Don’t skimp out on your subscription forms

We noticed a trend in speaking with marketers and salespeople: many tend to overcomplicate parts of the marketing funnel (a convoluted lead scoring matrix and emails that don’t convert well are good examples) –  subscription forms on the other hand often don’t receive enough attention. Why? Because they are perceived as plain, old and boring. There is no instant gratification. Subscribers aren’t calling your sales team. This shortsighted mindset needs a reset.

Think of your subscription forms as the first interaction many of your future leads have with your brand.

More subscribers, more potential leads!
There are a couple of list related challenges to overcome:

  • List growth is neglected
  • List not nurtured (at all or effectively)
  • E-blasts to lists aren’t focused on conversion

In this article we’re discussing list growth.
We have written about effective nurture campaigns and well converting e-blasts earlier.

List churn

If you do nothing, your list will shrink by 20-30% each year due to unsubscribes, expiring implied consent (in Canada), emails becoming stale or going out of service.
To achieve any growth at all you need to grow your list by more than 20-30% each year.
A plain vanilla “Join our list” form asking for email address doesn’t do the trick; you need to sell your subscriptions and fully engage visitors who are interested in your product, service, content, etc.
Let’s find out how!
For starters, have a look at the most common – and incidentally the worst – subscription form:Now you know what not to do.
A visitor will think: Why should I subscribe? How many emails will I receive? Do you have other content for me? What’s in a newsletter?
The more unanswered questions visitors have the less likely they will subscribe. Fewer subscribers, fewer potential leads.

What subscriptions should I offer?

Before you start building forms you need to know what subscriptions to show on the forms for visitors to choose from.
Note: Subscriptions are not the same as consent. In this article we focus on subscriptions – we wrote about how to separate consent from subscriptions in another post.

How many subscriptions do I need?

It’s essential that you offer more than one subscription. Try to come up with at least three if you can. This is because when it comes to changing subscription preferences people will have the option to opt out from one subscription while keeping others.“But I don’t have enough content”, you say. Sure you do! Most companies have some sort of monthly promotional or informational content. This could be your monthly subscription.
You could also send and “annual report” or “year in review” message. That’s your second subscription.
How about a digest of curated third party content / industry best practices? A list of blogs or videos your readers may find useful.  There is your third subscription idea.

What to call my subscriptions?

Don’t just call your subscriptions Newsletter, Promotions and Best Practices. Subscription names should always answer what? when? and why? to maximize sign ups.
Here are a few examples:

  • Monthly newsletter including tips, articles and reviews
  • Quarterly promotional offers: 15-25% savings in every email
  • Occasional digest of industry best practices to keep you in the loop

Creating subscription forms

Fields to include on forms

On subscription forms you need to ask for

  • Email
  • First name
  • List segmentation questions
  • Subscription preferences

Asking for first name is recommended so you can later personalize your emails by adding subscribers’ first name in the subject line and using it for a personalized greeting.
Other than email and first name you need to ask for key list segmentation questions so you can send messages to contacts accordingly. Segmentation questions are different for everyone and may not even exist. Some common examples are: geography (country, state/province), agent or consumer and industry/market.
Only ask segmentation questions if you will actually use this info to send different content based on answers.

The submit button

The best way to think about the “Submit” button is that it’s an agreement.
Finish this sentence and you have your button label: “I agree to…”

  • Subscribe
  • Sign up for the newsletter
  • Receive blog posts


As a rule of thumb you must include a consent “checkbox” on every form to be CASL and GDPR compliant. The only exception is a dedicated subscription form that doesn’t need to include an “I agree to receive emails from Acme Inc.” checkbox as the explicit purpose of a subscription form is to provide consent to receive content. You must, however, clearly indicate this on the forms and mention that contacts can unsubscribe any time.

Thank you page

Getting a subscriber to a mailing list is rarely the ultimate goal (unless you don’t sell anything and only send out informational newsletters). What’s the next step you want your new subscriber to take? Do you want them to download your product PDF? Do you want them to visit a specific page on your website? Have them go to your Facebook page? All of the above?
Be sure to include instructions/links for next steps – don’t end it with a boring “Thanks for subscribing” note.
But wait! Before you show the thank you page you can display….another form!

What else are you interested in?

A lead qualification form works like this: It includes a brief confirmation (subscription completed) and asks if the new subscriber wants to get in touch with sales and collects additional information in the process.If this second form is not filled out, nothing is lost, the subscriber is already in the database. But an average of 30% of contacts who only intended to sign up to your list turn into leads on this second-step form!
At this point subscribers already provided their email and name – there is no need to ask for those fields on this form. You only need to include lead qualification questions.
Here’s another example of a “thank you form”:

Subscription confirmation email

Yes, you should definitely send a subscription confirmation email. Why? Because it’s much more than just a confirmation email. Much like the thank you page, it’s an opportunity to point your new subscribers to next steps you want them to take.
You can also link to your email archives page so they can review your recent messages and don’t have to wait for the next e-blast.
You can also include a link to invite a friend or coworker to subscribe. And links to your social media sites and key web pages.

Adding the signup form to your website

Don’t hide your forms and make visitors click on three links to find it. The subscription form should be either on every page or no more than one click away. You have a few options for placement:
Near your blog: this is the most obvious placement option, in the sidebar or at the bottom of blog posts or in “sticky” bars on all blog pages
In the footer: there is no reason why you wouldn’t include a “Subscribe” link or teaser form in the footer of your website. Or the entire form if it fits.
A timed popup shows up after visitors have scrolled a few pages or spent X seconds on your website. Don’t show the form too soon or immediately after the page loads because people at that time won’t know yet if they want to subscribe to your content. Give them a chance to look through your website first.
Exit intent popup: When visitors are about to leave your website, you can display an exit popup: “Before you leave….enter your email to get deals, event invites and insights”
At the bottom of all other forms! Every form should ask for consent and at the same time collect subscriptions, too. These fields are at the bottom of forms and don’t interfere with the main form fields.

Sell it!

Don’t just say “subscribe to our newsletter” and show an email field. I don’t want to just subscribe! Give me a good reason (or two) to do so. Sell the subscription!

  • Enter your email below and stay up to date with the latest travel info and the hottest destinations!
  • Learn about new technologies and best practices, get access to case studies and receive alerts about product specials.
  • Join over 10,000 people receiving executive employment market updates, insights and events.

Are you ready to grow your list? We hope this guide will come in handy when you work on your new subscription forms or in the process of overhauling your current setup!

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