Unless you've been under a rock, you've probably heard by now that you need to be collecting emails and creating a list where you can interact with your audience. This has been true for many years and will continue to be that way - especially if you subscribe to the 1,000 True Fan concept.
However, building that list is itself a problem. You need to have a squeeze page and an auto-responder to be able to automate the sign up process...and things start to get complicated from there.
Building your own squeeze page for WordPress can be a major pain in the butt, but not only that - many musicians haven't made peace with the concept of the squeeze page yet. They don't want to force people to sign up or leave - they want something that's not quite as 'in your face' about collecting emails.
Sure, there are other ways to collect email addresses like the pop-up and the sidebar opt-in, but these are not only far less effective and almost invisible (sidebar optin) or they can risk annoying your fans (pop-ups).
However, there's a new option available to musicians who use WordPress and it's 100% free (for now).
It's called Welcome Gate - and it's made by a company called Leadbrite.
This plugin can work like a hybrid squeeze page and like a pop-up without being anywhere near as annoying. Here's how it works.
You install the Welcome Gate plugin on your WordPress site and you set it up the way you like. There are a bunch of tweakable design options that require zero knowledge of code at all. I whipped this together in just a few minutes, it almost took me longer to find my header graphic than it did to setup the design options!
So what makes Welcome Gate different? First of all, you may have noticed the words "skip this step" at the very bottom of my screen capture. That's where your visitors can choose to bypass what otherwise appears to be a typical squeeze page. You can disable this if you like and force people to have to sign in to get access to your site.
The other thing different about Welcome Gate different is that it only shows up when people go to the home page of your website, and it will only appear to them once. This is why it's much less likely to annoy people - it won't ask for their email every time they come to your site and read an update, it will only appear if they go to your home page and only for their first visit. So Welcome Gate gives first time visitors the chance to sign up immediately before they view your site for themselves.
The guys at Leadbrite claim that their Welcome Gate plugin is 10 times better than a pop up, in fact they designed the plugin because they found that using pop up optins were no longer converting for them at all. I only just set up my first Welcome Gate, so I'll update this post once I can verify or disprove these claims.
The biggest weakness for me with Welcome Gate is that it only collects email addresses; this is by design as Leadbrite has done the testing to show that asking for a first name with the email address reduces conversions. While that may be true, one of the most powerful aspects of having an auto-responder is being able to personalize your communications by addressing your list members by their first name; so it's a trade off. I'd love to see the option to include first name down the road (they already added this feature to their Leadplayer product...so maybe Welcome Gate is next?).To get the benefits of using Welcome Gate, I needed to create a second list that only requires the email address, which is an extra hoop that many others might not want to jump through...
- Welcome Gate is easy to use and fast to setup.
- It's free (for now)
- It does what it claims to do.
- Only supports 3 auto-responder companies at the moment
- Doesn't allow you to collect first name data, just the email address
Overall - I think Welcome Gate is worth testing out on your blog. I've installed it on 3 of my sites and am curious to see how it performs over the next while. I will update this post with my findings!