May/June 2007

Ask the Expert: Should we require names on our online subscriber signups?

by Dr. David Crooke, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Convio

Q: We've been struggling with whether or not to require names on our online subscriber signups. Requiring names may limit the number of people willing to sign up, thereby limiting the number of people we could send advocacy and fundraising email messages. What do other organizations do? Is there any data on this? There's some trade-off, clearly, but do we make up with quantity what we lose in quality? Or, is there not really much difference and we should aim for quantity?

A: Email is the magic hook that allows you to contact a subscriber and engage them, so that's the prize to keep an eye on. Any extra data you ask for is going to drive down the completion rate of the form, so one school of thought is to keep it as simple as you can, and maximize the audience.

For an advocacy group that targets a lot of local issues, you need some kind of geographical indicator for audience segmentation purposes, so the next smallest data set you can ask for is email address and (5 digit) ZIP code. This is insufficient to target some congressional and most state districts, but it gives you a decent approximate boundary to work with; activating people by state is a popular and easy option.

A good option is to ask for this minimal data set, sign people up for email, and then drive them immediately to a landing page with another form that invites them to volunteer more data, such as an address or issue interests.

Once you've set the hook, you can gradually reel them in and build a more detailed profile as a side effect of advocacy actions, donations and other interactions on the site.

Ask the Expert: Should we require names on our online subscriber signups? | Convio