If I were to ask you to peg a value to giving out your personal email address to a stranger, you might say you’d need a stack of ten greenbacks to give it out. Then again, you might freely give out your “burner” email address, where you have a collection of spam and non-important emails.

As marketers, we want to get your primary email address, and we want to do that with as little cost to us as possible.

What is an ethical bribe?

Simply put: an ethical bribe is something that a business offers you in return for your contact information (usually name and email). This is also referred to as “opting in.” A company wants a prospect’s contact information so they can continue to communicate with and market to that person after the prospect has left their website.

What should your ethical bribe be?

Most of us view our personal information as privileged information. Especially our email address. In order to entice prospects to give their personal information up, you must offer something that has a high perceived value to the prospect. Your ethical bribe should be something that is easy to distribute and has a cost that fits easily into your budget. It’s for this reason, that informational products are most frequently used for ethical bribes. There are many formats that can be used to deliver the info product, including: e-books, e-courses, teleseminars, quizzes or assessments, CDs, videos. What your ethical bribe is, depends greatly on your customer avatar. If you’re aiming to make a $30 product sale, it’s doubtful that you can afford to send someone a physical good. Likewise, if you’re trying to close a $100K sale, you might be able to afford to give your prospect something worth hundreds, or thousands of dollars. It all depends on the realities of your business. Some highly successful yacht salesmen have stapled $100 bills to letters about a new yacht freshly on the market. The bribe is “Hey, here’s $100. Now that I have your attention and trust, here’s this really killer boat I think you’d love to party on.”

We've used cake as a bribe before. And We'll do it again...if we have to. And that's no lie!

We’ve used cake as a bribe before. And We’ll do it again…if we have to. And that’s no lie!

With your customer avatar in mind, make sure that your ethical bribe addresses the number one question, problem or issue that faces your typical prospect and make sure that information is summed up in your title. Tell them what important benefits they will gain from your ‘ethical bribe’, and why they should claim it. Remember to keep in mind that it should be something you yourself would read/watch. Be mindful of people’s time and don’t make videos or documents too long or you risk prospect abandonment.

Sometimes it helps to assign a value to your ethical bribe. For example, if you are offering a free e-book that you usually sell for $27, say so. But tread carefully, if your prospects don’t find the value you claimed in your ethical bribe, you will lose their trust. You only get one chance to make a great first impression. So, if that first information product you give them is worthless, all the rest of your emails, no matter how clever or valuable, will be ignored, defeating the whole purpose of the exercise

It is also recommended that you only ask for the information you absolutely need, in order to give them the ethical bribe. The reason is simple: no one wants to type their mailing address to get a downloadable good. Sometimes you might have a legitimate reason for needing more information than just a name and email address, but the ethical bribe itself must meet the higher bar to garner more information.

On the other hand, if you’re sending someone a free physical package, an address is required. Remember, once you have an email address or phone number, you can ask for more information later. In fact, if your plan is to gather a mailing address, a common way to get the best of both worlds is a multi-step process that gathers the name and email address in “Step 1” and the rest of the information in “Step 2.” This allows you to gather the crucial information to re-market prospects, in case they decide it’s too much work to enter their shipping information. You may have lost the battle, but you kind of won the war.

Why is it important to build this list?

It’s hard to make such a good first impression that every visitor to your site is going to want to buy something. Most business relationships build slowly as trust forms with your prospects. If you’re not building a list, you have no method of creating trust and a relationship with your prospects. Once you get their contact information you can continue the conversation with them. This is usually done through an email sequence. It all depends on your business model.

Your ethical bribe accomplishes more than one goal:

  • First, it shows the value that your company is willing to offer, even before someone makes a purchase. This starts building trust and respect.
  • Second, it creates a continuing line of communication between you and your prospect, building a stronger relationship over time.
  • Finally, after building your relationship, it allows you to highlight the benefits of purchasing your product or service.

Properly leveraging an Ethical bribe is a key strategy that can turn a one time visitor into a lifelong client.


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