Capturing Identities on a Web Site: Building Your Email List

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Capturing Identities on a Web Site: Building Your Email List

By: John Eberhard

One of the most vitally important - and often neglected - aspects of designing a web site is to include ways to capture identities of people visiting the site. This means to get the name and email address (minimally) of people who visit the site, so you can promote your product or service to them in the future.

Let's say that you have a web site and it is set up so that people can buy your products directly online. Well, assuming your site has well written sales text on it, a certain percentage of the people visiting the site will buy the product online.

But what about the people who don't buy the product right away? In all likelihood, you spent hard-earned resources getting those people to come to the site, either through online or off-line promotions, search engine positioning, etc.

Now if you don't do anything to capture those identities, those resources are just about completely wasted. Those people may come back to your site and buy another time. But unless your site has great content that is being updated all the time, the chances are slim. There are just too many web sites vying for the web surfer's attention. And some research says that most prospects have to hear your message 3 or more times before they will buy from you.

The Solution

The solution is to include reasons on your site for the person who is interested, but not going to buy right away, to give you his name and email address now. This allows you to build an email list, which over time, can become a formidable part of your marketing strategy.

Here are some different ways you can capture the identities of people who aren't going to buy right now:

1. Offering a free email newsletter subscription. This is probably the most important solution and the one that is applicable to the most types of web sites. Offer a free email newsletter containing information articles and news about your industry or subject matter, or specifically about your company or products. Then include a button on each page of your site that links to the form page they can fill out to subscribe to the newsletter.

Then put out the newsletter monthly. In all probability there is someone in your company who can write information articles that will interest your public. I have found in my experience that HTML emails (which look like web pages and can have graphics and links within them, like this email) work much better than text emails. You will need special software to send HTML emails to large lists, but there are packages that are very inexpensive.

2. Offer software demos. If you are a software vendor, offering free software demos is a great way to collect names. And of course all the people signing up are interested in the product.

3. Offer free information products. Web surfers, for the most part, are already looking for information. Offering free articles, white papers, e-books, etc., is a great way to generate interest in your product and collect email addresses. And of course, the articles, white papers or e-books should be on the topic of your product or service. That way you are pre-qualifying the people who respond, as someone who would be interested in the product.

The key to an identity capturing strategy is to find free things that will appeal to the public that is coming to your web site, and get them up there. Then, keep statistics on each offer and how many responses it gets.

I don't recommend offering free items that cost you money to acquire or deliver, like T-shirts, pens, hard-copy books, etc. If possible come up with something you can offer for free, that can be downloaded from your web site (once they give you their name and email address).

You can even measure how many people are coming to the site and what your conversion rate is. In other words, you can measure what percentage of the people coming to the site are either buying something from you or giving you their email address. You want as high a percentage as possible to do one of your desired actions, i.e. buy something or give you their name. And you should evaluate the site and make changes to the site to increase this.

Your Marketing Strategy Once You Start Collecting a List

Being able to work with these strategies requires the ability to see the big picture and stick to a plan by envisioning the gains in the future. You might start out with zero list, but by developing some offers and methodically collecting all the names, week after week, you will develop a very valuable resource. For example, one company I work with started out 14 months ago with no list, and now has over 160,000 names. And believe me, that's a hell of a promotional resource! Because for one thing, you can email out to them regularly virtually for free!

OK, now let's say that you have some free offers up there on the site and you're getting people signing up for your newsletter or whatever.

The first thing to do is to put those names onto a list. Depending on what you're offering, you might want to make a separate list for each of the offers. The simplest way is to copy and paste and save them into an Excel spreadsheet.

Some programs can be obtained that will automatically dump these names, addresses and other information into a database. One excellent product I have used is Promasoft Autoresponder ( This product allows you to set up filters that will dump the emails into various databases that you create, and will also allow you to send out an automatic reply to the people responding.

You can even set up a series of email letters going out to them - one today, one in 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, etc. I can assist you in configuring this type of set-up.

The beauty of an autoresponder system and setting up a series of sales letters to go out to the people who respond, is that it sells your product on an automated basis. Once you write the letters and set it up, it just goes, selling the product without you having to do much.

But beyond setting up an autoresponder, the concept or strategy is just to start sending out regular emails to your list, selling your products and services. Create a series of emails to send to the list. I have found that it is best not to send out messages to the same people more than twice a month. Otherwise you get too many people asking to be off the list.


And always include a blurb at the top or bottom of every email you send, telling the recipient how to get removed from the list if they want. And then be responsible and actually remove people who ask to be off your list. Most mass emailing programs will have a feature called an "excluded list", meaning you just add that person to the excluded list and the program checks against that list for every mailing you send.

And in case you're worried about being accused of spam, the current laws totally allow you to send email to people who respond to your offers. I know as I have thoroughly researched the laws and have sent out over 3 million promotional emails over the last year. The key is to always include instructions on every single email you send to your list, telling them how to be removed.

So after you have started with some free offers and have built up your list, you will have added a new way to promote your business that is essentially free! And it really works.

About The Author

Copyright Copyright 2005 by John Eberhard and All Rights Reserved.

John Eberhard is a marketing consultant in the Los Angeles area, is President of, and has been involved in marketing in a variety of industries for the past 16 years. He can be reached at:


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