Web site opt-in: generate converts; not just conversions

The music industry is well known, now, for riding the short bus to the digital future. But where the major labels have been failing, some independent artists have been excelling at online marketing, and often even seasoned digital marketers can learn a thing or two from them.

Case in point: Trout Fishing in America.

Trout Fishing in America — let’s just call them TFIA — are a Texas-based, folky duo who do a couple of small things online very well that have helped them to build a small army of loyal fans who will go the extra mile to help promote the band (disclosure: I’m a casual listener; my wife would probably count herself among that small army — it was her experience that made me curious about how TFIA fosters loyalty):

1. Provide a value-added experience when people opt-in

When you opt-in to get updates from TFIA, you don’t just get their email blasts. You get free downloads of the band’s music and a discount for the band’s online store. The downloads are a great perk that creates terrific goodwill among fans, creates an opportunity for fans to share the music and make new fans and costs the band next to nothing to offer. The discount, again, feels like special treatment but it also gives subscribers a nudge to take the next step in the acquisition funnel and become customers.

2. Offer surprise and delight

TFIA’s site doesn’t make a big deal about about the free offer for signing up. So if you’re not paying close attention, you may not be expecting to get them at all. And if there’s one thing better than getting something for free, it’s getting something for free that you weren’t expecting at all.

I’d almost like to see the free stuff taken out of the call-to-action to subscribe altogether — let the email’s value proposition stand on its own, and let the freebies be a pure moment of surprise and delight once people subscribe. I’d wager that the upside in customer loyalty would outweigh any hypothetical subscriber drop-off.

3. Make a connection and keep the conversation going

Like most email newsletters, when you sign up for TFIA’s blasts, you get 2 transactional emails back: the opt-in confirmation message and the final welcome message. What’s different about TFIA’s is that these emails have a human face — they invite you to email them with questions, they’re signed by the band’s label manager, Karen, and when you reply to one, you actually get a reply back from Karen. The process is human and it creates a real sense of being part of what the band is doing.

This sort of loyalty-building isn’t limited to the music industry. What would the impact be on your business if you used these simple techniques to turn an ordinary transaction into an opportunity to create a loyal, inspired advocate for your business? What does your business have that you can give away to add value to the opt-in process? And how can you use that to create surprise and delight and to initiate a loyalty-building conversation?