5 (Really Good) Reasons NOT to Collect Names on Email Opt-In Forms

Audience Building Strategies for Content Businesses

Audience Building Strategies for Content BusinessesWelcome to the Marketing Show Podcast.

If you follow Marketing Show, it goes without saying that you collect email addresses on your website… right?

Everyone knows that building an email list is a must, but there’s still some confusion and controversy over what other information you should collect from visitors when they subscribe. Should you ask for a name as well?

As far as we’re concerned the answer is simple: Nope!

Having looked at the pros and cons in a variety of businesses, Clay and Andy are firmly in the “don’t collect names” camp (and still manage to maintain great relationships with their clients).

Plug in those headphones and listen to our best five reasons for skipping the “name” field on opt-in forms.

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The Marketing Show Podcast is brought to you by our coaching program.


Clay: Hello everyone. My name is Clay Collins, and with me is Andy Fossett, who runs our coaching program. Andy, how’s it going?

Andy: It is going fabulously today, Clay.

Clay: Awesome.

Andy: How are you doing?

Clay: I’m doing great. It’s a beautiful day here in sunny Minneapolis, Minnesota and how’s it going in Hawaii?

Andy: Hawaii is ironically raining right now. It’s a hipster rain. It’s an ironic hipster rain.

Clay: Yeah, I kind of like, you know, I’m sure the people in Portlander, Seattle right now are sipping fancy coffee drinks and looking all emo out their windows and wishing that they could be in Hawaii, and you’re there, feeling cool for them.

Andy: Yeah, definitely.

Clay: That made no sense, but let’s just go with it. All right. So today, we’re going to be talking about the 5 reasons why you should not be collecting first names on opt-in forms. Andy, do you have any thoughts on this?

Andy: Yeah, well I think it’s something that there’s a lot of great people who are very skilled marketers and doing tremendous business that do collect first names, and there’s a lot of people who collect first names, last names, phone numbers and full addresses too, but it’s definitely not for everyone, and I think we’ve got some well-considered reasons that you should consider giving it up.

Clay: Yup, I completely agree. Pat Flynn, I was talking with him the other day, someone I have tremendous respect for and is doing an amazing job, he likes collecting first names. We’ve always kind of had a policy of not doing it, and this is something that like Andy said reasonable people can disagree about, but we are here to lay out our 5-point assault on collecting email addresses, so let the slaughter in the death match. It’s not really a match. We’re just going to kill this thing.

Andy: Yeah, yeah, we’re just going to since this is a slaughter, straight up slaughter.
Clay: Yeah. It’s going to be a blood bath. All right, so what’s the point number one or should we go over the research first? I mean I want to talk some smack, but maybe we should – No, let’s just do the research at the end.

Andy: Yeah, yeah.

Clay: Let’s just do some research. We’ll just report from our findings. All right, what’s the first point, Andy?

Andy: All right, so the first point is it is plain and simple. It’s verified again and again. It’s that when you collect more than one field, when you collect two fields that would be, you know, each field is an input. So it could be email address or first name. When you collect more than one, opt-in rates invariably go down.

Clay: Yeah, yeah. Right. So actually, with every – and Andy it totally right, with every new field that you add, opt-in rates go down.

Clay: And it makes sense I think for like Be2Be, people who are doing a webinar, and you know, they want the name of the company and how many employees maybe there are and a phone number, they’re really just trying to get qualified leads because the one-on-one sales process is so intensive that really, only want to start it, initiated someone is actually like going to be a qualified customer and might convert at some point.

Andy: Sure.

Clay: So it makes sense for them, but in kind of consumer-oriented businesses where you have automated or at least one too many sales processes. It doesn’t make sense. So yeah, opt-in rates go down.

Clay: I’ve got the second point here. The second point is that people are not fooled because you have their name in the subject line. They’re not, you know, like if you’re writing them, they’re not , someone wrote to me. It’s so kind of them. Wow they really thought of me. Like this isn’t their early golden age of the internet so – I mean basically, anyone younger than probably 80, who’s getting an email does not think that you personally know them by name, so no one’s really fooled here. Everyone kind of gets email marketing at this point and knows what’s going on.

