If you are doing any kind of business you should be collecting leads so you can grow your business. In the travel business, it’s no different – travel bloggers, PR Agencies, DMOs, hotels, airlines, etc. all collect leads everyday. The big question is usually how much information should you collect on initial contact?

Kerwin-McKenzieThink of collecting leads as meeting someone at a cocktail party. You introduce yourself by name, then the chit chat starts. If you have anything in common, you exchange a business card or better yet bump your phones or perhaps follow each other on one of the social media channels. So, at that point, you are only collecting the information you need to continue the conversation later.

The amount of information you collect depends on the type of business you have and what you wish to do with the information. For example, if you are a travel insurance company and wish to send a quote, you may ask for name, email address, telephone number, state and country. The state and country is needed as insurance rates vary by your location. But if you are a travel blogger, all you may need is the name and email address – the rest is irrelevant at the moment. And if you are a DMO, you may just need name, email address and country of origin as that last piece of information can be used to trigger a different reply to the customer.

So, let’s talk about what is the minimum information to ask for when collecting a lead on your blogs. Is first name, last name, email address sufficient to get the dialogue started? (Remember, that’s what you’re doing here – starting a dialogue with your customers.) You need a way to address them (name) and way to contact them (email address). But do you need more than that at the beginning?

The answer depends on your goals.

The less information you ask for, the easier it will be for the users, which means your chances of getting more sign-ups will increase. But asking for a name and email address is not too much to ask of a user if they are interested in what your site has to offer or what you are giving them in exchange for the information. Yes, you can “bribe” them by offering a free report that will add value to their lives. If you offer this kind of incentive, make sure it’s something that will make recipients say, “I would have paid good money for that, I wonder what else they have to offer?”

For all my sites, I collect first name and email address on first contact, as I like to address my audience by name when I send them an email. I don’t know about you, but when I receive an email with my name in it, that makes me feel a bit more special. In addition, I like to write my emails as a conversation piece so I may interject their names within the piece for an added degree of personalization. Your goals may differ, but it’s something you have to decide in the beginning of your email marketing campaign.

If your goal is to build a list quickly and not necessarily a relationship with your readers, then perhaps just collecting an email address is all you need and you can start your emails with Hi, instead of Hi [insert mame],, although I personally prefer the latter.

It is possible to setup your opt-in form and make the name field optional. Most users will enter their name if you ask for it; only a few will test the form by just entering an email only. I recommend not asking for last name, just ask for name and users will often enter their full name in the name field. My stats for my most popular site shows that 0.55% of my users did not enter anything in the name field. So requesting name and email for that site had little effect.

I have not looked at data on how many users left the sign-up page as they did not want to give me their name, but those are not the users I want anyway, so I’m not worried. I could check the abandonment rate of the subscription page using my analytics though as well as test different pages to see what works best for my audience. That’s the beauty of email marketing – you can test what works and do more of it. A review of my subscription data showed that the names entered are actual names and not just a bunch of random letters/numbers.

If you want to mail a brochure to your customer based on initial contact, then you will need more information, such as full name and address. I’d recommend keeping everything electronic, though, so collect name and email address and then send out a welcome email with links to the information you would like them to have. This way they can download it from your servers and you save money with mailing costs.

If you can’t keep it electronic, ask for a mailing address after the initial contact. This way you at least have the name and email address for follow-ups. Asking for too much information on first contact may seem too intrusive to prospects. Think of how that feels to you when you meet someone and immediately they want your details and you don’t know them that well. Online, it’s the same feeling. Get to know your customers better first, before asking them for too much information. Once you know them and they regard you as “friends,” you’ll be surprised at what they will give you if you ask.

If you have an opt-in form on your site, are you asking for both name and email address or just email address? What drove your decision? Leave a comment below.

Kerwin-McKenzieTBEX Dublin speaker Kerwin McKenzie is an ex-airline employee turned Travel Blogger. At TBEX Dublin, he’s teaming up with Corey Taratuta from Irish Freside for a session covering the ins and outs of email marketing. We’ll be loading attendees up with achievable action steps to get them building and sending their lists… and, of course we’ll be using email to check up on their progress afterwards.