“Not so many fields. Not so many fields. People won’t fill out so many fields” shouted the little marketer. He had clearly been misguided by “email marketing experts”. The same “marketing experts” who claim that people don’t read long copy.

Do not be afraid to ask for more information when people signup to your email program. Test different versions of your forms and learn which performs better.

Know this: there are no right or wrong solutions when it comes to email marketing tactics. As with everything else, much depends on your situation and what you are trying to accomplish. And – of course – on rigorous testing.

This little diagram from marketing automation vendor Eloqua is interesting. It suggests that between 5-10 fields are optimal for forms. A big shout out to Eloqua for doing this. We need more insights like this to avoid that more little marketers are misguided.

Email marketing acquisition: How many fields are optimal for your forms?

I have long been a proponent for acquiring as much information about a new subscriber as possible. This is especially true for B2B marketing purposes.

Having seen countless conversion tests where a form with many fields performed better than a form with fewer form fields, I am not surprised by the result of Eloqua’s study.

Now, it is indeed very obvious that a one field form in most cases will convert more people to sign-up than – for example – a form with 7 fields. But last time I checked relevancy played a huge part in getting people to interact with your communication. And for that reason, most email marketers need a little more than just an email address.

What matters most is your offer

If a subscriber is genuinely interested in what you have to offer, she will spend an extra 1 or 2 minutes to complete your form. Generally speaking, the more value you offer, the more fields a person will be willing to fill in.

Sure more fields equal more friction. More friction will scare some people away – including some people who are in your most wanted subscriber segment. But you can reduce friction through the design of your form. (that is why Eloqua writes “form fields need to balance UX with data collection”). So make sure you work with professional designers. Designers who are capable of designing for conversion rather than designing to accomplish some sort of “prettiness factor”.

Naturally, one field forms generate higher conversion.

As you can see in the diagram above, Eloqua’s study of 1500 forms revealed an average conversion rate of around 55% for forms with only one form field. In comparison forms with 7 fields averaged a conversion rate of around 48%. That is “only” a 7% difference in conversion.

If all you capture at the point of sign-up is an email address, you really don’t know anything at all about your new subscriber. If your mindset is all about quantity with no real desire to profile those email addresses later on, then you might as well just continue to use a one field form.

Are you, however, someone who appreciates the value of profiling your audience, then you should experience to see just how many fields you can get a new subscriber to fill in. After all, the more you know about a subscriber, the better you will be able to serve her.

There is, of course, a correlation to be taken into consideration here. If you are offering something of value or perceived value, your audience will be more likely to provide you with more information at the point of signup, right?

That is generally true, but only if the information you ask for seems relevant and reasonable to the individual. The difficult part here is to decide which information to ask for. More on that another time.

This form consistently very well in spite of the many fields.
Our own 360 Degree Dialogue Marketing Brief Newsletter subscription form is not a form that I am particularly happy with. In fact, I have been wanting to change it many times. But I haven’t. The reason is pure and simple that it performs very well in spite of the many fields in the form. This is what it looks like.

Email marketing acquisition: How many fields are optimal for your forms?
Take away: Do not be afraid to ask for more information when people signup to your email newsletter. Test different versions of your email marketing forms and then learn which performs better.

When you decide which information to ask for at the point of sign-up, prioritize including information that you can directly use for either personalization and/or segmentation of your audience.

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