Don't Fight Your Users

Marketing has lost its way.

You click on an interesting article and bam… welcome mat.

Welcome Mat

But I just got here!

As you finish the article, you’re immediately presented with 5 “related” posts... aka advertisements for yet another product.

Sponsored Links by Taboola

You click one. Why not?

But halfway through the new piece, you realize there’s a “content upgrade” - something even better than the post you just read, that you’ll need to trade your email address for.

Ebook cover

Thank you for your business - Fiverr

Ok, that’s enough. You begin to leave the website when suddenly your screen goes black, freezes, and you’re presented with a full-screen overlay that’s half insulting you.

Agressive exit intent popup

Are you kidding me...

Do website visitors deserve this abuse? Is this how you want users to feel as they leave your site: lazy, stupid, unhealthy?

I call this “fighting your users” - intentionally making it harder, less pleasant and less joyful for prospects - people - to use your website.

You fight them for their email address, fight them to read your ebook, so that one day (hopefully, maybe) you can sell them something. This is the opposite of Seth Godin’s permission marketing.

Click here to learn how adding Fomo’s social proof to your site can improve conversions.

Why does this happen?

Because it works… in the short term.

If you’ve just started a new job in marketing, adding popups and lead capture fields to your site will almost certainly boost your short-term numbers. You’ll capture more email addresses, and some percentage of the people you email might buying your product. There’s no arguing that.

However, “capturing” emails - a term that aptly describes the war-like mentality many marketers take towards their users - optimizes for the wrong metric. It optimizes for short-term conversions, and ignores the long-term repercussions that come from this mentality.

Imagine if someone dated this way: he knows what he wants in a long-term partner, but then goes to dinner with every woman that right-swipes him on Tinder. Sure, he’ll have a lot of dates, but is that the right metric to optimize for?

The truth is, not all people are equally good life partners. And not all customers are created equal, either.

Some prospects are just better suited for your product than others. Others won’t ever use or be interested in what you’re doing. And that’s ok.

Timing is a real thing. Choosing customers (just as they choose you) is a real thing. Allowing customers to learn about you from afar, engage with your site, content and team, and then choose to give you their email address or sign up for a trial… that happens. In fact, I’d be willing to guess that if you investigate how customers find you, more come from sources you can’t attribute - i.e. brand, word of mouth - than from an aggressive email popup or lead capture form.

Downstream effects

There’s a famous story about the British Indian Empire in the 1800s. British soldiers were dying from cobra bites. So, to eliminate the cobras, the British decided to pay for dead snakes! This way, skilled Indian wilderness men had an incentive to capture and kill these deadly snakes. More people hunting for cobras = fewer cobras… right?

Yes. At first.

As more and more dead cobras streamed in, the Brits realized something crazy… people were breeding cobras! They bred them, killed them, and sold them to the Brits for a profit!

Thus, they discontinued the dead cobra bounty program, at which point cobra breeders released their cobras back into the wild, thereby increasing the cobra population.

The point is, actions have unintended consequences. In the case of all the aggressive email capture I see today, there are very real unintended consequences.

Without aggressive email capture, you’ll have more interactions with customers and prospects that want what you have to offer. This makes it easier to build 1-1 relationships and get relevant customer feedback - not to mention give you extra time to delight the people that already love you.

This is exactly the experience the team at Drift had when they removed their email capture. Here’s Dave, their head of marketing, reporting back on the experiment:

Drift commenting the benefits of removing email capture

How you treat a customer or a potential prospect matters. When you fight your users, you’re hurting your relationships with the very people that can spread the word about your company. Fighting your users hurts your brand - after all, a brand is simply your relationships with customers at scale.

I love this from Dollar Shave Club. Those guys get it: branding matters.

Winning formula from Dollar Shave Club

The billion dollar formula

My business partner Ryan says that 'word of mouth is the delta between what you could have charged and what you choose to charge.' It’s the gap between the value delivered and the value captured.

This is why we’ll never have aggressive email capture on Fomo. We want everyone to walk away from an interaction with us - our website, twitter account, emails, whatever - feeling like they got the better of the interaction.

One thing is for sure. When you choose not to fight your users, everybody wins.