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Sign Up Sheet Success: How to Win Addresses + Hearts

By Jessica Albon

Get more subscribers with a signup sheet

Asheville River Arts District by NSCHOUTERDEN

There are lots of opportunities to have an in-person sign-up sheet. If you have a brick and mortar, this is obvious, but even if you don’t, any time you do a trade show, an open studio, a workshop, a speaking engagement, or anything where you’re surrounded by a group of people who might be interested in your business, you should have a sign-up sheet.

It might seem a little old fashioned, but it works like a charm. When you do it right, that is. During a recent visit to Asheville’s River Arts District, I noticed lots of artists with sign-up sheets (which is awesome!). Alas, only a handful of those lists had any names on them. I made a few suggestions as I wandered through the booths, but that makes me self-conscious. On the one hand, I don’t want to begin such a conversation with, “For nearly 15 years, I’ve been helping businesses make lots more money with email marketing” and follow it up with my credentials. On the other, it seems like everyone has an opinion on other people’s businesses–and many of those opinions are flat out wrong.

So, rather than keep dolling out unsolicited advice in artist’s studios, I made notes so I could share some strategies for how YOU can use a sign-up sheet to get more subscribers.

  1. Complete a line or two. 
    No one wants to be the first name on your list. Just like restaurants never have an empty tip jar, you should never have an empty list. Move the most recent address to the next page, or ask a friend to write their address in for you. People don’t want to “mess up” a blank page.
  2. Use large pages. 
    A teeny-tiny “autograph” book is the wrong size. Rather, print out full-sized sheets of paper with easy to fill out, clearly labeled spaces for name and email address. Something large encourages people to write legibly.
  3. Personalize it. 
    Every single page I wrote my email address on was blank. Were it not for the stack of business cards nearby, I wouldn’t have known whose list I was getting onto. For an artist, this is an obvious missed opportunity. But, even if you’re not an artist, personalizing the sign-up sheet gives that new subscriber a glimpse of what they should look for in their inbox.
  4. Make it a big deal. 
    A banner, cupcakes, a big sign that says, “Join our list!” Make signing up a production. This makes it more fun and again, helps to solidify that relationship you’re building. Especially if people are signing up for lots of lists (or have the opportunity to), you want signing up for YOURS to be memorable. Turn their sign up into a celebration in any way you can.
  5. DO NOT APOLOGIZE. 
    You wouldn’t believe how many artists said to me, “I don’t send emails very often. I promise I won’t inundate you with messages.” I get this temptation, I do. But don’t give into it. Your list is awesome. They’ll wish you wrote more often. (I know, everyone gets a lot of email and we’re all empathetic to that and that’s great! But everyone has control over their inboxes, if they’ve got too much email this week, they can delete your email–and they know that.)
  6. Invite people to sign up. 
    Whenever I go somewhere with booths, I often feel a little awkward at first. That makes me less likely to stay very long. Here’s how to fix that: invite people to sign up. After they’ve looked around for a moment, say something like, “If you’re interested, I’d love for you to sign up for my list. I send an email about once a month about [super interesting thing]. The list is right over here.” It goes without saying that you don’t want to be forceful or annoying about it, but do be confident, brief and complete.
  7. Demonstrate something. 
    Obviously this isn’t going to work for every business, but if there’s anything you can possibly demonstrate: do. Get people involved in your process. Artist Dona Barnett showed me how her etching press worked and it was amazing and I couldn’t wait to sign up for her list. A demonstration gets people involved and curious and shows that you have something to say–all great ways to start that relationship.
  8. Remember, it’s not a numbers game. 
    Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t want to sign up. Growing your list, especially in a high-touch way like this, is about building a relationship, not about “getting them on the list.” Some people might not sign up on the spot, but they’ll take your card and sign up later, and some people just don’t belong on your list.
  9. Send something immediately. 
    The day after you’ve had a signup list, email everyone who’s just signed up. Maybe send photos of the day, or just thank them for coming out. Make sure to make it clear who you are. (In the case of the artists, including a photo of a piece of their artwork would help remind the new subscriber which artist they were.) DO NOT PROCRASTINATE ON THIS. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to happen immediately.

You want to start the relationship off on the right foot and that means being professional and thorough with the sign-up process. It means giving people exactly what they need so that the right people want to say yes. By using these nine tips the next time you have a sign-up sheet, you’ll get more subscribers, but more importantly, they’ll be great subscribers.

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