Email Marketing: 5 biggest errors with opt-In incentives

Kristina Rutherford, email marketing expert, spells out where you are going wrong
Kristina Rutherford
Kristina Rutherford

With the highest return on investment of all marketing activities, email marketing is essential for any entrepreneur looking to grow their business. 

Most entrepreneurs use opt-in incentives to grow their email list. This could be a lead magnet, like a downloadable guide, a video series, a mini-course or a discount. There is a huge variety out there to pick from.

However, far too often I hear entrepreneurs complain that their email list is not growing despite having an opt-in incentive. When I look at this with my clients there are 5 common mistakes that are getting in the way of growing their email list. 

Is your email list growth stalled because of these mistakes?

Mistake 1: Not knowing if your opt-in incentive is making an impact

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing is not measuring their results. The same is true with opt-in incentives. Whilst it’s important to know that your email list is growing, you also need to understand if your opt-in incentive is performing well.

So how do you know if your opt-in incentive is pulling its weight? You need to assess it against these average stats for the type of opt-in incentive you have. To do this you need to find out the percentage of people who sign-up to your email list when they are invited to receive the incentive on the sign-up form. Most email service providers supply this kind of data, expressed as a percentage, as part of the stats for the sign-up form. You want to make sure that you are measuring your results to know what’s working. One idea is to use an Online Click-Through-Rate Calculator to tell if your campaigns and email marketing tactics are having a positive impact.

Whilst it’s true to say there is a variety of options when it comes to creating an opt-in incentive for your email list, not all lead magnets are created equal and their performance can vary dramatically. So comparing one type of sign-up to something completely different won’t help you understand what’s working (and what’s not working!). So you need to ensure you are assessing your opt-in incentive with the correct comparator. Use the table below to get a feel for whether your opt-in incentive is pulling its weight.

So when you are checking to see if your opt-in incentive is performing well, you need to first compare it to these average stats. If you’re below average, then it’s not performing for you. If your opt-in incentive is getting a lot of traffic and the results are not measuring up then it’s time to take a look at the opt-in incentive itself and consider mistakes 2-5, which I discuss below. If your traffic is low and you’ve had less than 100 people see your opt-in page, then it’s likely your results aren’t yet reliable and you need to focus on getting your traffic up, so make sure you check out mistake 5.

As you will see from the table above, certain opt-in incentives perform so much better than others, giving you the opportunity to grow your list much faster. Quizzes grow your email list so much faster than all the rest if you have the right strategy in place. So, if you don’t have a quiz in place, it’s time to seriously consider one!

Mistake 2: Not tailoring the opt-in incentive to your target audience

If you don’t tailor your opt-in incentive to your target audience then you are not going to get the results shown in the table above. You need to ensure that your opt-in incentive provides value to your target audience - it should go some way toward helping them to understand and solve a problem they have. If you have a broad target audience, consider making a specific opt-in incentive that targets each of your main customer segments. As with all marketing, the more targeted it is, the more likely you are to get results.

If you are stuck on what would be of value to your target audience, think about the questions you get asked all the time and create something that helps address one or more of those questions.

Mistake 3:  Not considering what stage of the customer journey you are targeting with your opt-in incentive

Individuals at the start of the customer journey have different needs from those that are ready to choose a solution and buy. When you create an opt-in incentive, consider where in the customer journey you want to target. If you are targeting people who are not problem aware then your opt-in incentive should help them with their understanding. If you are targeting your lead magnet at prospects who are already aware of the problem and are actively seeking solutions then a general educational opt-in probably won’t deliver results as you are not providing the value they need. Towards the bottom of the funnel and customer journey you are more likely to get success if you help the individual navigate the numerous options available to them and reduce overwhelm.

Mistake 4:   Not having an email and sales strategy aligned to your opt-in incentive

The success of an opt-in incentive should be measured on more than getting a sign-up to your email list. It should be part of a broader email strategy. 

For example one of the opt-in incentives I have had great success with in the past is a personalised rainbow poster for a personalised children’s clothing brand. Those that signed-up got a personalised poster to download and print with their child's name on it. The opt-in clearly aligned with the clothing brand and used the signature design of the brand. The opt-in was so popular it grew my email list by over 500% in just three months. 

But what also happened was that my revenue per email subscriber increased because people who signed-up were clearly attracted to personalised designs. They knew how their child's name would then look on the other personalised products in the range and went on to buy products with the same design. There was a clear alignment between the opt-in incentive, and the email and sales strategy, which is what made it so effective.

So once you have the person on your email list, you need to continue to support that person by providing additional value whilst also helping them through the customer journey to a point where they are ready to buy from you. 

Personalisation in your opt-in choice makes this so much easier. For example, consider a quiz where participants get an outcome based on their answers. Those answers and the outcome of the quiz can help you to continue to personalise the emails they receive from you moving forward so you can tailor your marketing to meet their needs.

Mistake 5:   Not being creative enough about how you promote your opt-in incentives

How many opt-in incentives just sit on a link tree page? If your audience doesn't really know it’s there then it will not work for you, the traffic to your sign-up form will be low and it’s not going to help you grow your list and your business. 

So you need to ensure that you promote your opt-in incentives. I get asked all the time where you should promote your opt-in incentive and my standard answer is everywhere. And I stand by that. But you also need to consider how you can creatively get your opt-in incentive out there. 

If you have created an opt-in incentive that provides value then you would be doing the world a disservice if you didn’t promote it! 

And don’t just stick to the online world only, create a QR code and get sign ups to your opt-in incentive in real life as well as online, whether that’s at workshops, a trade fair, holding a stall at an event, networking events, literally everywhere you can!

Kristina is a growth marketing strategist that helps small business owners grow their business to meet their goals. Through consultancy, courses and content she enables business owners to create simple marketing strategies that effectively deliver their goals, whilst also aligning with who they are and their other commitments. You can often find her hanging out in her free facebook group: Business and Marketing Strategy for Soloprenuers

Written by
Kristina Rutherford
Written by
April 20, 2023