This article is also available as an infographic.
Fellow marketers - please, please stop asking for email addresses from your website visitors before you have earned the right. I can assure you that you are not making your customers happy by doing this. If you are not providing value to your prospective customers first, then you are not doing it right. I know it is common, almost everybody does it - but that doesn’t make it right. In fact, up to 80% of your visitors could abandon when being asked for email (in chat).
I get it. I know why we do this as marketers. I know you are thinking “But how else will I be able to qualify and capture a lead that my salespeople will embrace?” Well, let’s first consider a few premises we have to establish.
Marketing Must be a Value Exchange
Many of us marketers have been “trained” over the years to think we need a constant stream of communications targeted at a list. This list is likely comprised of email contacts we’ve compiled from “list-building” exercises such as website form captures, imports from 3rd party data providers, leads captured from live or virtual events, and any number of other marketing activities.
Of course, our marketing lists are important for connecting and communicating with prospects and nurturing those leads through the buying journey. These lists often represent a decent portion of lead and revenue pipeline to feed our salesforce. But knowing the volume of emails we send every day (270 billion!) and the typical open rates, we should very much focus on the value exchange of what our customers get in return for giving us their contact information (and their time and attention we demand with every marketing campaign). As marketers, we should focus on value exchange to create dialog and community with our customers, not blast them with innumerable campaigns until they finally disengage from the lack of value we are offering them.
I’ve always enjoyed reading Seth Godin and his unique take on marketing. In his first best-selling book Permission Marketing, he covers the idea of “Interruption Marketing” which is all about “the noise of advertising” to interrupt a consumer’s train of thought to get them to take some kind of action. Think of a typical TV commercial demanding a consumer to “act now before this sale is over!” or other “interruptions” of consumers to demand an immediate response.
As Seth offers to us as marketers, we must fundamentally assume a different way of thinking about advertising products and services for these interruptions to be worthwhile and effective. I would contend this extends to how we “interrupt” our website visitors to demand an email address from before we’ve even established any kind of relationship or trust with them.
Shouldn’t we first offer value, build trust, and only then request an email address to further the relationship? Or, as Seth might put it—let’s turn those strangers (anonymous website visitors) into friends (known contacts), and friends into customers.
Give Value to Get Value
Of course, I am not saying never request an email address from a site visitor. But the reality is that your website visitors are coming to you with widely varying degrees of buying intent. Some are actively shopping for a product or service, while many others may simply be casually browsing at the start of their shopping journey. As we don’t know their goals for engagement on our site (though there IS a way to know intent, more on that later), we must give value first before we ask for it from our prospective customers. Consider what you are offering to your website visitors (given value) in advance of requesting their email address via chat (gotten value).
By the way, you're not alone. Many, many companies are still asking for email address:
The Nordstrom Experience
One example we often use is the Nordstrom shopping experience. As a very successful department store, Nordstrom has rightly earned its reputation with customer service that is legendary. As founder John Nordstrom put it:
‘‘Our commitment is 100% to customer service. We are not committed to financial markets, we are not committed to real estate markets, we are not committed to a certain amount of profit. We are only committed to customer service. If we make a profit, that’s great. But customer service is first. If I’m a salesperson on the floor and I know that the people who own this place are committed to customer service, then I am free to find new ways to give great customer service. I know that I won’t be criticized for taking care of a customer. I will only be criticized if I don’t take care of a customer.’’
Imagine walking into a Nordstrom store today shopping for a new dress shirt or blouse, only to be approached by a pushy salesperson asking for your email address even before offering to help you. That is definitely not the Nordstrom customer experience you’d expect, and frankly it would be a horrifying experience.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t give out my email address after I have purchased something, so why would I do that before knowing if the store can even help me get what I want? The idea actually seems absurd.
So, why do we do this with email requests on our website and think it is ok? Why do we demand something of value (an email address) from an anonymous website visitor before we even know why they’ve engaged with our site?
The primary reason is we don’t know their buyer intent, so we treat all website visitors with a one-size-fits-all approach and demand their email address for future follow-up once we have learned more about them. But, if we did know their buying intent - think about the far superior experience we could offer.
How to Determine Buyer Intent (And Why it Matters)
Yes, it is now possible to determine buyer intent of today’s website visitor, even when they are fully anonymous. With the power of Artificial Intelligence and vast data sets from historical website visitor profiles, we now have the ability to determine the intent of anonymous visitors in real-time based on their behavior. Not unlike a well-trained Nordstrom sales clerk, we can then approach our website visitors with a value exchange by offering them a better customer experience as they engage our business.
Here's an example. Let's say there's an anonymous visitor on your competitor's website that has a high buyer intent, right now. The visitor's behavior indicates that they're interested and nearing the tipping point. That visitor then get engaged by your competitor's chatbot which immediately asks that visitor for their email address. That's a high friction experience that is likely to impede that visitor's experience, not help it. They exit the website and come to yours instead.
Now imagine your website has an AI with the ability to find visitors with a high buyer intent, even if they're anonymous. It picks up this visitor and knows it's important, so it routes that visitor directly to one of your live sales agents that have a much higher chance of converting that visitor into revenue than a chatbot. That doesn't mean the chatbot should be thrown out. To the contrary, the chatbot can now be utilized more effectively by helping visitors with lower intent, and further nurturing them.
Now take this example with one website visitor and scale it to every single visitor on your site. The results would be significant.
So how can you take best advantage of this intent data? Consider a solution that can identify website visitor's buying-intent (rather than just who they are) in real-time.
Turn Intent Into Action
Lift AI evaluates every visitor as they navigate your website and assigns them a virtual score based on their buying intent. It does this using the billions of historical data points plus real-time behavioral signals from the visitor as they're on your site.
From there, it then connects to conversational marketing platforms you already use like our Partners at Drift to select an appropriate path or playbook. For example, low-scoring visitors might get an automated chatbot experience to support or nurture, while high-scoring visitors connect with your BDRs right away for personalized engagement. This means you can offer a superior customer experience before requesting their email address as part of that value exchange, effectively bypassing that high friction point and high abandonment rate.
Now you can prioritize selling to visitors that are ready to buy your product or services.
Better still, If you have an ABM program and are working with a company like our Partners at 6Sense, you can combine the insight of knowing the Firmographic information of the company your visitor works for, alongside the real time buyer intent score from Lift AI to create more powerful playbooks in Drift. Those playbooks can be based on the buyer intent of each visitor, plus the visitor's fit to your ICP so you further prioritize the right visitors and maximize your conversions, pipeline and revenue.
As a result, your sales team will gain instant access to your most valuable visitors and increase their conversion rate quickly. Your sales team will also be more productive and satisfied by engaging visitors who actually want to buy.
Moreover, Lift AI is the perfect layer on top of the rest of your visitor engagement stack, working nicely with website analytics, email forms, data-enrichment tools, and chat. Now you can know who a visitor is, and their real-time buying intent.
See what companies like PointClickCare, and Nitro, and more are doing to maximize revenue from their websites by getting 2-10x more chat conversions without asking for email first.