Time to grow again

6 minute read

I suspect that many of you who have taken a strict ‘consent’ based path through GDPR may be finding that your database is somewhat smaller than it used to be. This is not necessarily a bad thing – a small engaged database is much more valuable to your business than a larger uninterested one – nonetheless it may be time to start actively growing your subscribers again. There are lots of GDPR compliant ways to collect subscribers but for many online businesses the online form is a quick, simple and easily verifiable method.

So go create a form! But first, here are 4 tips to help you get started.

1. Make them easy to find and easy to fill

It sounds obvious but making your subscription forms easy to find on your website will significantly increase your success. Your ‘Home’ and ‘Contact Us’ pages are obvious candidates, but you can also use your Google Analytics intelligence to identify other popular entry and exit points. Either repeat your forms here or create a highly visible redirect. Consider a pop-up subscription form too. They can feel a little intrusive but done well there are lots of statistics to show how effective they can be.

Simplicity is also a key. The more data fields you ask for the less likely people are to complete and submit your form, even if some of your fields are optional. You can always come back and collect more information as your relationship develops – either through your welcome emails or your subsequent news and offers. Also, be careful when collecting more sensitive data – birthday, gender and location can be really useful profiling insights but if you are asking for information like this make it clear why it is valuable, how it will be used and the benefit the subscriber will receive in return.

2. Make it clear what you are collecting data for

The arrival of the new EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) has moved this from a best-practice to a ‘must-do’ item. GDPR requires that you make it clear at the point of data collection why data is being processed and who it will be accessible to. You need a separate justification for each processing purpose, so it’s no longer sufficient to be vague or non-committal about your intentions. It’s still good permission marketing practice anyway. Being clear about your data processing will help set an expectation and establish trust – both important ingredients in a successful and long term email marketing strategy.

3. Promote trust

There’s the trust word again – but this time in the context of data security. People are rightly and understandably cautious regarding their data security, especially online. You’ll need a Privacy Policy and visible documentation on how your subscribers’ data is stored and managed. If you do share or co-locate data, you’ll need to identify your sub-processors and reference their data security provisions too. Most new subscribers won’t need that much detail (it’s typically assumed that as a genuine email marketer you’ll have these bases completed covered), but there’s no harm adding a brief mention on your form referencing the fact that you take data security seriously and possibly adding a link to your Privacy Policy should they wish to investigate further.

4. Use a double opt-in process

Double opt-in is the process of verifying data before it’s added to your database. It’s not a legal requirement but it is a best-practice recommendation for many reasons, especially when you are adding new data for the first time.

Many people use a CAPTCHA type feature – this is designed to foil non-human form fillers by flummoxing them with a simple (to humans) tick box, repeat this, or question (‘how many birds are in the picture?). You can also add various algorithmic checks such as those verifying realistic email formats or telephone numbers.

Double opt-in takes the concept a little further by requiring that the data (e.g. the email address) is first verified as being correct. The usual process is to automatically trigger an opt-in email on submission of the form (platforms like Sign-Up.to have pre-built opt-in emails but also allow you to create your own). Only on successful receipt of the email and verification (usually by clicking of an included link) is the data added. You can then redirect your new subscriber back to your website to continue their new journey (p.s. don’t forget to send them an automated ‘welcome’ email too).