2 amazing secrets — no, make that 14 astounding secrets to getting more email signups

by guest blogger Brady Josephson is the Vice President of Innovation & Optimization at NextAfter.

I’m kind of obsessed with email acquisition. Here’s why:

Nextafter-traffic-vs-revenue-ffn

This graph, from one of our clients, shows traffic across all of their different channels (in blue) and the corresponding revenue (in orange). For this client, and most that we work with, email is not only a high traffic source but also an incredibly high revenue source, often with the highest average gift among online channels.

And the value of email isn’t just from direct revenue. Look at what happens when offline donors also get email communication with integrated fundraising (data from over 20 large nonprofits):

Nextafter-integrated-fundraising-ffn

Offline donors gave 90% more when they received email communication. Donor retention — that thing that basically determines the lifetime value of a donor which is the most important metric for your fundraising — also went up 29% (even if they never gave online).

So emails help with revenue, online and offline, both for today and the future. Pretty good case to get some more emails … but how do you go about getting more emails?

Well, one way to grow your email file is to have a great landing page. But the most effective email acquisition pages look a lot different than you might expect. Many “best practice” landing pages include big header images, in-line quotations, and have minimal copy so that visitors get to the form faster.

But when we tested more than 80 different email acquisition landing pages, we found that these “best practices” may actually be hurting conversion rates and preventing organizations from acquiring those incredibly valuable emails.

Through those tests, we found 13 proven ways to improve your email signup page essential elements that were statistically proven to improve conversion rates and help you acquire more emails (and potential donors for your organization):

  1. Use a linear layout
  2. Use a text-only headline; not a banner image
  3. If you use a background image, make sure it matches your advertising
  4. Add social proof
  5. Write 2-3 short paragraphs of copy to convey your value proposition
  6. Use a primary image, not a video, if it adds clarity or increases continuity
  7. Avoid supporting content in-line with the main content
  8. Add a call-to-action header and copy
  9. Use as few form fields as possible
  10. Group form fields together to reduce page length
  11. Consider adding qualifying questions to increase user’s expectation
  12. For supporting content, use testimonials or endorsements
  13. Add a privacy statement below the submit button

Many of those ways are related to design — like don’t use video or banner images — but after having just signed up for email from 152 different Canadian charities (it’s for a study I’m doing … I’m not a masochist…) the biggest area of opportunity, or thing that made me most sad while doing it, wasn’t the design, but a lack of value proposition (#5: Use 2-3 short paragraphs of copy to convey your value proposition).

Two thirds of organizations that I signed up with used a sentence or less. It’s pretty hard to communicate value in less than a sentence and it is the most important factor that influences signups: your value proposition.

So the best tool you have at your disposal to motivate people to act — copy — is barely being used!

That’s why only 6% of organizations got top marks for ‘appeal’ (would your ideal donor like it) and just 8% were great at conveying ‘exclusivity’ (would your ideal donor get that anywhere else?). This shows how much work there is to be done.

Email acquisition, which is your best route to online revenue, isn’t just about having a form on your website (of course that’s needed) but it’s about communicating value to potential donors and letting them know why they should sign up for emails. And the best way to do that is with good copy which takes much more than a sentence.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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