Learning from Adobe's Kuler
Buzz Friday (week of March 30)

Use it or lose me

fingerprint.jpgWhen a customer (or potential customer) comes to your site, what information do you ask of them? If you're a good marketer, you are driven to learn as much from each person as possible. Now, that being said, there is a wrong and right way to do this. Have you ever been to a site and the signup form looks something like this:

    First Name
    Last Name
    Email address
    Zip Code
    Job Title
    Education Level
    Household Income
    Company size
    Name of your Mother's cousin's niece
    Your blood type
    Your mother's cousin's niece's blood type

Obviously some of these are fictitious, but much of what is asked for today is just as ridiculous. In reality marketers only need the first three items (first and last name and email), the rest should be determined through what I call Active Customer Discovery (see chart below). This exercise is all about lowering barriers to entry and creating honest conversations with customers.


The point of the chart is to show that information discovered over time (not all up-front) is more valuable, more accurate and easier to acquire. How you ask? Here is a quick example that's worked in the past:

  • Collect the information I outlined above
  • Send a thank you email to the person asking them to confirm their registration
  • After confirmation, take the user to a thank you page that asks them if they would like to opt-in to your newletters/alerts/sponsor messages
  • If you want somebody's age, offer a birthday club
  • Offer poll questions, surveys and contests and record those results for each user over the course of time
  • Come up with other creative ways to ask for information and then immediately add value to the customer
  • Come up with a way to analyze the information to add more value to the site

Here are the basic questions to ask yourself before setting up your next signup form:

  1. Do you even need the information? - Ask yourself this question and if you don't actually do anything with the information, cut it out. The risk you run is turning somebody away from your content by asking them something that you don't have a need to know.
  2. Can you get this information someplace else? - Most geographic information (city, state, country) can be gleaned from your statistics package. People lie on forms so why even ask?
  3. Do you give the customer something for this information? - If you're asking me for my household income, what are you going to do with that? Are you tailoring your product to show me less or more expensive items? If you're just using it for demographic fodder, there are better ways to get the information.

The takeaway is that the more you collect over time, the more you really begin to get insights into your customers. On top of learning more, you'll have more accurate information and people will have an incentive to update their information if it benefits them. So, if you don't use what I give you (if I give it to you at all) you just might lose me forever.

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