Should You Provide an Incentive for Email Registration?

Marketers often use incentives to encourage registration on their website. Question is whether or not it is a good idea? (Actually, it was framed in terms of best practice, but this is one of those gray areas.) [See Your opinion is not “Best Practice”! (and mine isn’t either)]

As background, I dug a bit deeper into data from the 2009 Email Marketing List Growth Study to look at how marketers compared the performance of non-incented site registration versus incented site registration. There are significant differences between B2C marketers and B2B marketers. The numbers for B2C marketers are shown in the chart.

As expected, marketers report higher performance for incented registration for the number of new subscribers, but there is a tradeoff in the quality of those subscribers. Also as expected, the ROI is lower since there are costs associated with providing the incentives. The numbers for B2B marketers are better—they reports 43% higher performance in terms of quantity, but only sacrifice 7% in quality compared to non-incented site registration. So it is no surprise that incentives are used much more often in B2B email marketing than they are for B2C email marketing.

43% better quantity for 7% worse quality makes this is straightforward decision for B2B marketers. For B2C, the tradeoff of 24% better quantity for 18% worse quality makes for a tougher decision.


Often when companies turn to incentives to drive registration it is because they are compensating for poor strategy somewhere else. Non-incented site registration works if you have developed your value proposition and program messaging. If registrations are not happening without the incentives, then there is a problem with how the program is being sold to site visitors. This may be tactic placement on the site, but it is likely something more. If this is you, I recommend focusing on the value proposition of your program for a while by TAKING THE INCENTIVE AWAY.

Ask customers what they want, adjust, refine, and repeat as necessary. You will know you are on track once the stream of non-incented registrations picks up. At this point, open the subscription floodgates by adding the incentive back into the mix. Now the incentive is not the main draw, it’s simply a tool for helping get prospective subscribers off the fence!

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