Get More Subscribers: Seal the Deal with Incentives

In the most basic sense, a solid email marketing campaign starts with a captivating web form. Does your web form do everything it should to make a good first impression and compel visitors to subscribe? Or does it fall short, leaving your list smaller than it should be?

In the most basic sense, a solid email marketing campaign starts with a captivating web form.

There are lots of things that go through a person’s mind when they are thinking about filling out a web form and voluntarily offering up personal information. You only get one chance to impress them.

Does your web form do everything it should to make a good first impression and compel visitors to subscribe? Or does it fall short, leaving your list smaller than it should be?

Sometimes a Strong Offer Needs Help

You don’t collect names and email addresses just to send casual emails about the weather. The whole point in having a form on your site is to provide something of value to people who give you their information. This is your offer.

MarketingExperiments defines an offer as “the value you promise in your email capture in exchange for a subscriber.” In other words, it’s the why in “why should I sign up?”

Your offer might interest visitors, but it’s not always enough to make them send their personal data out into cyberspace. They consider filling out your form, but find a tiny voice whispering “what if?” in their ear.

Eliminate Doubt

When the time comes to actually fork over their name and email address, a lot of visitors freeze.

In that moment, they are almost ready to subscribe to your list but need just a bit more persuasion.

What to do? Sweeten the deal.

Incentives Put The Icing On the Cake


An incentive motivates someone who is on the fence about offering up their contact information, and solidifies the fact that they are truly interested in your offer when they press the submit button.

Incentives are different from your offer. Combined with your offer, incentives compel subscribers to sign up regardless of any initial hesitation.

There are several things you can do with your incentive:

  • Provide a free ebook or report in addition to your offer
  • Hold a drawing for a grand prize
  • Have an ongoing promotion (like free dessert on your birthday each year)
  • Offer a free consultation
  • Provide coupons that offer a percentage off of your products

Location, Location, Location

You need to make sure that the placement of your incentive is logical.

This form (that I easily created in about three minutes with our new web form generator) illustrates how and where you should place your incentive:



Your offer should go here, with a brief (but detailed) explanation of what you are offering.
It should explain what they get, why they should want it, and how often they will be contacted.

Tip the scale in your favor by offering something above and beyond to subscribers who fill out this form.
Adding the incentive above the submit button ensures that it is the final piece of information the visitor sees and combats anxiety of providing their information.

Which Incentive is Most Effective?

This depends on a lot of factors that change from business to business. To find out what works for you, the best thing to do is test.

  • Split test different versions of your form to accurately track which incentive removes the most doubt, and ultimately brings you the most subscribers.

What Works Best for You?

Do you offer an incentive? Have you done any split testing to find out what works best for you?

We would love to hear your experiences, share them below!


  1. Yee Shun Jian

    1/6/2010 1:37 am

    Yes of course I offer an incentive… I give away 101 powerful affirmations to anyone who signs up for my free personal development newsletter at

    I make use of aweber’s subscriber counter as social proof… It definitely affects sign-up rates…

    Between 2 sites… one with an incentive and one without, I can say without a doubt that the one with an incentive converts way better.

  2. Phil Schott

    1/6/2010 9:48 am

    Just as you’ll get the fence-sitter to offer up their info, if you use incentives you’ll also get subscribers who are only interested in your incentive and not your email.

    Incentives are a decent way to build a list, but a questionable method for building loyalty.

    I’d be more interested in sending my email to a sleek and targeted list of subscribers who are truly interested in the content rather than a list littered with fence-sitters.

    The goal should be to put forth an offer and content so compelling that no incentive is needed. The offer is incentive enough for signing up.

  3. Gunasekhar

    1/6/2010 5:08 pm

    I don’t think only incentives will motivate subscribers to put in the information. From my experience offering a damn good free gift such as e-book, special report or software surely increases the optin rates.

  4. Ed Osworth

    1/6/2010 10:11 pm

    Fantastic Articles in this section.

    Here is a twist on incentives. I am a published author with a hard copy book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (“Unstoppable Joy! A Happier You in 12 Simple Steps”)

    As I offer classes and consulting I decided that I needed to build up my list in a big way so I did the unthinkable.

    I offer a digital copy of my entire book for free to folks that sign up for my “Joy News Today” newsletter at

    My editor thought I was crazy and that book sales would stop.

    Guess what – since I started giving my book away – my Amazon sales have more than doubled!

    Plus my list is growing by leaps and bounds.

    Go figure….

  5. Rebecca Swayze

    1/7/2010 9:19 am

    Yee Shun Jian,

    It would be interesting to run a web form split test on the site that doesn’t have an incentive to see if your conversions increase!


    Your offer should certainly be the driving force. The incentive is just there to help those who are on the fence. Once they are on your list, your offer and your content should be of such quality that those subscribers who were on the fence previously become active, dedicated subscribers.

    Gunasekhar and Ed,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! It’s always great to see how others implement the ideas that we discuss on the blog. Ed, those stats are terrific!

  6. Charl

    1/7/2010 10:10 am

    We certainly offer an incentive which is a free Quick Start Guide to learn acoustic guitar and also offer 14 guitar instructions videos along with that.

    So far we have had a pretty good opt-in rate and I will start running a split test using subscribers counter and maybe a different headline.

    Thanks for reminding me about the split testing!

  7. F

    1/7/2010 10:36 am

    We use one of the new aweber form templates on our homepage at and as an incentive include a free report with a compelling headline – “7 Destructive Lies Dads Believe About Fatherhood”

  8. Mike T Nelson

    1/7/2010 1:17 pm

    I switched my offer and it helped a ton. Now I am giving away a full 1 hour seminar I did for free.

    Good info! What is considered a good opt in rate?

  9. Gregg Murray

    1/7/2010 1:18 pm

    I’ve found a Top 10 (or whatever number) List or a Checklist works best. But, it works even better when you include a few bonus special reports as well. You can simply take a few of your past blog posts, put them on a Word, PowerPoint, or Keynote doc, then create a PDF so they can be easily downloaded and printed out. It’s also really important to give a few different looks and places on your sites that gives them invitations to become subscribers. I’ve doubled my subscribers since I’ve gone to this new format. You can see how I’ve done it at:

  10. Jon

    1/7/2010 4:55 pm

    We offer a percentage off all products when users sign up,we found a massive increase when this was implemented – great thing we are able to track what they purchase from and this gives us the ability to target them with certain products thus getting higher conversions – working well so far!

  11. Louisa Chan

    1/7/2010 10:20 pm


    That is so refreshing to hear! The law of Abundance.

    I offer free consults and ebooks too, only those who are serious will take this up – I guess there is a lot of free ebooks floating around …

  12. Blogs of the Week | Internet Marketing with John

    1/8/2010 4:05 am

    […] Get More Subscribers: Seal the Deal with Incentives – I recently started using Aweber for all my new mailing lists.

  13. Rebecca Swayze

    1/8/2010 4:39 pm

    It’s wonderful to see how many people use incentives to drive strong offers. It really can make a difference in the amount of submissions to your form.


    Sadly there’s no magic number. There are so many contributing factors that differ from business to business that it is impossible to label one certain opt in percentage as ‘good’.

    It’s really important to focus on the things that you can do to increase the number of people who confirm their subscriptions as they pertain to your particular campaign.

    This post should help.


    Have you ever tried testing different incentives? Lots of people only find a winning mix by working with options and testing to see which performs best for them.

  14. Tim Gilberg

    1/9/2010 8:38 pm

    Hello Tim Gilberg here,

    CEO of Next Level Guitar, longtime Aweber customer.

    Our email signups have skyrocketed since I implemented a much simpler
    home page and put a great free offer to the top right of page.

    A valuable guitar instruction Ebook.

    Rock on

  15. David Lindsay

    1/17/2010 3:09 pm

    An easy way of testing which incentive is the most effective would be to offer a choice to the potential subscriber. It might even have the added benefit of scaring away the fence-sitters. What do you thing, everyone.

  16. P

    1/18/2010 5:41 pm

    We have not given a great deal of thought to offering incentives but plan to introduce a discount structure for customers visiting our website. Perhaps a simple 10% off would be a good incentive for new clients.

    Thanks for the advice.

  17. David Lindsay

    1/19/2010 1:17 pm

    I would be interested to hear how effective the discount is. I remember 25 years ago, in a high street record / CD business situation, offering that same incentive. I printed up hundreds of leaflets with details of the offer and had someone hand them out in the city centre. Not one leaflet was returned. Luckily, the shop went on to be a big success – until downloading became prevalent.

  18. Mike

    1/26/2010 4:13 pm

    Great email marketing content here.

    I was really impressed with the layout of your opt in form in this article and it has inspired me to make mine more attractive and pleasing to the eye rather than using a standard form layout.

    Just goes to show that the little things make a difference.

    Thanks for sharing

  19. Conner Miles

    6/2/2010 8:03 pm

    A great idea and very well communicated. There is more on the power of offering free services to web users here:

    It explains why people give up their information and how you can increase take-up rates by offering something unique. It also goes into detail on why paid-for services are not as suitable for the Internet as bricks and mortar establishments might believe.

    A very good point Rebecca, even if you are familiar with an incentive working for one type of target market, this does not mean it is a skeleton key for all demographics. Test for the best.

  20. Email Marketing Tips From HARD Fest

    9/14/2010 8:26 am

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  21. B.T.

    11/18/2010 9:45 pm

    Hi guys, I like the idea of offering free ebooks to attract subscribers. But where exactly do I save the ebook link and could I cloak it with an AWeber link?

  22. Top 4 Reasons Your List Isn’t Growing

    11/30/2010 9:22 am

    […] the scale in your favor by offering an incentive to people who fill out your web form. This is something in addition to your original offer. Then, […]

  23. Eric

    2/6/2011 9:52 am

    Aweber rocks. You guys put out some very helpful tutorials so that I can get the most out of my subscription to your service. I am busy putting together a killer incentive that’s loaded with cool Strumming Patterns for people who want to learn acoustic guitar. I also dig the premade guitar optin templates. Thanks guys

  24. Aaron Schulman

    4/7/2011 12:39 pm

    No incentive, no opt-in-

    Why would anyone give their information unless they would not get something of value in return.

    We offer a simple 4 step process (through autoresponder) teaching someone how to understand an acoustic guitar construction before buying one.

    the autoresponder teaches by taking someone back to the specific site page for each lesson-

    I based this 4-step buyers guide from real life experience of getting a lemon when I knew nothing about acoustic guitars-

    After studying them for a couple of decades and helping many people steer toward quality- this buyers guide teaching process is a no-brainer –

  25. SP

    4/7/2011 12:55 pm

    I gave away a eBook and for weeks nobody signed up.

    UNTIL I added the phone number to the footer and then conversion went through the roof.

    Who would have known?!?!

  26. Zoe

    4/7/2011 7:17 pm

    Ebooks are great but another idea is giving away free software that is related to your business or niche!

    Where do we get this free software?

    Hire software programmers who bid for your project. Prices start from $500 or more for set jobs – or you can pay by the hour ($10 – 20 per hour). Always have a set budget so you don’t over spend.

    Free software is a powerful incentive to get people to click.

    Anyone can make an ebook, but how many do you know give away free software?

    That $500 investment on making the free software can pull in thousands of subscribers.

  27. kamal

    4/8/2011 5:03 am

    I use to offer a free ebook… but this everybody does it.

    So I guess, I will start doing the Free Consultation. It is really a good idea !

    thanks !

  28. Scott Goodknight

    7/25/2011 7:15 pm

    Just signed up with AWeber and Im curious to see how this works out!

    I created a simple form in about 5 minutes and posted it here:

    I cant wait to see how it works out!!

  29. Craig Wilson

    8/20/2011 10:10 pm

    I found this conversation to be very informative. I always strive for perfection and I’ve been tinkering with ideas on offering something less mainstream for my opt in incentive. Knowing myself I’ll swap things out now and again to test. I like the idea of a short introductory call to offer free advice. Ebooks are great and can offer many ideas within, but showing people right off the bat you’re a real human being behind that blog can go along way…. the software idea Zoe had to is great.

    Not to make that call a pitch fest, but to offer real solid advice. I’m gonna try it, I have lots to talk about 🙂

  30. Jarom Adair

    9/15/2011 7:22 pm

    I’ve found that giving away ebooks and special reports certainly increases subscribe rates, but it also increases the number of junk emails you get.

    Everybody has a junk email address, and if the thing they want from you is a one-time giveaway item then they’re much more likely to give you the junk email or just unsubscribe immediately after getting what they want.

    Not to mention that creating these ebooks or special presentations can take a lot of time.

    So here’s what I recommend to people: If you’ve got a big thing to give away as incentive, then use it. But don’t make it the main reason people are signing up for your list–make it secondary. Make it a bonus.

    What will get people to give you their best email addresses? Pretty simple: promise them more information on the topic they just got done reading about.

    If they just got done reading your article on “Get More Subscribers: Seal the Deal with Incentives”, end the article with a paragraph like “There are many more things we could talk about here–not all incentives are created equal, and then how you present your incentives will make a big difference on whether people sign up or not. I’ll be writing about these things in the future–join the email list below to get this information as it comes out.”

    And then have your email signup form right there for people to fill in.

    You can offer an ebook or coupon or something, but you want to interest people in signing up initially because of future information that they’ll get. That way you don’t get the junk email addresses.


  31. Ronald Bogar

    11/23/2011 3:44 pm

    I would love to add incentives to my e-mails but I do not know how.What do I do and how can I do it?Please let me know.

  32. Crystal Gouldey

    11/25/2011 9:33 am

    Ronald- The incentive itself should be something you create or hire an outside company to create for you. Incentives typically come in the form of ebooks and videos. You can add hyperlinks in your emails that direct subscribers to the page you have these resources hosted.