They can easily get a coffee somewhere else

There’s a really nice combined record store and cafe near where I live. They also put on occasional in-store performances from up-and-coming acts. It’s a great place to drop by.

From day one, there was a clipboard on the counter saying: “Leave your email address here and we’ll send you details of any performances coming up”. If customers mention the live acts in conversation, the staff draw attention to the clipboard, but otherwise it goes unremarked.

Nevertheless, it looks like the shop has got hundreds of people on its mailing list now.

They probably could have got more people to have signed up to the list if they’d sold it a bit more, maybe mentioning it to every customer. But that might irritate people, and I think they’re right not to do so. Customers haven’t come in to enter some sort of ‘relationship’ with the shop. They’ve come in for a coffee, or to look through the record racks. It’s not worth risking actual sales just to keep a marketing machine fed.

Imagine though if you heard this conversation at the counter:

  • “Medium Americano and a slice of cake? That’ll be £4 please, just fill out your contact details on this form”
  • “Why?”
  • “So we can send you emails about stuff”
  • “But I just want a coffee and some cake!”
  • “Sorry, email address first, or you can’t have the coffee.”

Obviously that would be nonsense (although it’s not stopping some stores from trying it). But you’re way ahead of me on this tortuous analogy, I’m sure. People come to your website to get information. It’s your website’s job to give it to them, as quickly and accessibly as possible.

Sure, if you’ve got something really useful to offer, which the visitor might think makes it worth entering a relationship to get, then offer it to them as an aside. But don’t risk the primary objective. They can easily get a coffee somewhere else.