So it’s no shock, then, that email opt-in forms can be found on almost every blog and eCommerce site. As these stats prove, email is still one of the most effective ways of reaching and building a meaningful relationship with your target market.
But what separates an email opt-in form that converts amazingly, achieving countless sign ups every hour, to one that sits idle, generating hardly any sign ups at all?
This is the key question we’re going to be answering in this article, calling on well-founded research and a couple of examples of opt-in forms done properly.
You’ll be relieved to know that there are a few tried and tested principles that, if followed correctly, should turn any ignored, low performing opt-in form into a subscriber generating machine.
These principles aren’t fads or short term tricks to temporarily get you a hit of subscribers. They are well established, well researched techniques that are based on human psychology. These principles worked well 10 years ago and we’re confident will work well 10 years from now.
Part 1: The Principles
The seven principles of persuasion are based on work by Robert B. Cialdini, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. And they’re covered in detail in his best-selling book, Influence: Science and Practice, which was first published in 2000.
After decades of extensive research and experimentation Cialdini established these seven main principles of persuasion. The principles have since been tested year after year and still perform as well as they have always done.
Because they are rooted in human psychology that hasn’t changed in thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of years, unlike online trends and tactics that often change monthly or yearly.
Whether it’s a high performing TV ad, PPC ad, salesperson, marketer or opt-in form – one thing they all have in common is that they all incorporate at least one of the below principles:
Principle 1 – Reciprocity
People instinctively want to return a favour. This principle largely explains the popularity of free samples in marketing as well as the reason why compliance professionals offer a small gift to potential customers.
Principle 2 – Commitment & Consistency
If people commit to an idea or goal by saying it aloud or writing it down, then they are much more likely to honour that commitment. That’s because they now see it as being a part of their self-image.
Principle 3 – Social Proof
People often look to others similar to themselves when making decisions. This is particularly common in circumstances of uncertainty, risk or ambiguity.
Principle 4 – Authority
People are inclined to obey or be swayed strongly by authority figures. Even if they are asked to carry out unpleasant acts.
Principle 5 – Liking
People are persuaded by others that they like or those that are physically attractive.
Principle 6 – Scarcity
People are naturally persuaded by perceived scarcity. For example, if a retailer says an offer is “available today only”, that encourages sales.
Principle 7 – Unity/Shared Identity
The more a person identifies themselves with others, the more that person is influenced by those others.
Part 2: Examples Of High Performing Opt-in Forms
Now let’s take a look at some a-class examples of sign up forms that successfully generate new subscribers.
This opt-in form works so well as it makes good use of:
Principle 1 (reciprocity) – The opt-in box is offering the visitor something for free (the eBook) in return for a favour (visitor’s name and email address).
Principle 3 (social proof) – It clearly states that 40,000 others have joined the mailing list, which naturally lessens the uncertainty/risk of signing up in the user’s mind.
Principle 7 (unity/shared identity) – The visitor is informed that by joining they will be with thousands of their “peers”. In other words, people just like them.
This opt-in form works brilliantly well as it makes good use of:
Principle 1 (reciprocity) – The opt-in box is offering the user something for free (free weekly tips on “how to leverage online marketing” etc) in return for a favour (visitor’s first name and email address).
Principle 3 (social proof) – The bottom of the opt-in box has the logos of highly respected, long standing publications including Forbes and Time Magazine. This is used to instil a great feeling of trust in the visitor’s mind. Which reduces any uncertainty or perceived risk of signing up.
Principle 5 (liking) – The man pictured on the right of the opt-in box is someone the visitor likely aspires to look like and thus finds pleasing/attractive.
Principle 4 (authority) – The way the man is dressed positions him as an authority figure as he is perceived to have achieved what a large proportion of those visiting the blog want and aspire to.
This opt-in form works fantastically as it makes great use of:
Principle 1 (reciprocity) – Website visitors are offered something for free (access to 85% of Noah’s best business hacks) in return for a small favour (their email address).
Principle 3 (social proof) – The footer of the opt-in box has a positive quote from a notable figure in the marketing world, who has interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs and marketers. This adds credibility and greatly minimises any feeling of uncertainty the visitor may have about signing up.
Principle 5 (liking) – The large picture of Noah on the left of the opt in form goes a long way in increasing his likability, especially as he’s smiling and has good dental hygiene and straight teeth. This may sound trivial, but both of these things have been proven to have a great positive persuasive effect in many circumstances.
We’re confident that if you incorporate at least one of Cialdini’s seven tried and tested, researched based principles into your opt-in forms you will likely see a big jump in subscribers.
They’ve been used for decades by companies, big and small, in pretty much every industry to great effect. So, test one or more of them out – we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Or try using these marketing psychology hacks in your email campaigns and watch them boost engagement.