The Most Counter-Productive Technique Marketers Use to Gain Subscribers The Pop-Up Problem Many online marketers are willing to try anything to get people to subscribe, but some of our efforts can actually put customers off. Spam is the first to come to mind, but I?m talking about something else. In fact, it?s not even a black hat technique. It?s the pop-up. I don?t mean the pop-up ad trying to direct you to another site, or to buy another product. I mean the pop-ups asking for subscription on the self-same site, usually before you?ve spent anytime there at all. Most often, they feature irritating messages like, ?If you like this content, why not subscribe?? Nine times out of ten, the pop-up loads before the content. Having a window that appears to ask your readers to subscribe isn?t the worst plan in the world, even if it is a little pushy. Some people need that extra call to action. The problem for many sites is that pop-ups fail to serve a purpose or add value to the user. There are a number of issues associated with the feature, and the subscription they offer: Aesthetics - no matter how well-designed your pop-up is, it will never look good. User Experience - having to close a box so that you can read the content you came for is one of those minor irritations that can completely change your opinion of a site. Value - more and more often, websites using mailing lists are failing to offer quality to subscribers. It doesn?t take much to rectify these issues. You just have to change your marketing mentality and put your customers first and realize that your subscriptions is not your visitors? first priority. Timing is Everything When it comes to user experience, I?ve always found pop-ups to be a detriment, effective though they may be. I?ve always felt as if they were getting in the way of the true value. They?re pesky creatures, like flies buzzing around your head. Knowing their value to marketing, I wouldn?t dismiss the use of them altogether. But they are becoming increasingly obnoxious. In the past, pleas for subscriptions were found in the top-right hand corner, in a similar location to the ?like? button on pages in FB. They sat, unassuming, often overlooked, off to one side. It was only when you were looking to subscribe that you ever noticed the call-to-action. Otherwise, they sat at the bottom of content, almost as an afterthought. Pop-ups were a separate, and usually less valuable item altogether. They were adverts for third-parties, or offers and discounts. They usually hovered on the page, just to the side or along the bottom, always off-centre. You could read around them if you chose. Then, the two became one, springing up slap-bang in the middle of your screen, covering everything you were looking at. Suddenly, your passive browsing is being challenged. You?re asked to do something, to interact, to divulge information. The first time I encountered this kind of pop-up, the little ?x? in the corner was virtually invisible and I mistook the optional subscription for a requirement. I left the site immediately. Now they?re much more common, but I?m still loath to remain on a site that confronts me with the eyesore. It feels like a salesman has seen me opening up the morning paper, and just pushed a promotional leaflet in my face. Can?t you see I?m reading here? I do a lot of research in my day-to-day and as a result, when I?m online I?m usually looking for content. Which means, once I?ve gone through a search engine and found a site which looks relevant, I want to read that content. This is not the time to impede my research with a plea for subscriptions. When it was off to one side, out of the way, it was a pledge of allegiance to a company. Now it's a begrudging acceptance of their influence. It doesn?t feel like a choice anymore. But it used to be, no different from leaving a comment. And you wouldn?t use a pop-up to ask for posts would you? If you have to beg me to join your list, at least have the decency to wait. Let me read the content before you badger me for private details. Let me see if you?re worth subscribing to. Because if you won?t let me take the time to read your content, I won?t take the time to close your pop-up. I?ll just go elsewhere. Exclusivity The other reason I?ve come to resent the pop-up, is the way they ruined subscriber?s lists. In all honesty, I don?t subscribe all that often. There are only a handful of sites privy to my email address and, in the interest of maintaining my spam-free box, I?d like to keep it that way. There?s no need to subscribe to the sites I use regularly, for that very reason. I?m there regularly. I don?t need updates, or news, and the so-called discounts are negligible. Once upon a time, the option to subscribe was something for the people who were enthusiastic enough to want news the moment it came out. There was an air of exclusivity to the mailing lists back then. If you were on a list, you were part of a membership, a fan club of a particular product or content, granted the privilege of information before anybody else, with special offers and products only subscribers had access to. Now, the climate has changed. More people are subscribing than ever, which is what companies want. And much of that has to be attributed to the pop-up. But at what cost? With a larger list, online businesses seem to be losing the ability to use high-quality email marketing. Subscribers of late are rewarded with constant pleas to come back to the website, pointless updates and worthless offers. The lack of focused targeting that an email list once allowed has all but eroded the value of subscribing. Moving Forward Pop-ups aren?t going anywhere anytime soon. That much is clear. The value of a large email list for a company is huge. But if businesses are to continue using them, they need to start considering their audience more. Pop-ups need to be more than just a request for subscription. There need to be some ground-rules laid out at that first moment, so that I know my email won?t be shared, won?t be bombarded with spam, and won?t be filled with irrelevant updates. Make an effort to tailor the experience, and show it in the pop-up so that I feel I?m being offered something, rather than begged for something. Or, the lazy route, actually offer me something. (Pop-ups aren?t so bad when they give me discounts.) Recently, I have come across sites using pop-ups more efficiently. They seem to have been set to appear only when the reader reaches the bottom of the article. This means they no longer have to obstruct the reading. I?ve also seen them as large panels in the bottom right, which looks less obnoxious and feels more like a reminder than a demand. After all, there was a reason it was done this way in the beginning: subscribing was an afterthought. Maybe not for the company, but for the users. Customers should be the first concern for any business, and their priority is the content - not your mailing list! So make sure your content is up to scratch and the subscriptions will follow. Then be sure to make the best use of your emails to ensure there?s real value in subscribing. Ask yourself, is your pop-up putting people off? And how are you adding value through your email marketing?