The Absolute Wrong Way To Collect Email Addresses And What To Do Instead


I just wanted to browse.

But this company had their entire product catalog hidden behind a registration wall. To gain access I’d have to give up my name, email address, company name, city, state, and country.

Would you give all that up just to look around?

Ordinarily, I’d have clicked away, but this company was a prospective customer who’d asked for an e-commerce copywriting quote. So I asked about the registration wall.

“Oh, that’s so we can capture the email addresses of people who come to the site,” they told me. “We’ll give you access.”

As much as I understand and respect their desire to gather information about potential customers, this is not an ideal lead generation strategy. Asking for personal information just to browse your product catalog is like asking a complete stranger for a kiss…odds are good you’re going to get rejected.

Online Lead Generation Mistakes

New leads are the lifeblood of any business. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling cars or web hosting services, if you don’t have a steady stream of new leads your business will eventually wither and die.

Unfortunately, some lead generation tactics are just as (if not more) likely to offend the target consumer as collect valuable information from them. These include:

  • Asking for information too soon. Your prospects want to get to know and trust you before giving up their personal details.
  • Asking for too much information. The more personal information you ask for, the more uncomfortable people get. If all you need is an email address, only ask for an email address.
  • Not being clear about how the information will be used. You must spell out why you are collecting personal information and what you’re going to do with it.
  • Buying contact information from others. If people haven’t given you permission to email them, don’t.

Other mistakes that can short-circuit your efforts to get leads from your website include:

  • Relying on a generic “contact us” form. While there’s nothing wrong with having a catch-all contact form, lead generation works best when accompanied by a specific call to action.
  • Not asking for contact information at all. The only thing worse than a generic contact form is no contact form at all.
  • Making your contact information hard to find. If prospects have to do work to reach you, they won’t.

How to get leads from your website in just 2 steps

Step one is getting people to visit your website.

Start by creating content people want to engage with. Then give it away for free. (This is what we call content marketing.)

For the company mentioned above, a digital product catalog could have served this purpose, which is why putting up a registration wall can be counterproductive.

Other types of content you can use to engage potential customers include:

Often, a company blog is the easiest and most effective way to add engaging content to your website.

Step two is giving people a compelling reason to share their contact information with you.

The keyword here is “compelling.”

The content you put behind a registration wall should build upon content that is freely available on your website.

For example, HubSpot’s website grader (mentioned above) offers valuable information on its own, but they use it to promote a free 30-day trial of their software:

Hubspot generates leads with this offer: "Increase your website grade. Start your free 30-Day Trail"


This creates a transaction where value (customer information) is exchanged for value (a free 30-day trial). This is an important point because by offering value in return for a customer’s information you are demonstrating a level of respect and appreciation for what they are giving you.

Your offer doesn’t have to be a free trial. Other examples include:

  • An ebook
  • A research report
  • A white paper
  • A downloadable app
  • Coupons
  • Webinars
  • Free training or an e-course
  • Access to insider information or member exclusives

The best part about using this lead generation tactic is that results in warm leads who will be much more receptive to your marketing messages. In fact, you can tailor your offers to specific market segments and personalize your marketing messages. This will ultimately result in higher conversion rates.

One very important last point, however. Do not abuse the privilege of getting someone’s contact information. Send them what you promised, keep their information private, and always give them an easy way to opt-out.


Find out how to get leads from your website. Click here.


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