Andy: Yeah, exactly, and you know, this comes from a time when email was kind of like it was still e-mail, electronic mail. People looked at it like a digital letter of some sort, but it’s just not the case anymore.

Clay: It’s true. That’s true. Now it becomes e-spam.

Andy: Yes. And that takes us pretty much right in to the next point I think is that your friends are not going to use your name when they email you. People that know you don’t begin emails anymore with dear Tommy.

Clay: Right.

Andy: And they definitely don’t use them on the subject line, but people just don’t do that. We live in a time now where people tend to write their messages more quickly either on their phones, or you know, some other mobile platform and they’re not going to take time to write a salutation.

Clay: That’s so true, like Facebook actually has eliminated the subject line. People just start sentences with like what’s up? They’re not like dearest Andrew, you know, I am writing you from a faraway place, you know, like…


…there’s none of this going on. People are just like hey, what’s up? How’s it going? Heard you – Like I just got engaged just recently, so people are like yo, heard you got engaged. Congrats. Bye. Like that sort of the extent of a lot of messages these days. They really don’t start out with, you know – No one was like hello Clay, you know. There wasn’t that going on.

Andy: Yeah and if you do get an email like that, it’s usually from a Nigerian prince.

Clay: Who has set aside several million dollars to you that you can reclaim if you just send over your bank number.

Andy: Yes.

Clay: Anyway, cool. So the next point here is that people often use fake names in the name field just to get emails that have some like weird fake name like I remember I put in God once like dear God, and you know, this is wonderful. Actually, my ego is nowhere near that big, but you know, like they’ll put in stuff like I don’t want you to tell my names, like dear I don’t want to tell you, but you’re like – And that’s just a dead giveaway like it really just further solidifies the fact that this is a bulk email thing, and that it’s almost I believe disingenuous to put someone’s name there when that is really what’s going on like you’re kind of automating that.

Andy: Yeah, and not only, but every single time you send them an email, you’re going to remind them. It’s like a big sign at the beginning of every single email that reminds them that oh yeah, this is that email I didn’t really want anyway.

Clay: Right. Totally. Totally. What’s the next point?

Andy: Well, the next one is that you and I definitely and our clients simply make more money when we don’t require a name.

Clay: That is very true. That is very true. This has been extensively measured and income for us has increased when we don’t ask for a name. So it’s a monetary measure. It’s certainly not the only measure by any stretch of what you should be doing with your online business site. I think some of the best decisions have suppressed short-term profits, but ultimately increase trust and bonding, which in a non-tractable way, helped us in the long term. It’s certainly not the only measure, but it is a measure, but it is a metric that everyone should be tracking.

Andy: Yes, absolutely. Knowing how things affect the bottom line is one of those things that, you know – It’s not the end-all be-all, but it’s definitely important in business. If you want to stay in business you need to be turning a profit.

Clay: Totally. So what’s the verdict, Andy?

Andy: The verdict is 5 to none, 5 to 0. There may be good reasons in some businesses, especially if you have a sales intensive process and you really need to qualify those leads, but in most of the cases that we have seen, at least, it were 5 to 0 against collecting additional fields and against collecting names.

Clay: The verdict is guillotine to collecting first names. I really think with the guillotine. I’m sorry I’m saying that wrong. All right, so we were not going to do this, but I just decided that we probably should, and hopefully, Andy will let me. Andy, let’s do this little segment called Opt-in, Opt-out.

Andy: All right. All right. Opt-in, Opt-out. Let’s do it.

Clay: All right. So opt-in just for everyone who is – This is the first time that we’ve done it. It’s not like for our new listeners of The Marketing Show podcast like, but so okay, so this Opt-in Opt-out thing is we’re going to do segment where I’m going to do an opt-out this time, and Andy is going to do an opt-in, and it’s just stuff we’d like. So Andy, let’s start out with opt-in.

Andy: Well, the opt-in is actually very related to what we’ve been talking about, and it’s just that, you know, people have been getting a lot more savvy about the way that they interact with their audiences these days, and that is going all the way to collecting email addresses. They realized that privacy is a concern. They realize that people get a lot of email and they’re being a lot more conscious about that in the way that they collect contact information and use contact information, and I think that’s a great thing for, you know, across industries that market online.

