If you’re trying to build your mailing list, chances are good that you’ve considered implementing an opt-in bonus, offering your site visitors a discount or free trial, for example, in exchange for their email address.

The web is awash in these kinds of offers, but they may not be the most effective way to get potential customers in your sales funnel. Here are some new, creative options and savvy strategies for email opt-ins, courtesy of Jennifer Bourn, creative director and strategist at full service design agency Bourn Creative.

Be specific

“Back in 2008 when we started really getting into opt-in offers, an email newsletter was something special, and then it became less special because everybody was jumping on that bandwagon,” Bourn recalls.

As people’s inboxes become overloaded, they’re less likely to opt-in to a newsletter they don’t see as incredibly useful and valuable. Narrowing your focus is the antidote, so try discovering very specific problems and helping your readers solve them in your email newsletter. This will also help increase the percentage of opt-ins that convert to paying clients.

In contrast, very broad or general newsletters that try to appeal to too many people or try to solve too many problems can lower both your opt-in and conversion rates. “The more general your marketing, the more you’re trying to hit everyone, the more you’re going to struggle, and the harder it’s going to be,” warns Bourn. In contrast, “the more niche, highly focused and targeted you can get, the more success you’re going to have, and the easier your marketing is going to be.”

Try these options to help boost your email opt-ins:

Option#1: Video

Bourn has noticed that highly targeted video series or webinars do very well. Three 10-minute webinars or three short videos targeting a very specific topic or solving a specific problem are quick and easy to consume.

For example, Kendall SummerHawk offers a webinar that Bourn reports is converting at almost 80 percent. SummerHawk’s content has descriptive titles, is high quality and outlines the specific benefits, which has contributed to her success.

Option #2: Mini-courses

Rosetta Thurman, founder and CEO of Happy Black Woman, offers an entire mini-course, including a workbook and audio. She guides readers through taking action rather than leaving them on their own. “She gets a lot of referrals directly to that opt-in from people who have downloaded it and gotten a lot of clarity from the resource,” Bourn says.

Option #3: Recipes

If your clients or prospects are always looking for recipes, a digital cookbook may be a great opt-in gift. Conscious Cleanse has offered just that. The 70-page PDF has recipes for great-tasting and simple meals along with nutrition facts, and those who opt-in are likely to turn into paying clients who buy the book or sign up for the cleanse program.

Option #4: The reverse opt-in

Some businesses are eschewing the quid pro quo of giving something for an email address and instead coming up with creative ways to get customer contact info. For example, Maya Smart has no opt-in but offers readers the opportunity to ask a question she can answer in an email or on her blog.

Whether this will work for you depends on the specific audience you’re trying to reach. Those with questions about the basics will respond best to opt-in incentives. “The more higher-end your market is, the less appropriate an opt-in offer becomes,” says Bourn. That’s because busier people don’t have as much time to figure something out on their own, but would rather your business help them reach their goal faster. Always ensure your subscriber realizes they are signing up to receive something from you to maintain a strong relationship and avoid any complaints or unsubscribes.

An opt-in is just the beginning

Building your list and converting prospects into customers will require some effort and a bit of marketing oomph. So remember: Even the best opt-in strategy is just one piece of your marketing puzzle.

Have any clever opt-in strategies of your own? Share with us!
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© 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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