by John Eberhard

One of the most vitally important – and often neglected – aspects of designing a web site and website marketing 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.

Most sites should be set up, first of all, so that you can either capture a lead, i.e. someone interested in buying your product, or the site should allow people to buy directly online.

But even with people who theoretically don’t want to pitched on your product by a salesman right now, or who don’t want to buy your product directly online right now, you can often entice them to fill out a form with some kind of offer and give you their email address.

 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, because you can email to those people for free.

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 put a small form in your sidebar, so it appears on every page.

Then put out the newsletter on a regular basis, usually monthly. In all probability there is someone in your company who can write information articles that will interest your public. You should sign up with one of the online emailing services. I have found that Mailchimp and Aweber are the best.

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 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.

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 worked with started out with no list, and 18 months later had over 300,000 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. Use one of the online email services for this. Both Aweber and Mailchimp allow you to set up a series of email letters going out to them – one today, one in 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, etc. Each one gives a bit more data about your products or services and sells them.

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.

Good luck with the establishment of your email list.