yes, it’s nice to have people’s titles and company names, but is that information truly necessary for your future marketing programs to work? Limit your forms to as few fields as possible, and your results will improve.

7. Write Beyond the Opt-In Form

Your copywriting doesn’t end with the opt-in form. What happens when someone submits that form? Will they be taken to a page on your website that thanks them for subscribing? You need to write that, too. In addition, you should follow up with an email message that thanks them for subscribing and welcomes them to your community. If your opt-in offer promised a tangible incentive, such as an ebook or white paper, you need to deliver it via email.

Next, think beyond the opt-in welcome message. If you don’t send a newsletter often (or at all), it’s important that you create an email automation with a sequence of messages so you can continue to build a relationship with every subscriber.

Susan Gunelius is CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc., a marketing communications and strategic branding company. She has authored a dozen books about marketing, branding, social media, copywriting and technology and is the founder and editor in chief of, a blog for business women.

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