Directing a potential customer to your website in the vague hope that they might stumble on the page where the sign up procedure appears is obviously not enough. The dangers are that the person might become lost, disinterested or distracted. Remember that your website has been designed to grab the attention of visitors and it should, if designed properly, distract them.
In order to lower the possibilities of them wandering around your site before they have signed up for your direct email marketing you should ensure they arrive initially at a campaign-specific landing page or microsite, custom designed to encourage sign-ups. If they have been tempted by an offer they should not have to hunt for it. Online attention span is measured in seconds and frustration can reduce this even further.
One landing page will probably not be enough. A basic strength of direct email marketing is the fact that it can be targeted. Those who have come through by way of a link from your newsletter might require a different approach to those who came via an advert hotlink on a third party site and therefore are unfamiliar with your company and products. The latter might need reassurance of your business practices and ethics.
It is impossible to give precise guidance on the amount of information you ask for on the initial signing up process. Too little and all you end up with is a person with unknown requirements and tastes, whilst asking for too much is a certain way of putting most off. Consider what the people themselves might assume is reasonable in the circumstances. For B2B title, position and responsibilities seems more essential than reasonable, but specifics on budget responsibility could be seen as a little intrusive initially.
If there is a specific item of information you feel they might be reluctant to share but will be al be essential to your requirements then explain the reasons behind your request. Emphasise that you do not want to send them emails which they have no particular interest in. Allow the subscriber to leave that particular box empty just in case your explanation was not persuasive.
Be aware that there are legal restrictions as to how much information you may keep on a person. One of the Eight Principles of The Data Protection Act requires that:
‘Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.’
This is not a problem as such as too much information on a person can be as bad as too little when it comes to targeting emails.
Like any other procedure in direct email marketing, acquisition of email addresses requires planning from the initial stages. There is no need to limit the catchment as the various sources can be treated as to their needs when required. Detail is essential of course but be careful not to put off the nervous newcomer by asking for too much initially.