Collecting subscriber data right in the sign-up form can be tricky.

You don’t want to jeopardize conversion rates by demanding too much additional information along with the email address.

Fortunately, you may have existing customer data to fall back on, or can source that information from a data append service. And, of course, your email campaign results and web analytics also provide insights into individual subscriber preferences and behavior.

What other data collection tactics can you employ? Here are four quick tips:

1. Exploit confirmation pages

Once the email address is submitted, there’s nothing to stop you using the sign-up confirmation page to request more information.

Sign-up rates are unaffected, since you already have the email address. And the voluntary nature of the request might lead to more accurate responses.

Don’t forget to let the subscriber know how submitting this information helps them get more value from your emails.

2. Just ask

If only you had an easy way to reach subscribers with a survey? Oh…

Email isn’t just for promoting products, services, donations or content. Use your list to promote a customer survey, either through a standalone campaign or as a secondary call to action, for example, in a sidebar.

An alternative is to build a one-question survey into the email itself. Make the possible survey answers links and invite people to click on “their” answer. Use click data to match each answer with the originating email address. So a car dealer might ask:

Are you planning to buy a new car sometime?
(click on your answer)

Never
Yes, in the next six months
Yes, within the next year
Yes, but not for at least a year

…and use the click results to better focus its communications.

3. Build data capture links into email campaigns

A related approach to the survey is to use sidebar and navigational links that are specifically chosen to capture subscriber characteristics when clicked.

A medical publishing company might put an “ad” in their newsletter pointing to their on-site resources on radiology. Next week, it promotes the neurology section. Then gastroenterology. And so on. Subscribers who click on such a link effectively self-identify their medical specialty.

A shoe retailer might have a menu option for special offers, split by gender. Anyone clicking on “shoes for women” is more than likely …a woman.

4. Promote preference centers

Many email programs give each subscriber their own preference center, where they can manage subscriptions and update information about themselves, their interests and, yes, their preferences.

If you want people to add or update information there, however, you need to give them the opportunity and the incentive. A simple link in your email footer is rarely enough.

Consider sidebar messaging or a dedicated “update your preferences” campaign. As always, explain the benefits of doing so or offer an incentive for those who complete all the form fields.

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