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How Much Data To Collect On Signup/Contact
Don't Turn Off New Prospects With Too Many Fields

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2021-08-26
You have a website. You want a spot there for people to join a mailing list or contact you. You don't want to ask for too much data and turn them off from joining/submitting. But you also would love more data than just an email address for this new contact. What are you to do?

Should you only ask for their email address? Or should you ask for 3-to-10 fields (or more) of information?

This is a much more philosophical judgment call than you would think. Many experts have an opinion on this one way or another. But there doesn't seem to be a consensus in articles on the web.

Why We’re Dealing With This Issue This Week

We are redesigning a website for a band this week for a relaunch later this Spring. It's a fun little project and a good thing to keep us busy.

One of the things we're putting on every one of their pages is a "Mailing List Signup" section. As much chatter is out there in some marketing and business corners saying "Email is dead" we can assure you: it isn't. Especially so in music marketing. Besides their actual music catalog, mailing lists from opted-in fans are the best assets that musicians have.

So, when we're figuring out with them what data to try to collect from that simple mailing list enrollment, we're faced with that choice: Ask for very little data or ask for a lot.

If you ask for lots of data, many people are protective of their privacy and less likely to sign up.

While if you collect more useful data (in the band's case, how often they buy music or what's their zip code), then fans could be targeted.

For what it's worth, in the case of this band, we are ONLY asking for an email address.

An Interesting Fact

An online study reported that even asking for a first name on top of an email address decreased signups by 27%.

Let that sink in. Just asking for a first name (not a last name) in addition to an email address made 27% of the people go away.

In our band's case, they still very much wanted more information but opted to cast the widest net possible. The following three sections show what we suggested and are doing for them to get them more data.

How They're Building Out More Data From An Email Address - IP Address

We are capturing the IP address the enrollee is using on their computer. If you don't think businesses are hyper-aware of your IP address and physical location, you're being a little naive. It isn't all Big Brother nefarious surveillance to use this. Google immediately suggests better results in your searches. If you start typing "pet store", they're on step ahead of you, already filtering for pet stores in your areas.

An aside: Predicting the future in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic is a fool's errand. But I feel quite certain that the shyness to use location tracking is going to fall away in a post coronavirus world.

In the case of our band client, we wanted to take a stab at finding where the new signup lives. As the band's website copy says, "We don't want to tell you about a show in Philadelphia if you live in Denver."

Of course, the IP address doesn't guarantee getting the person's hometown correct. They could always be traveling. Or they could be using a VPN for a variety of reasons. Still, the odds are that they are in or near their residence at that moment, so that's a good starting point.

How They're Building Out More Data From An Email Address - Looking Up The Email Addresses

Sorry to give away the internet's dirty little secrets, but there are a lot of ways/services to extrapolate more data from an email address.

FYI, the service our client will be using for starters is Midas from a company called Amplemarket.

How They're Building Out More Data From An Email Address - Ask Them In A Future Email

Once the email address has been grabbed, the band will be sending them an email. (They're using MailChimp for email distribution/delivery which we use ourselves and we really love their services.)

Now that the new enrollee has opted in, future emails can make the case with a smart paragraph about how the band can help tailor future emails better with a little more data, e.g. email frequency preferences, city, first name to personalize, birthdate for a future little birthday gift/notice.

In the case of a band like our client, many artists trade a free song or something like that for getting more data.

Depends On The Industry

We did feel like email only was a no-brainer for a prospective mailing list signup for an artist.

But other industries will make you game out this "how much data" decision differently. If it's a highly technical industry or technical service, there's a safe expectation that they'd be willing to fill out more fields. A manufacturer of factory parts can ask more questions. The clients are factories looking for necessary equipment, not just maybe listening to a song or not.

The company with the mailing list signup on their website might have a multitude of products so they have to ask for a couple of specifics to know who should respond to the signup, what list to put them on.

The Takeaway

(I really thought I was going to write a short, 400-word article this time. Nope.)

We can't answer the question of how much data to collect in a first interaction. As we've said, there are several factors.

Take a look at your mailing list signup. Put yourself in a new person's shoes. How much do you need to know about that person RIGHT NOW instead of asking later? What MIGHT turn them off? It's not an exact science but take a look and do your best. That's all you can do.