Hey there pretty lady, whaddya talk about I call you sometime?


Some years ago, internet marketers decided it would be very clever start pushing large forms in people’s faces that ask them to sign up for an email newsletter. These are called “popovers”, and can be programmed to appear at different moments when someone is visiting your site.

The obvious core idea is: You have this one moment to capture the information about this visitor, so you can keep talking to them (or selling to them). You never know if they’ll come back to your site, so this is your moment to get them.

The problem is that about 90% of the time (in my perception), this is done in a way that feels annoying and inappropriate. Like meeting someone at a party, and asking for their phone number, sometimes before you have even introduced yourself. And because they don’t actually have to look you in the face, they don’t have to think about the inappropriateness of this.

Recently, I was looking into buying a sunrise alarm clock. I did a Google search on “sunrise alarm clock”; and as I do, I opened up about 10 links in different tabs. By the time I got to this tab, here is what I saw:

My reactions are notated in my screen shot:

  1. What I need, at the end of 2019, is not a “dose of retail therapy and inspiration”. From a random website that I have never been to before, and know nothing about. (The kind of person who wants this in 2019 must have… a shopping disorder? Just have gotten a computer?)
  2. F.U. How stupid do you think I am? (Note—That may not be nice, but I wanted to document how I really felt. Because I don’t want my (or your) visitors to have this type of reaction!)

Below this box was a really nice article that reviewed the different sunrise alarm clocks. Like a really annoying person at a party who also seems sort of interesting, I closed the box and scanned the article. As I am scanning the article, this little guy pops up on the side.

The promise of getting miscellaneous recipes and tips “right to my inbox” might have been really exciting in 1999, and tolerable in 2007, but by now, the last thing I want is anything more in my inbox, unless I know just why I’m getting it.

I now feel: manipulated, annoyed. After quickly skimming the article to see what information I can extract, I close the tab. My intention at this point is: Leave this place as soon as I can.

Another site that wants something from me before offering anything in return. Another person in the world who I’d better avoid the next time I see them.

What happened?

Internet marketing gurus have a large incentive in telling people to use these popovers to help people increase conversions (the number of people who sign up to get your emails). And it will increase this over doing nothing. In much the same way. And because there are an infinite number of prospects online, the marketer doesn’t really have to contend with the fact that he or she might be alienating the majority of visitors.

I think this clip from King of the Hill illustrates my point. In it, Boomhauer teaches Bobby his “secret” for getting women:

This is what it means to spam people with your popover, your email, your website. Conversely, you could argue that most of the world is so afraid of rejection that they do nothing to ask for the contact, and this is arguably worse than being obnoxious.

But here are some things that would make it a lot better:

  1. Give me some time before you ask me to sign up for your email; so that I can relate the offer to some experience I’ve already had. Once I have had a chance to get value from your article, I might actually be interested.
  2. Try to make the offer related to what I was searching on. You could guess that if I’m searching for sunrise alarm clocks, I’m into natural solutions to problems, and am needing to get up early. Maybe I am having sleep issues, or just want to get up earlier. So you could try a concise guide about natural solutions to sleep issues, or secrets to getting up earlier.

Let’s start to use these methods appropriately, in ways that feel good to people. We can establish a sense of trust with visitors, and ultimately build helpful and meaningful relationships.