May 28, 2003
How To

How to Persuade People to Join Your Email List: 7 Copywriting Samples You Should Steal Ideas From

SUMMARY: Although our survey data shows rented list results are sagging badly, most marketers are still getting great results from campaigns sent to their house email lists. Which means the next big question is: How can I grow my house file?

The answer is simple. Improve the way you copywrite your \"join our list\" offer. See this article for inspirational samples of seven offers that work, plus the three questions you can use to test your current copy's effectiveness easily.
Matt Mickiewicz, Founder SitePoint, told us he has a problem that is afflicting nearly everyone trying to garner email addresses with permission these days, slowing conversion rates.

A few years ago Mickiewicz could count on his site's pop-up subscription offer to turn 8-10% of visitors into newsletter subscribers. Now, despite tweaking and testing, his pop-ups perform at a 2.5-2.8% rate.

Hoping that cooler tech would help, he tested a DHTML subscription offer ad that floated on his homepage. It as a miserable failure, generating a lousy .5% conversion rate
plus a flurry of annoyed emails from visitors.

Lesson learned. It is not about the tech, it is about your offer copy.

Don Crowther, Publisher of, proved this by testing two different subscription offers on his site. The first was your basic, "Sign up for a no-cost newsletter" offer. It did pretty well, generating just over 5% visitor sign-ups.

Then he tested longer, benefit-oriented copy, "Learn how to power up your PR success rate. Get your free newsletter filled with PR tips, and techniques to help you achieve your promotional dreams."

Yup, you guessed it. The stronger copy helped triple Crowther's visitor sign-up rate.

Which makes us wonder, if copy is so critical to improving your sign-ups, why do the vast majority of places we see email sign-up forms have such bad copy? It seems like everyone is talking about how they want to make their house list bigger, but their copy is an afterthought.

With that thought, here are our picks for Great Copy Samples:

#1. iVillage (

A small pop-up asks visitors who have not been cookied by the site recently, "Are you new to iVillage?" You can click on your choice of buttons, "Yes, let us help you" or "No, close window."

Visitors clicking on "Yes" arrive at a newsletter sign up form that looks like a survey:
"Shortcuts to Solutions for Your Life: Check as many as apply, and we'll show you shortcuts to the best of iVillage, customized for you."

It is easy, it is fun, it feels personal, and the words "email newsletter" do not appear until later when you are already involved in the process.

#2. Noria (

A little box appears at the bottom of most pages of this B2B marketing site reading…
"Discover What Really Works
Subscribe to Lube-Tips email newsletter. Every Wednesday we send unbiased information on lubricant selection, oil analysis, filtration, predictive maintenance and machine reliability to over 24,000 subscribers. May we invite you to reserve your free subscription?"

This copy not only lets prospects know the content targets them precisely, it also probably helps Noria with its search engine rankings by featuring critical terms.

#3. Chris Pirillo (

Although tech writer Chris Pirillo has hundreds of thousands of readers, he keeps his site feeling intimate and personal by using a handwriting-style typeface for notes (a great idea for Bloggers). His newsletter subscription offer starts with a similarly personal-feeling low-key note that converts and converts:
"If you like technology as much as I do, you might consider signing up for a few of my newsletters."

#4. Travelocity (

This site has been on our sign-form All Stars list for a while now because they do not relegate the privacy policy to a tiny link at the bottom of the page.

Instead, they make their privacy policy work hard for them as a marketing tool proactively reassuring wary visitors.

Sentences such as "Travelocity does not sell or rent customer names or other private account information to third parties, and we have no intention of doing so in the future" appear in multiple places leading to and throughout the sign-up form.

#5. Brooks Sports (

Instead of a lame "click to join our list" link, Brooks Sport's US Web site home page features this short but highly appealing copy:

"Don't forget to join the Loop–our online newsletter featuring inspiring stories, running tips and product announcements to help keep you running!"

#6. First Place Software (

With more than 500,000 names and counting on his list, First Place Software CEO Brent Winters proves that sometimes really loooooong copy works.

The small sign-up form, which appears on the upper left of most page of his WebPosition Gold marketing site, features a prominent link to a page of copy that is so long it prints out to more than four pages, including a description of the newsletter, Q&A about the newsletter, and lots of happy named-reader testimonials.

In fact, if you did not know better, you might think sales copy this strong was developed to sell something that cost money. Which may be how hard you need to sell to get more sign-ups in these days of email overload.

#7. (

Another great example of long-copy used to convert the best visitors into sign-ups (after all, only highly interested prospects will bother to read long copy) is the full-page, copy-intensive pop-up that shows up when a new visitors goes to

Just in case you are not converted into a sign-up the first time you visit, the home page also features this shorter pitch in that upper left corner sweet-spot:

"Profit from the Pros
Our free Profit from the Pros e-mail newsletters are packed with insight and stock picks from leading investment experts. Want to know how the top professionals are making money in today's market? See below."

-> Three questions for your own copy

With these seven examples in mind, look over your own subscription offer copy and ask these three key questions:

Question #1: Explicit features

Does my copy clearly describe what people will get in the emails I plan to send them? Do these emails contain any featured content (from discount offers to how-to content) that people will actually find valuable?

If your key prospects will not salivate "Oh goody" at the idea of getting these features, revamp your content first and then rewrite your offer.

Question #2: Benefits

If I am using a headline, does it say something more personal and compelling than "Sign up" or "Join?" Do I trumpet a benefit people get instead just an action they should take?

Question #3: The word "You"

Is it there? Or are you using "our" and "we" instead? Slap yourself on the wrist and rewrite.

-> Three useful links:

1. Case Study: How to Collect More Email Names for Your List by Asking Brick-and-Mortar Customers for Them Offline

2. Case Study: How SitePoint Mixes Revenue Streams to Stay More Profitable than Competing Publishers

3. Missed last week's issue on How to Email Seniors?

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