The AWeber blog this morning carried a little debate over whether you should ask for more than a name and email address in your signup form. Here's an excerpt:

Nick: ... We tend to think of our mailing lists as something we give to our subscribers for free, but that's kind of a flawed assumption. Subscribers are paying us with their time and information. We don't want to take advantage of that or ignore it...they should be able to fill it out as quickly as possible.

Crystal: I agree with what you're saying, but I feel like while that might give you more subscribers, is it really about the number? The people that really want to give more information and get more personalized content will be more engaged and valuable subscribers in the end.

You may have noticed that my signup form doesn't even ask for a name anymore. Does that mean I think you shouldn't ask for more information? Not necessarily. It really depends on your market and the purpose of your mailing list.

The conclusion at the end of the AWeber debate was that you should split test to decide how much to ask for. I think you should do a little thinking first. Ask yourself:

  • What information do people in your target market expect to have to have to give to sign up for a mailing list? In internet marketing, anything beyond name and email is more than the norm. And many internet marketers are even dropping the name requirement. Business to business customers, on the other hand, may expect to be asked for much more.
  • What information would be useful to you, and how useful would it be? As I've written before, personalizing email subject lines can actually hurt your open rates (though personalizing the message can still help) -- at least in some markets. So do you still need to ask for a name? On the other hand, if you're willing to put a lot of effort into customizing your messages for different segments of your market, you may be able to increase your response rates enough by getting more information to make it worth asking for more.
  • How valuable are the things you're giving away in exchange for the signup? The more valuable it is (or more precisely, the more valuable the customer perceives it to be -- it doesn't matter how valuable it is if they don't recognize the value), the more information they'll be willing to give. If what you're giving away is likely to be perceived as just-another-free-eBook, most people aren't going to be willing to fill out a long form to get it.
  • Do you want high volume? If you plan on engaging all of your subscribers personally, you could use a longer form to weed out the tire kickers who aren't the best people to spend your time on.