Clay: Yeah, yeah I completely agree. All right, so my opt-out is not as sophisticated. Basically, my opt-out is related to these two words. One is the word FREE in all caps as in please opt-in to get my FREE!!! in all caps. I wish I could show it to you visually, but basically, FREE spelled in all caps like just because your report is free it doesn’t warrant going berserk with the typography. So my opt-out is on the use of the word FREE in all caps even though…


…I’m probably committing a sin right now…

Andy: I think we all do it. We all do it without realizing it sometimes, but it’s definitely something you’d want to avoid.

Clay: Yeah, why does that happen? I think there are so many things in marketing where we see other people do them and we assume that because other people are doing them that they work when half the time like I’ve actually like followed the rabbit trail on some of these like marketing trends and got the original guy who did it, and he’s like oh yeah, I don’t know, like my $5 an hour VA did that. We just duct because there wasn’t enough time to change it. I was like what?

Andy: There’s a socializing effect. It’s like an urban legend, you know. I heard this guy who heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy who was best friends with the guy that sold a billion dollars last week, you know.

Clay: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I heard that if you pee on a public pool, that it turns, you know, like purple or red. There’s a red cloud that forms there.

Andy: I’m going to try that later on.

Clay: Yeah. I can verify from many years of adolescence that – Well, let’s not get into that. Okay, so that’s Opt-in Opt-out. Thanks everyone for dialing in, for listening in. How do we close this out?

Andy: You know, we really appreciate you listening, and so we want to keep doing this, so please, please, please go to iTunes and give us a review and rating. Get in touch. Leave a comment and ask any questions you have, and we’re going to get back and try to answer everything.

Clay: Thanks everyone for listening in. Take care.

[0:11:27] End of Audio

  • Good morrow, dearest Clayton: I pray this telegraph finds ye in the Lord’s grace, and that henceforth nary a misfortune befall ye. Godspeed.

    • By the way: mind sharing any interesting data about your podcast subscribers?

      • Like what?

        • Does it drive a lot of leads (for example, from iTunes)? Is it more for lead nurturing? Would you recommend doing it? I ask because I don’t ever recall you encouraging people to create a podcast. Wondering if I should do it myself.

    • Um…. thanks ? 🙂

    • Oh, I totally get the reference now. We recorded this podcast about a month ago.

    • Hahaha, I had totally forgotten about that too.

  • optionsizzle

    This is a bit conflicting with your last post about the order form squeeze page.

    • The two view points don’t conflict. I have never offered one size fits all advice on the marketing show. Whether you should use an “order form squeeze page” or an email-only squeeze page varies based on your objectives.

      Warm regards,

      • optionsizzle

        I had to think a little more about this and I understand. You still implement both strategies to weed out leads. You can still have a free optin for a quick report.

        Instead you can have the sales page squeeze as another opt in part as someones overall sales funnel.

        • Exactly. Clay discusses the reasons for the oder form opt-in in that video, and you can see that he’s not suggesting that for your main list – it’s more for “product level” bribes (and great for pre-launches).

          • optionsizzle

            It makes a little more sense or something to weed out the free user to a potential paid user after they opt in. Do you have any suggestions on doing paid traffic sources like Google adwords? I am not fully sure of what type of pages you can drive people to, but I can’t really understand the pages they want you to direct traffic to.

          • You can drive people to almost any kind of page, provided it matches your ad and message.

  • I’m collecting names right now in my opt-in and it doesn’t really add a lot of value in my opinion so it was awesome hearing your opinion. One other thing, I love the exposure Lead Player brings to video, do you have a post that would explain how it works on protected membership content?

    • Yeah, we’ve collected names in the past too, but at some point we started to question to utility of that practice.

      As for LeadPlayer, you would use in in basically the same way, thought the opt-in function wouldn’t be as useful, But you could definitely use the CTAs to point to a forum/discussion area on a topic covered in a video or something.

      Did you have a specific use case you’re looking for?