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6 Tips on Using Pop-ups for Email Lead Generation


Popups haven’t got the best reputation in the digital marketing world.

Years of companies using annoying, intrusive pop-ups led the rapid introduction of browser-based pop-up blockers and anti-spam tools. One glimpse of an ugly popup on your home screen was enough to send customers running in the opposite direction.

So, what’s the situation now? Are pop-ups still a bad idea?

That depends. Any lead generation strategy is only effective if you understand your audience.

Use popups the wrong way, and you could still end up damaging your brand reputation.

Use the right popups, however, and you have an engaging, effective way to add more people to your subscriber list.

Here’s your guide on how to use popups for lead generation.

Do Popups Work for Lead Generation?

Some popups can be annoying, but others genuinely drive positive results

Sumo, a provider of high-converting pop-up solutions, found that users collected over 23 million email addresses in 2 years using popup software.

In a world where customers are constantly scrolling through endless digital environments to find information and entertainment, popups do have an impact. With a carefully timed popup, you can shake your customer out of scrolling mode, and push them to take notice of your offer.

Every email address you earn from a popup represents an opportunity. Each email address belongs to a person who could become a life-long customer for your brand.

The key to success, just like with any list generation strategy, is knowing how to use your popups correctly. Here are some of the best tips for using popups for lead generation.

1.    Have a Clear Exit Option

The whole point of a pop-up is that it forces your customer to take notice.

It might appear when your customer goes to click out of your page, or it might show up when they’re half-way through a blog post. That initial disruption can be a little annoying, but it shouldn’t be frustrating enough that you alienate your customer.

Just like you need to provide your customers with an opt-out option to preserve your relationship with them through email, you also need to give them a way to get rid of pesky popups.

Popups must always have a clear exit method, whether it’s a comedic negative CTA like “No thanks, I don’t want this deal”, or a little X in the corner of the screen. Here’s a great example from which uses both:

Yes, you want your audience to convert when they see your popup. But if they don’t like your offer, don’t make them click out of your website to get away from it.

2.    Always Use Entry or Exit Popups

Entry and Exit popups are a must-have if you’re running an online store.

Why? Because they give you a bonus chance to convert your customer.

For instance, an entry popup captures customer attention from the second they arrive on your website. A great option might be a deal for first-time buyers that tempts them to invest in a purchase. If someone hasn’t visited your store before, you can use your pop-up technology to identify them as a new visitor, and give them an exclusive code:

Since customers often have a tough time trusting companies that they haven’t seen before that extra offer could be a great way to get uncertain clients off the fence.

Alternatively, your exit popup is a way to try and convince your customers that you’re worth giving a chance before they leave the website entirely. If your customer hasn’t seen something they want on your store while browsing, use an exit popup. You could take a leaf out of Nike’s book here and ask them to sign up for your newsletter so they’re the first to know about new products.

3.    Focus on the Benefit to Your Customer

Popups work best when they serve a specific purpose

A popup that just says, “sign up for our email”, rarely grabs the attention of an audience member. They need to know what’s going to be in it for them if they give you their email address.

That’s why the majority of popups come with an offer attached to them. It might be a discount code for anyone who signs up for your email, or it might just be the promise of a great freebie, like an informative eBook:

If you don’t have an amazing lead magnet to offer right now, just remind your audience of why they might want to receive your emails. For instance:

  • Are you a thought leader? Can you send emails that keep your customers up to date on the latest fashion trends or tech innovations? What sort of fresh information can you give?
  • Can they get exclusive benefits? If you don’t have a lead magnet to offer right now, can you promise your subscribers that they’ll be first to get discounts and sale information going forward?
  • Does being part of your email list offer extra benefits? Can you give your customers access to more feature on your website, or new content that they can’t see anywhere else when they sign up to your email list?

4.    Keep it Simple

A popup needs to be easy to read and understand.

The quicker your customer understands the message you’re sending with the popup, the faster they can decide whether they want to convert or not.

With that in mind, keep thing simple.

A few lines of text are all you need at most to convert most customers. Your popup should also only have a single call to action. You don’t need to combine multiple offers on one page to try and improve your chances of results. A number of CTAs and offers just makes your ad more confusing.

Let’s look at the simple but effective popup from Toms shoes below. It’s:

  • Easy to read, with lots of white space and contrasting colors
  • Benefit focused – you see exactly what you’re getting in exchange for your email address
  • Simple to use: There’s a clear box where you can enter your email address.

When you’re building your simple popup, remember that the best results often come from solutions that include just one or two buttons, and a single form field. Don’t ask for any information you don’t need. An email address is enough.

5.    Get the Timing Right

We gave a brief mention to timing above when we spoke about exit and entry pop-ups. But there’s more to getting timing right than deciding whether your popup should appear when someone enters your website or goes to leave it. Like most things in the world of sales, timing is crucial.

Aside from exit and entry popups, timed and scrolling pop-ups also need to appear at just the right time. Figuring out when that ideal time is takes some testing.

Over time, you can use A/B analytics to check how long you should wait before showing a popup to best grow your email list. In the meantime, just start with common sense.

If a visitor has clicked an ad on social media and now, they’re reading about your offer, they need a little time to absorb your information before they’re accosted with a deal.

Most of the time, you should allow your users to read around 30% of the page (with a scrolling pop-up) or spend at least 40 seconds on your site before using a popup.

When you do show your popup, make sure it’s relevant to what your customers were looking at before. For instance, if they’re reading your blogs, you could ask them if they want more information sent to their inbox:

If your customers are in the middle of checking out a landing page, you can offer them a timed discount if they’re willing to subscribe or buy something in the next hour.

6.    Show Your Creative Side

Finally, great popups are like any fantastic ad.

They work best when they grab your customer’s attention and push them to take notice.

With that in mind, creativity is going to make a huge difference to whether your popup is successful or not. A boring popup in black and white might not be as exciting as a colorful popup with a great deal attached to it.

Similarly, a CTA that says, “sign up now”, isn’t as appealing as one that says, “Give me my free eBook”. Use action words and a direct focus on value to capture your audience’s attention. Where possible, make your popup look as attractive as possible too. A screen with a custom illustration and an attractive finish like this one from CoSchedule instantly grabs attention for all the right reasons.

Remember, just like your other lead generation and marketing assets; popups are a chance for you to show off what makes your brand special. Don’t just blend in with the crowd.

Here’s another great example of a popup from, which instantly introduces you to the unique language of the company:

Make Your Popups Pop

Lead generation is a difficult thing – but it’s much easier when you have the right tools.

Despite a spotty reputation, popups can make a significant difference to your chances of converting customers. They’re an opportunity for you to grab attention and encourage positive outcomes.

All you need to do is follow the right strategy, and you’ll have an email list as long as your arm in no time.



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