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Best Practices Start with Sign-Up

Oct 16, 2019 9:45:48 PM

Marketer's Guide to Effective Email Part 1:

The most successful marketers leverage email to strengthen the bond with their best customers. Customers seek out brand emails in a cluttered inbox. Customers feel like they are having a conversation with the brand. We have spent years analyzing email strategies from the best marketers in the world to uncover five things that make them great:

  1. Ease of user sign up/opt-in process and what brands do next
  2. Valuable and relevant content, not just more spam added to the pile
  3. A culture of continuous testing
  4. Integration with mobile, other digital channels and offline campaigns
  5. Measurement beyond opens and clicks

Signup sets the tone

The way customers signup for email sets the tone for the relationship. The best email communication mimics a conversation with the brand. Here is our ranking, based on our experience with hundreds of email marketers:

Good: Users can easily find where to sign up and the form is intuitive. Users can sign up for email multiple ways (web pages, footers, social media fan pages). A Lightbox is being used to promote signup but is not obnoxious about disrupting the user experience on owned media (web and mobile sites)

Better: Signup form only asks for the information necessary but has a way for customers to disclose more about themselves and what they are looking for later. Process allows for customers to specify desired content and cadence of communications. Lightbox is intelligent (can perform real-time lookup) and doesn't ask for email addresses again if there is already one on file

Best: Users can learn about the program when subscribing. The system repeats back what it learns and verifies expectations (e.g., double opt in). The email program customizes its communication based on data from signup. Robust permissions center is in place. Lightbox messages are personalized and reflect customer purchases and recent behaviors


What kind of first-party (1P) data does the brand collect on signup?

This is a critical question; if you ask too much, you’ll risk losing the registrant, but this is the golden opportunity to harvest what you need in order to customize the communications from the brand (email and beyond). Here are some best practices:


Home Depot® asks whether the registrant is a Pro upon signup and then provides the opportunity to designate the type of communications they want to receive. Do you think Home Depot could’ve asked for type of professional? How much is too much on signup? If the process is too cumbersome you risk drop-off in the middle of the process. The best practice is ask for what you need, then follow-up with another communication or survey to add to the customer profile.



Like all brands, Nordstrom® is asking for an email sign-up. But they go further to explain the benefits of the program - a best practice of an effective email marketer.



Customers who sign up for Carter’s® loyalty program have the option of adding their children’s information (name, age and gender). Brands can personalize the communications and shopping experience from that point forward.

Welcome to my email program

What brands do with the 1P data they collect is the key to success. This is not nice-to-know information. This is what the customer wants to tell you in exchange for a personalized experience as their reward. The greater the brand trust, the more customers will share. How do your welcome programs compare?

Good :Welcome message is triggered upon signup but the conversation continues after the automatic reply in a stream of communication

Better: Welcome program nurtures the relationship; helps users get started, offers suggestions and ideas to re-engage, reminds users what they signed up for, repeats back 1P data (e.g., loyalty reward level and thresholds)

Best: Email is completely personalized from the start using 1P data. For example, different customers get different offers, messages, creative assets and cadence based on preferences shared


Nordstrom’s welcome stream explains the benefit of the email and loyalty program and is customized to reflect recent purchases.


Get the entire Marketer's Guide to Effective Email




Hansa is a marketing communications agency that integrates insights and engagement. When clients work with us, they solve business problems and prove that marketing works.




Roy Wollen
Written by Roy Wollen

Roy Wollen is President of Hansa Marketing Services, a CDP Marketing agency. Roy has led some of the top marketers in industries such as Direct to Consumer, travel, financial services, B2B and retail. Roy is a consultant at heart and focuses on solving client problems using marketing technology and analytics. Roy is also Lecturer at Northwestern’s Medill School of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Roy teaches Marketing Metrics, B2B Marketing and Digital Analytics. Roy’s academic work focuses on data-driven marketing and marketing measurement. The common theme is proving the value of marketing investments, customer data and measuring business outcomes. Roy earned a Master of Science degree from Medill IMC and is a speaker at industry conferences and events.