Have a look at the historical data on monthly new subscribers for my app’s mailing list:
See the significant increase starting December 2015? That’s due to the tricks I’m about to show you.
More precisely, only 8 people from 2,301 sessions (according to Google Analytics) signed up in November 2015, while in January, 71 people from 3,848 sessions signed up. This gives us the following conversion rates:
8 / 2301 = 0.35 % 71 / 3848 = 1.85 %
That’s probably still bad, but already an increase by a factor of 5.3! As the subscription rate may have been influenced by other factors, let’s “only” assume a quadrupling of the conversion rate, though.
And the measure to accomplish this was ridiculously simple.
Here’s How I Did It
Here’s my website before the changes:
After December 8th:
After January 8th:
I made a few more tweaks in January, but the most important change was simply to offer a 10% discount code for my app.
Books like Start Small, Stay Small tell you to give something away in order to make people sign up for your mailing list. A great example for this would be an email course or a mini-ebook on something your audience will be interested in. (As I learned today, these things are called “lead magnets”.)
But I didn’t have anything like that at hand. So, instead, I came up with something I could create immediately: a discount code.
I didn’t want to give each subscriber the same generic discount code (e.g. “NEWSLETTER10”), though. It just feels better if the code looks individually generated, just for them.
Now, this could be a lot of work — you need to set up a script that generates discount codes so that each subscriber gets a unique one.
But the code doesn’t need to be unique — it just needs to appear unique. So I simply went to random.org and picked a string that looked nice. I then created a discount with this specific code in FastSpring, my current payment provider (as explained in this guide).
The only thing left was to make the mailing list send out that key automatically. You could set up an automated email specifically for that. But each subscriber already gets an automated email: the subscription confirmation message! So I simply put the key in there.
Done! This small change took me about 15 minutes and already boosted my subscription rates enormously.
Impact on sales
Giving away a 10% discount to your app of course isn’t free, though: You might end up losing up to 10% of your revenue after all!
However, I could not identify a significant impact on sales. Customers do use the code, but my suspicion is that the potential loss of revenue per customer is offset by additional revenue from customers who wouldn’t even have purchased the app without the discount code!
Offering a lead magnet for subscribing is definitely the most important measure to boost your subscription rates. However, there are a few other tricks to make sure that no potential customer falls through the cracks.
Put the signup form on every page
Some visitors might not enter your website via its homepage. If you don’t have a signup form on every page, they might leave before having seen the signup form at all! To fix that, I added the form to every page:
If you do this, make sure to define the form as a common block in your CMS so that you only need to tweak it in one place.
I also added an option to subscribe on the contact form — people enter their email address there anyway, so why not subscribe already:
My metrics show that by far the most subscribers sign up on the homepage, but a few do come from the other pages.
Which brings us to the next point…
Track signup sources
Knowing which pages bring you the most signups (and have the highest conversion rates) can be incredibly valuable analytics data down the road. In order to track that, I’ve set up some extra fields in MailChimp, my current mailing list tool:
Make sure to mark these fields as hidden — you don’t want them to show up for your subscribers! Then, you only need to append &SOURCEPAGE=index, &SOURCEPAGE=faq etc. to your subscription form’s action URL and the data will show up in MailChimp. If you are using PHP, you could even generate that snippet automatically with e.g. &SOURCEPAGE=<?php echo basename($_SERVER[‘SCRIPT_NAME’], ‘.php’) ?> (most CMS have similar placeholders for this).
Only provide the discount code if you have to
If you watched closely, the screenshot above showed two more hidden fields. One of them is labeled “Provide Discount Code”. This is to avoid sending the discount codes to subscribers who were not offered it. Imagine a customer subscribing to your newsletter during the order process just to be told “Oh, look, you could have just saved 10% with this code!” afterward. Not a good experience. For this, all the forms that actually offer the discount code have an extra &DISCOUNT=1 appended to their action URL. The corresponding field is set up like this:
It is used in the MailChimp “Final welcome email” as follows:
This way, the discount is only shown to anyone whose DISCOUNT field is set to 1.
Change the copy for mobile users
When visitors are browsing your website from their phone, chances are they will completely forget to check it again later on their computer, when you could actually make the sale. In order to avoid that, my copy is slightly different for anyone not visiting the page on a Mac:
In this case, the signup form is simply offered as a means to get reminded about the app again later. There’s also a hidden REMINDERfield to track conversion rates for this copy, but I haven’t really investigated them yet 😉
And to make it even easier for them to get started, every signup email and page contains a direct link to download the app’s trial version:
Change the copy of the “Subscribe” button
Simply labeling your form’s button “Subscribe” is a bit bland. Something like “Get Discount!” or even “Get My Free Copy!” (in case you have a proper lead magnet) is supposed to work much better. And for mobile visitors, the button is accordingly relabeled as “Remind Me!”.
“No spam” promise
In order to make it more likely for someone to give out their email address, you can promise not to spam them. (Of course you shouldn’t spam them, anyway.) However, space on landing pages can be tight. So I decided to integrate the promise into the email box via the placeholderattribute:
No extra space wasted!
Only A/B test the important stuff
The color of your “Subscribe” button and whether its label includes an exclamation mark are things that are unlikely to have a big impact on the conversion rate. Instead, trust your gut and spend the precious A/B testing time on more important things — like significant copy changes (more on that in another article) or different lead magnets.
In the future, I’m planning to actually build a proper lead magnet (probably an email campaign on time tracking or improving your productivity).
For that, I’m planning to switch to Drip, as it makes setting up email campaigns much easier. Plus, I need to email my list more regularly.
I might also do an A/B test to see if changing the form’s copy to “Enter your email address for a 10% discount” further increases signup rates.
Lastly, I have recently doubled my website’s trial download conversion rate, just by changing the sales copy. Stay tuned for a post on that!
Conclusion: Fake It Until You Make It
You don’t need to wait for anything to improve your newsletter signups.
You don’t need a complex email campaign.
You don’t need a proper lead magnet.
The most important thing is to get started now — just hack something together! It might already be better than what you had before and you can figure out further improvements along the way.
What are your experiences with improving conversion rates? Hit me up on Twitter!