How do you convince complete strangers that you’re the kind of person who can trusted to sell them something?
Something that won’t make them regret their decision to take a chance on you?
Simple. You get them to know, like, and trust you. Then you pitch them.
This is standard direct response doctrine. And one of the best ways to go about it is to get these complete strangers onto your newsletter and send them a sequence of messages containing the kind of material that will help them to gradually come to “know, like, and trust” you.
You will find some examples of the message crafting needed to make this happen elsewhere on these blog pages. Here I want to concentrate on what happens just prior to the sign up.
In particular I am going to address filtering.
In other words, to what degree should we take action to qualify our “applicants” before we allow them to subscribe?
Before we get to specific approaches let’s better define the nature of the sign up process I am thinking about, just so you can see whether or not it also corresponds to the one you might have in mind.
There are just TWO key characteristics of our filter:
- It is an entirely automated online process.
With the exception of our collection of lead-generation funnel pages and possibly software, no one is screening applicants manually. This is important if our ultimate goal is to painlessly scale the lead generation process (because we will not need to hire additional screeners).
- It supports the (optional) use of list segmentation.
This means if we want to subdivide our subscribers into groups for the purpose of custom messaging then our list management service or software can handle it (note: all the leading autoresponder services offer segmentation capability). Or at the very least we are willing to set up multiple lists and pop the segmented subscriber onto the appropriate one.
I am going to further limit the approaches to filtering to just the ones I have implemented myself in some fashion. This shortens the list to exactly three approaches: squeeze pages, advertorials, and quizzes.
Let’s take a look at their strengths and weaknesses.
APPROACH #1: Squeeze Page
This is the bread and butter approach for most marketing service providers.
Once you manage to convince a client they need to build a list of subscribers you will have no trouble selling them on the notion of a squeeze page. That is because, at its barest minimum, the squeeze page consists of nothing more than a sign up form requesting the visitor’s email address.
Typically this page which “squeezes” the email address from the prospective subscriber is going to have a headline and some copy (usually a few bullets). The purpose of these is to provide compelling reasons for handing over the email address.
The page may also include a short video and/or an image of the lead magnet. But it is typically a low-investment creation which offers the client (the party which commissioned it) the “fast and cheap” option to landing page creation.
Once you have built one squeeze page you can use it as the template for the next one. This means turn-around time on deploying one of these pages is fairly short.
Simplicity, speed, lack of serious expense. These are the main benefits of the squeeze page.
The main disadvantage of the squeeze page is that it catches a ton of “window shoppers”.
These are the people your traffic-generation activities have carried to your landing page who have no real interest in obtaining the widget that you ultimately intend to try to sell to them. But they will hand over their email address out of curiosity for what it is you are willing to give them for free as incentive for doing so.
The majority of them will never buy a thing from you no matter how hard you work to build that level of “know, like, and trust”. You can explain this to your client, but your arguments will likely fall on deaf ears. After all, more subscribers? What could possibly be wrong with that?
Well, what could be wrong with having a very large list of people who are at best luke warm about you and your offer is this:
- Because they rarely open your messages they will drag down all the metrics you attempt to use to determine the effectiveness of your marketing strategies.
- They drive up the monthly cost of your autoresponder service (because more subscribers = higher fees).
- They lower your email deliverability because they are much more likely to report your messages as spam than as solicited and valuable content.
- They complain a lot. After all, you are not sending them content about the things they really care about (this is the very definition of the unfiltered subscriber).
- They frustrate the heck out of you because no matter how much you try to please them you just do not get anywhere.
So, is there a better way to collect your leads than to use a plain squeeze page?
Yes. Yes there is. We will take a look at that next.
By the way, if you would like a much more textured discussion of the value of squeeze pages and the ways in which they can be implemented see my article on lucrative list-building processes.
APPROACH #2: Advertorial Page
One way to dramatically improve the quality of your newsletter subscribers is to put a filter between your traffic source and your sign up page.
Probably the simplest effective filter is the advertorial. I have written elsewhere about the design considerations for advertorials.
The advertorial is essentially an article which provides value to your visitor. It does this by educating and entertaining them on the topic they have come to learn more about (as suggested in the copy of your advertisement if you are using paid advertising to generate your leads).
When the visitor lands on your advertorial they are greeted with what looks like a plain article. There is no obvious solicitation for their email address. Before learning that this is indeed what you are after they first need to consume the article. Only then do they discover a link to a squeeze page, or perhaps an opt-in form at the end of the article.
