How to Use Exit-Intent Popups to Grow Your Email List

Martin Zhel
Martin Zhel

Last updated on

July 20, 2021

You might ask yourself, “Why would I want to use popups? Aren’t they just interrupting people on my site and destroying the user experience?”

The truth is – not really.

According to Backlinko, nobody complained about his exit-intent popups on his site.

Dan Zarrella ran a test and found that popups don’t affect his bounce rate at all. But, without them, he gets 50% less subscribers.

Dan Zarrella popup bounce rate

Food craft blogger Nikki McGonigal found that her popups drive 1375% more subscribers than her sidebar. Her sidebar had a conversion rate of just 0.4%, but with the popups, conversion skyrocketed to 5.5%.

The good thing about exit-intent popups is that they are your last chance to convert your visitor before he leaves. Sometimes, neither of your other opt-in forms had managed to make him sign up, so it’s worth taking one more shot.

Now, let’s talk about how to actually use exit-intent popups to grow your email list.

What to offer with your exit-intent popups

The only way to get people onto your email list is if you offer them something they desire, especially if this offer is made using a popup.

So, the real question is, what do your customers want and need? Do they have specific issues they’d like to resolve? Are there certain outcomes they’d like to achieve?

Learning how to get my first 5,000 email subscribers will be the most valuable thing for me if I struggle with growing my list. Likewise, hearing about how to minimize my expenses will be valuable to me if I’m trying to avoid bankruptcy.

The next big question is in what format should you offer your bribe? Here are a few ideas:

Voucher/discount – This is a great option if you’re running an eCommerce store. That way, if your potential customer is about to leave, you can offer them a voucher/discount code for their next purchase.

discount popup

Remember, people might want what you’re offering, but they might have an issue with the price. If they know they can get it for a bit cheaper, they might be willing to buy it.

The second benefit is that if they sign up, you will have the chance to market to them in the future and convert them into paying customers.

Offer as big a discount as you can. This, of course, will greatly depend on your profit margins. It might be hard for you to offer a 20% discount if your margin is just 20%.

But, remember that your biggest profit comes from repeat customers. You may decide to forget about the profit from the first sale now that you have the opportunity to sell to a potential customer again.

Free ebook/guide – This has been the standard offer for lead generation since forever, and it still works.

ebook offer

The guide could alternatively be in the form of a case study that shows how someone achieved specific results.

For example, how did Gary Vaynerchuck get 832,241 YouTube views this year?

case study popup

You can be pretty sure that anyone who is into making videos would like to know how he did that, especially those who are currently struggling with being noticed.

In general, the more impressive the results, the better.

It also helps if you show exact numbers (that are not round numbers) – “832,241 YouTube views” sounds much better and more believable than “over 832,000 YouTube views.”

Webinar – The webinar offer is similar to the offer for a free ebook/guide. However, the difference here is that the subscriber doesn’t get instant access to the bribe.

webinar popup

The subscriber must be online at a specific time to be able to watch it. You might offer a recording that you can send to your list after the fact for the people that are unable to show up on time.

The good thing about the webinar is that it’s a limited-time offer. If people don’t sign up soon enough, they might miss it. So, it creates scarcity that pushes people to take action.

If you want to sell something on your webinar, it’s a better idea if you don’t send a recording afterwards and let people know it. That way, more people will show up when it’s live, and you will be able to close more deals.

If you’re not selling anything but instead you just want to engage your list with your content, then it might be better to send them a recording.

Demo/Free trial – When you’re selling a software product, you can offer a sign-up for a free trial in your popup.

Learnable does that every well by capitalizing on social proof (100,000 web developers are already using them) and focusing on the benefit – mastering new skills.

free trial popup

When you offer the free trial, you might pick between 14 days or 30 days depending on your product.

Ask yourself how much time people need to learn how to use your product and get results with it. Of course, you don’t want to give them quite enough time to milk it for all it’s worth, because they might not need it after that.

That’s why Learnable gives only a 14-day trial instead of 30 days.

The same way you offer а free trial, you can also offer a free consultation or a demo to help your customer solve a specific problem. This is extremely useful if you’re selling services or coaching. That way, you help your clients for free at first, and after they see some results, you can sell them your services.

Designing your exit-intent popup

The next step is to create your actual exit-intent popup. For that, you can simply use MailMunch’s popup form and some of our ready-made templates.

Log in your account and click on opt-in forms.

MailMunch popup 1

Then, click on new form:

MailMunch popup 2

Choose popover as a form type.

MailMunch popup 3

The next step is to select a theme.

MailMunch popup 4

At the end, write your copy and select your list to create the popup.

Mailmunch popup 5

Of course, for best performance, you might like to customize your popup.

Here’s some tips to get the best results:

Be consistent with your brand identity – In order words, the popup must look like it’s part of your website.

