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Web subscription forms-a checklist

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By Mark J. Miller

As the Internet continues to gain stature as a new source of circulation and as an increasingly popular place for renewals, the online subscription form has taken on a prominent role. The following are some best practices for these forms.

  • Include all pertinent departments in the planning of the form. "Make sure all business units that depend on leads to drive business are part of this process," said Shannon Aronson, corporate director of audience development at CMP Media.
  •  Keep it short. "The shorter the form, the better the response," said Barbara Blaskowsky, circulation director of GCN's Government Computer News and Washington Technology . "Clicking through to `next' increases drop-offs," said Deb Walsh, director of audience development at IDG. "Before a question goes on the form, ask, `What will I do with this info?"' One way to keep the initial form short is to use e-mail to send follow-up questions to subscribers, said Barry Green, VP-director of circulation at Hearst Business Media.
  • Collect information on "abandoned" forms immediately. This will help in trouble-shooting and adjusting the form, Aronson said.
  • Web forms and print forms should ask for the same information. "By having the same data, the files can be combined into an integrated database to generate list rental revenue and online marketing of the company's products, or e-newsletters selected by the demographics of the recipients," Green said.
  • Be upfront about how you will use an e-mail address. "This will "brand you as a trustworthy partner, and will make people more comfortable giving you their [information]," said Gloria Adams, director of corporate audience development at PennWell.
  • Provide fields for "other" responses. "If [an answer is] open-ended, make sure it's captured," Walsh said.
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