Most people landing on your advertorial are not going to be sufficiently interested in what it is you have to tell them that they will stick around very long. Certainly not long enough to learn about the opt-in option and the lead magnet awaiting them.
This is how the advertorial works as a filter, improving the quality of the leads that ultimately sign up for your newsletter.
This lead quality sharpening effect represents the main benefit of the advertorial.
The disadvantage to building it out is that you must plan out your advertorial content and then create (write) it.
Because you are trying to repel the dead wood while at the same time you are working hard to pull the quality lead towards the sign up option, you need to deploy your direct response copywriting skills here.
So writing a good advertorial represents a little bit of work. The more qualified you want to make those leads, the longer the piece should be and the harder it should work to prove that you are someone whose opinion is worthy of the reader’s attention.
Andre Chaperon uses this filtering approach (he refers to it as preselling) to create opt-in funnels for which the opt-in form is preceded by as many as a dozen pages. This requires the reader to click through to the next page multiple times to prove their worthiness for being admitted to the newsletter.
No wonder then that Andre is able to boast of exceedingly high open rates on his messages and fantastic conversion rates on his affiliate promotions. This is because his subscribers have already run the gantlet with him. There is no dead wood on his list to dilute his marketing metrics.
So the advertorial is really effective when it comes to building a highly responsive tribe of followers.
Is there anything else that can be done to sharpen conversions?
Yes. But it generally requires some real work to pull off…
APPROACH #3: Quiz
Quizzes are a great way to encourage people to engage with your lead generation funnel.
But because they are also generally designed as a sequence of multiple-choice questions they demand focused attention for a certain length of time (generally at least a minute, but perhaps several). This provides you with the opportunity to do two things.
The first is that you can elect to reduce the “let through” rate of your filter. You can do this by using questions and answers that will repel anyone who thinks the questions or the answers are too probing or narrow for their liking, or they just plain disagree with the reader’s world view. You can also make the questions longer and requiring of more thought from the quiz taker. In a sense this would be equivalent to the multi-page approach of an Andre Chaperon presell site, but in quiz format.
The second thing you can do with a quiz is to use the quiz taker’s responses to segment them in some way. For example, you might segment them by stage of awareness for what it is you intend to sell them. That way you can send extra messages to those who need to be brought up to speed, without bothering the more aware segments that do not need to be reminded in this way. Segmentation is a form of filtering.
Note that you can also achieve simple segmentation in some cases when using a squeeze page. If you believe your audience is self-aware enough to be able to correctly identify which segment they belong to based on a single question posed to them then you could add a drop down menu option in the sign up form. In contrast, when the audience cannot be expected to have ANY idea of the segment to which they might belong without answering a series of carefully pre-selected questions, then the quiz is the appropriate vehicle for performing the audience segmentation.
Clearly the quiz offers a lot of flexibility in the way you might go about your filtering. Plus it offers segmentation. This makes it a powerful approach to filtering your leads. By the time the subscriber has opted into your newsletter you know an awful lot about them and what kind of messaging is likely to resonate with them.
But quizzes are costly and technically burdensome. So in practice very few marketers actually get around to deploying them.
However, quizzes that have been well thought out and which tap into a psychological need in the marketplace can do REALLY well, allowing the quiz creators to scale up their lead generation activities until they have acquired, in some cases, millions or even tens of millions of subscribers.
When it comes to muddling your way through the complexities that crop up in quiz design the goto person for this has to be Ryan Levesque. His ASK Method approach to building segmentation funnels would be hard to beat. I have written about the ASK Method elsewhere on this site, including this article on how to build your first ASK Method sales funnel.
Building a large list of newsletter subscribers can be one of the most lucrative marketing activities you will engage in.
But if you build the wrong kind of list you will end up disappointed when it comes to trying to monetize it.
A little consideration up front about how to appropriately filter your leads, before you dive into the construction of your lead generation funnel, is likely to pay off in a much smaller but also a much more engaged group of subscribers (tribe members).
These will be people who take up much less of your time and do more of the things you want them to do, like buy your stuff and beg you to offer them more opportunities to do it again.
I have given you the pros and cons for three different approaches to lead generation: the squeeze page, the advertorial, and the quiz.
But this is not an exhaustive list. For example, you could offer an evergreen webinar as a filter, with the opt-in form on the FAR side of the webinar if you really wanted a tightly targeted audience.
Really the options for performing effective filtering are only limited by your imagination and your budget.