To create that effect, use colors that are part of your brand identity and website so it fits your general web design.

Also, you can include your logo on your popup so people can connect the dots.

Make the popup stand out – Derek Halpern once said that you should be using contrasting colors in all your call-to-actions in order to maximize conversion rates.

This includes your exit-intent popups as well. Make sure they either match your site or create a nice contrast. You can use both brand identity and contrasting colors on your popup.

Use a catchy visual – When visuals are used well, they can draw the attention of your visitors and help you convert more of them into subscribers.

You can use an image of a person, either you or a representation of your customer avatar. Your picture will work well if your audience is already aware of who you are.

Catchy visual popup

You can also use an image of your guide or reports’ cover or pages.

Kissmetrics popups

Write a great value proposition – Your goal in your copy is to focus on the end benefit for the customer.

What is in it for him? He will only be willing to give his email address in exchange for something that he really finds valuable.

So, first, you will need to understand what that is.

What are your target customers’ biggest challenges, fears, frustrations, goals, aspirations?

With your offers, you must help them solve a specific problem or reach a certain outcome. The more specific, the better.

A bad value proposition: “The guide to social media marketing

It’s so vague that the subscriber doesn’t know what’s on offer. Does it teach him how to increase social media followings, engagement or something else? What will he manage to achieve by reading this guide?

He doesn’t know.

A great value proposition: “Learn how to get 5,000 subscribers for free

It is specific, tangible, and measurable. The visitor knows exactly what he is going to get.

Have a clear call-to-action – Tell the user what he needs to do – download this guide, get the free trial, schedule a free consultation, etc.

Make the call-to-action button stand out so it’s visible for the user and he knows where he needs to click.

A great option is to use two call-to-actions – one positive and one negative.

For example: Social triggers is using the following exit-intent popup.

social triggers automatic pop up

You can see that there are two buttons – one saying “Yes, download the free ebook,” and other saying, “No thanks, I’ll stick to my gut on how to grow on my subscriber base.”

If people click “Yes,” they get the free offer. If they click “No,” they go back to the page.

The negative call-to-action makes people think twice about whether they really need the offer before they reject it.

Here’s how well that actually works.

Peep Laja tested the “no thank you” copy and saw an increase of 34% in conversions from changing “No thank you!” to “No thanks, I prefer to pay full price for my clothing.”

Increase conversions with page level targeting

If you want to increase your conversion rates further and get even more subscribers, page level targeting is a must.

Instead of offering a generic opt-in offer site wide, create highly targeted offers for specific pages using exit-intent popups.

That way, if someone is reading a blog post on the topic of how to grow his email list, you don’t offer him an opt-in about “Growing your social media followers,” because it’s not applicable.

It’s much better to expand the knowledge from the blog post and offer him premium content on the same topic but gated behind the opt-in.

Here’s how to do that:

Identify your most popular blog posts – Sometimes, you will have too many blog posts, and it will be impossible to create opt-in offers for all of them.

In that case, it is much better to cover only the ones that will bring the best results.

So, go to Google Analytics -> Behavior -> Site content -> All pages

Google analytics menu

Then, scroll through the list and see which are the most popular blog posts.

google analytics top posts

The ones at the top are the ones worth investing in.

Create lead magnets related to the blog posts content – The idea is that the opt-in offer must expand content covered within the blog post.

The content type could be anything from the following sources:

  • Guides/reports
  • Webinars
  • Cheat sheets
  • Video trainings
  • Free trials
  • Free consultations

The important thing is to make the lead magnet relatable and easily consumable so the visitor can implement it straight away and get results.

To learn more about how to create lead magnets, check out our blog post on the topic.

Offer them in as popup offers - WP Beginner implemented their exit-intent popups targeting specific blog posts instead of using the same one for every single page.

After that, they saw an increase of 600% in their sign-ups – from 70-80 new daily subscribers per day to 445-470.

In all cases, offering a relevant opt-in offer to the current content of the page will skyrocket your conversion rates.

A/B test and improve – You might have many ideas for an opt-in design, copy, call-to-action, or opt-in offers, but how do you know which one will work best?

The best option is to test them and find out. No matter how much experience you have in marketing, you can’t tell what will work best before you try it.

Always think about how to improve your current results and test new versions. If they perform better, make them permanent. If they don’t, switch back to the previous one and test something new.

In conclusion:

Exit-intent popups might be one of your most effective strategies for growing your email list.

There is absolutely no reason not to use them. If you use them well, they won’t disturb the user experience, and there will only be benefits.

Be sure to offer valuable and relevant lead magnets to your visitors. Don’t forget to implement page level targeting to maximize your conversions.

Do you currently use or plan to use exit-intent popups? What are the results that you’re getting or expect to get? Let us know in the comments below.

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