Surveys, Profile Information, and Hamtraps

As part of my massive spam/ham tracking project, I’ve been signing up for lists. Hundreds of lists. Somewhere north of four hundred and I keep adding more every day.

I’m practicing safe signup – each retailer, newsletter publisher, media outlet, or other list owner gets a unique address that isn’t easily found by way of dictionary attacking. I’ve got multiple domains and the ability to bounce/filter out certain addresses. Thankfully, too, as there’s already a few senders who have done things with the addresses that I don’t agree with. They’re no longer a part of the feed, as I don’t consider them “good” senders.

This isn’t exactly “shout it from the rooftops” fun to do. I’d much rather be over on Navy Pier, relaxing at a table in the beer garden, with some sort of tasty beverage. But, it’s been providing me with good, useful data, and for the most part, I’m able to stand the monotony of signing up for list after list after list after list.

What really is dragging it down for me, though, is excessive profiling. I’m not new to marketing. I know profiling is good. I love self selection and self segmentation. Let people tell you what lists they want to be on. It’s wise. It puts the consumer in charge of the messaging. Let them hear what they want to hear about, and it’ll make them happy. Don’t offer that capability, or don’t utilize the data you’re collecting, and you end up looking silly. Heck, get it wrong enough, and people are even going to blog about it. Heh.

But some of these sites go overboard with five and six page surveys. Screen after screen of required fields and “tell me more about yourself.” Dude, I just want to receive your newsletter. I’m not applying for a car loan. Sure, I'm subscribing for a unique purpose when compared to most other newsletter subscribers, but is it really that different? When I sign up for something for myself (XM Radio, technology newsletters, etc.), my eyes start to glaze over if they want to ask more than ten questions (and I’m counting “enter your email address twice” as two of those).

How can people stand these? If my office had a window I would’ve jumped out of it rather than finish the most recent of these long, slow forms that I just came across. And I can't be the only person who feels this way.

I just can’t help but wonder about the drop off rate is for these long, multi-page survey-based signup forms. I bet it’s fairly significant. If your prospective registrant gets bored and wanders away mid-process, you’ve lost a chance to sell to him.

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