May 12, 2006
How To

New Co-Registration Test Data: 7 Lessons to Improve Your Opt-in Rates & Grow Your List

SUMMARY: According to MarketingSherpa's latest email study, 32% of marketers who gather new names via co-registration offers on third-party sites say those names perform as well as regular house names.

That means your house list growth may not have to be limited to offers on your own site anymore.

What works for co-reg offers? Which creative gets clicked and which is ignored? Here are results from MarketingSherpa's own first-quarter 2006 tests.
As we noted in last month's Email Summit Wrap-Up Report (link below if you missed it), co-registration has re-emerged in 2006 as the best way to grow your house list outside of offers to your own site visitors.  

So, we've collected some new data for you from our in-house tests to help you improve your own results.

Super-quick basics: co-registration 101

Since everyone's site traffic is by definition limited, your list growth from your own site is also limited.  Co-registration -- the act of placing opt-in offer check-boxes on other site's registration forms -- makes huge sense.

You can barter or buy co-registration names.  Most consumer marketers we know buy, many b-to-b and niche marketers barter.  Three quick keys to success:

a. Pick related sites to your own topic or demographic.

b. Measure name performance by co-registration source on the back end so you know which sources send you names that convert versus names that fill your list but not your pocket.

c. Never put your offer on a site (or network) you can't personally review (including entering your own seed names) to ascertain permission quality and practices.

(Note: For more advanced co-registration info, see link below to our Co-Reg 201 article.)

Data: how many new names should opt-in per thousand co-reg offer viewers

For best performance, co-registration offers should appear on a page with no more than ten other offers.  (Link to sample page below.) 

But, what is best performance exactly?  "The average spread of co-registration opt-in is 10-20%," says MarketingSherpa Research Director Stefan Tornquist, meaning 10-20% of the unique page viewers who see your offer will click on the box to opt in.

MarketingSherpa barters co-registrations with 17 partners currently. (Not all 17 appear on any one page together; our system selects which offers will appear to our newest subscribers based on their indicated interests and preferences.)

We wondered how our own data fell in line with the research. How did visitors to our b-to-b research site register for related email newsletters? Partnership Director Carol Meinhart pulled a report (link to report below) listing all 17 partners in addition to our own SherpaStore newsletter offer, which also appears on some of our co-reg pages.

Result: An average 18.3% opt-in rate.

However, on closer examination, that average is highly misleading. Only four of 18 offered lists (17 partners plus one house offer) got 17-19% opt-in rates. The other offers were as low as 10% to as high as 26%. That's a big range.

What factors made the difference? We asked Meinhart for her notes.

7 lessons learned: key factors in co-registration opt-in rates

Lesson #1. Promotional newsletter offers pulled worst

To our surprise, although these names were coming directly from a Web page where they had just signed up to get a MarketingSherpa editorial newsletter, the co-reg offer for our own brand-name bookstore 'SherpaStore Alert' pulled far worse than all but one partner's offers.

While these new opt-ins were eager to get editorial, they weren't interested in promotional content.  That said, later as editorial readers, they were not shy about clicking and converting on promotional offers from SherpaStore in our own newsletters. 

However, most didn't want to receive a strictly promotional newsletter.

This points out why it's so critical for marketers, who send their lists both editorial and promotional content, to separate the offers for these on your registration form. Don't offer one check box for both types of content. Allow your readers to self-select and we bet you'll grow both lists with higher qualified names.

Lesson #2. Famous name brands get stronger opt-ins

Newsletter offers from branded research and marketing information publishers that our readers almost certainly already knew of tended to get much higher response rates than "unknown" brands.

Meinhart notes, "These are easy decisions for the visitor. Giving the opt-in form is merely a convenience for the new subscriber."  

Lesson #3. Unknown personal names get the worse opt-ins

Although we have plenty of data suggesting that newsletters from a particular human being get better response rates (especially if that person's head shot is at the top and the newsletter or a column is in their "voice"), the same isn't true for opt-ins.

If someone's never heard of your name, they don't want your newsletter. In fact a newsletter with a personal name in the title may sound too small-time or too much like consultancy advertorial to be appealing. 

Best practice? Unless you're as famous as Martha Stewart or Seth Godin, use a newsletter title without your name and then build the relationship with personal human content in the actual emails you send from then on.

Lesson #4. Shorter copy pulls harder

"Co-registration copy that works should be short, sweet, and immediately compelling," says Meinhart. Partners with copy that was longer than two short sentences tended to have lower registration rates. 

Best copy? Extremely functional copy that mixes features and benefits: "Discover how to"; "Exclusive offers"; or "30-second news on" 

Lesson #5.  Eye-catching logo

An eye-catching logo can be anything from a famous brand logo to a cute icon that sums up your brand. (One newsletter that does well with our visitors uses a champagne glass icon to catch the eye.)

If when shrunk to fit the space your logo is not readable (often the case, as your logo designer probably didn’t consider shrinkage), you may need an alternate version that works for this purpose.

Key, if you have more than one co-registration offer appearing on a page, *don't* use the same logo for each. At a glance, your offers appear to be the same thing repeated twice. (It's a mistake we see more and more frequently these days.) 

Lesson #6. Asking for personal name doesn't lower responses

From March 27-April 7th, 2006, Meinhart tested asking for first name and last name instead of just email address. The results showed no consistent impact on co-registration rates. 

If we'd asked for any other information, such as address or phone, we're sure that would have made a significant difference. However, it appears folks don't mind giving out their names. (How much use the names are to you later on, however, is another story.)

Lesson #7. Premiums don't always help

We've actually seen Case Study anecdotal data on this in the past, so it was no big surprise to us. An extra free offer such as a white paper does not invariably improve opt-in rates. In fact, freebies given out as an incentive to join a list can hurt your opt-in rates.

Why? Perhaps there's too much copy to read (even an extra few words describing your offer can depress results). Or the offer seems complicated. Or folks are suspicious of a bribe for an email address. Or folks may want to be on a newsletter list but have no time to download and read a white paper immediately.

You never know. On the other hand, sometimes enticing free offers (especially sweeps) can vastly increase opt-in rates but the resulting names convert at a lower rate on the back-end. Our anecdotal evidence suggests this isn't a big problem for offers on your own site for your own lists, but it may be a very real problem for co-registration names.

In the end, the biggest lesson is to test, test, test and test. But you knew that already. 

Useful links related to this article:

Two data charts and a sample co-registration page:

Co-Reg Complete -- the software program MarketingSherpa uses to manage and measure its co-registration partnerships

Email Co-Registration 201: Advanced Tactics to Gain New Customers (Cheaper Than Search & It Works)

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions