3 Ways to Set Expectations at Sign Up

Spam complaints can tell you a lot about your email marketing campaigns. One thing they can indicate is that it’s unclear to your subscribers what they are signing up for and how when they’ll receive your messages. So how can you minimize spam complaints from the get-go? Keep reading to find out how a few of your fellow email marketers do it by setting expectations!

email sign up“I didn’t sign up for this!” An impulsive and angered hand clicks the “Mark as Spam” button.

Spam complaints can tell you a lot about your email marketing campaigns. One thing they can indicate is that it’s unclear to your subscribers what they are signing up for and how when they’ll receive your messages.

So how can you minimize spam complaints from the get-go?

Keep reading to find out how a few of your fellow email marketers do it by setting expectations!

Setting Expectations

When evaluating the cause of a spam complaint, the first step is to take a look at your web form.

It’s absolutely crucial to set expectations throughout the life of your email campaign, starting with your web form.

Your web form must explain exactly what your subscribers will receive, the benefits of subscribing, and when subscribers can expect to receive your messages.

Let’s take a look at how Print It Party, a party decor site, sets expectations with their web form:

web form

To make certain that important details are not overlooked, they place information not only in the header of the form, but above the form as well. With your own form, if you can’t explain in full detail what subscribers will receive in just the header, include a description near the web form on the page.

This web form includes the benefits of what the subscriber will receive – “free printables and contests, extra-hip party tips and secrets and new products alerts.” They make their newsletter sound special and exciting while describing exactly what is to come.

Including a Subscriber Counter

Using a subscriber counter has shown to be a successful tool in gaining subscribers. A potential subscriber viewing the counter will see that others are benefiting from your newsletter. This establishes your information as a reputable source.

Battlefield Equipment, an equipment rental site, sets expectations using this method.

email sign up form

Battlefield Equipment’s subscriber counter builds trust and sets expectations about the quality of their “Battlefield Equipment eNewsletter.” Potential subscribers can see Battlefield already has a significant following and they will be more inclined to trust that the messages and content they will receive are valuable.

Just as Techbite describes when subscribers will receive messages, Battlefield notes that subscribers will get “seasonal” specials. If you do not send each week or month on a specific day, you can still use detailed words to describe “when” messages will go out.

Using Images

Including an image on your email sign up form can increase recognition and help you to maintain consistency throughout your campaign.

Take for example the web form on the homepage of the brain games and fitness company, Braintraining. Braintraining’s form includes imagery and lets subscribers know they respect their privacy.

subscriber sign up form

Their attention-grabbing lightbox form includes an image of the Brain Training Power Pack. Including this picture allows subscribes to visualize what they are going to receive.

The form also contains a link to Braintraining’s privacy policy. Include a link to the privacy policy in your own web form to assure subscribers that you are sending a safe and private newsletter.

Details Make the Difference

These forms do not simply say “Sign Up for My Newsletter.” They include valuable and descriptive information to begin an honest relationship with subscribers.

You can see a little detail goes a long way in setting expectations. To prevent potential complaints, make it your priority to set expectations right off the bat.

How do you set expectations at sign up?


  1. Michael Webb

    1/6/2011 10:42 am

    I had “e-zine covers” designed so they realized that they would receive a profession “magazine” in their email.

    I also included an image of the free ebook – 101 Romantic Ideas – that they receive when they sign up.

    BTW – I do make that ebook available to others to use for the same purpose.

    You can take a look at the covers on my home page at http://www.TheRomantic.com

  2. Wayne

    1/6/2011 12:00 pm

    What angers me, is when I do take the time to go through the “unsubscribe” ritual, and all of a sudden a few days later, here comes new garbage from the same marketer I deleted. How does this happen? Where are the safeguards in your system to prevent this? The only thing I can see is that the marketer is placing e-mail addresses back on his list that have been unsubscribed.

    This gets into the ethics philosophy of internet marketing, and why, if the existing internet community doesn’t do something to govern and control itself, others from the outside will. At that point the freedoms from government control of the internet will be gone.

  3. Bronson

    1/6/2011 1:42 pm

    Absolutely spot on – if you tell potential subscribers what’s in the newsletter, how often to expect it and that others are getting value from it – they can sign-up knowing exactly what to expect.

  4. steven

    1/6/2011 2:19 pm

    What I do even more, to reduce spam complaints, is adding a sentence like this in the confirmation message: “remember that you`ll receive a two weekly newsletter with more creative inspiration or free downloads after confirming this message. You can unsubscribe whenever you want”.

    Then, when they click on the confirmation link, I remind them to what they can expect on the opt-in gift download page – as in the first mail of the follow messages.

  5. David:

    1/6/2011 4:16 pm

    Hi Lindsay,
    Thank you for sharing these examples.

    As another idea I put in my sign up form close to the tp that people can ‘unsubscribe quickly anytime’ so they know they are free to cancel if I don’t fulfill their expectations.

  6. Mike Lawson

    1/7/2011 8:45 am

    Very useful info.
    Particularly re the importance of images showing what subscribers will be getting on sign up

  7. Ulla

    1/7/2011 9:28 am

    Thanks for this good information.
    Yes, it is really a big difference with an image..
    Did not think on this before.. đŸ™‚

  8. Alfred Bellanti

    1/11/2011 12:45 am

    Thanks for this article. The more knowledge the better I say!

  9. John

    1/11/2011 9:44 am

    Very useful info!!!

  10. Hale

    1/11/2011 1:08 pm

    Hi Lindsay,
    You are absolutely “spot on” with your suggestions and examples. I keep hearing over and over that as Internet Marketers we have to make our expectations known, and known clearly. The use of images can help with branding, and reiterating time and again what they can expect from us will go a long ways towards reducing complaints. Good newsletter.

  11. mark atephens

    1/13/2011 5:32 am

    Thanks, this is great advice for the beginner and a good reminder for the more experienced marketer.

    Creating an image (for branding and recognition) as well as telling your subscribers what they can expect is great communication.

    The other objective here is to provide valuable information that your subscribers will look forward to receiving and then the issue of ‘spam’ disappears!

  12. Dave

    1/15/2011 4:20 pm

    Very good info…

    Another good method is to add video to your sign up page.
    This way you can outline everything you need to, so that your visitor knows exactly what they are signing up for, and what they can expect to receive….. you can raise your conversion rates with this if you do it right!!!

    Have fun and prosper.

  13. Erin Matlock

    1/29/2011 5:19 pm

    Thanks so much for including Brain Training 101 as an example. I’ve been an AWeber user since I started online, and you guys have always provided excellent service. With over 150 email signups today, we’ve definitely grown over the years. Keep up the excellent work.

  14. Robert murray

    4/7/2011 1:50 pm

    Great content guys and a good reminder for everyone to look after our valuable subscribers.
    I am just setting a few new web forms and will keep all this info in mind.

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