To get a customer to opt in may seem an easy process. But only if the customer is already in front of you.

What if the customer is listening to your radio ad?

What if the customer is reading your email message? What if the customer is browsing an RSS feed on her iPhone?

This is when we tend to goof up the opt-in process. And the only reason we goof it up is because we don't separate the steps involved in attraction and conversion.

This means you must treat attraction as one step. And conversion as the second step. And avoid mixing the two.

Let me give you an example. Let's say you're going to do a course with a training organisation. Now, you don't ever set out to do a course. The process starts out with a simple email designed to do just one thing: attract.

STEP ONE: ATTRACTION
Let's assume you are already on the organisation's list. An email tells you that a three-part information series is available. The job of the email is simple. It's only designed to attract. If it does the job well, you'll get to stage two - conversion.

STEP TWO: CONVERSION
The email directs you to a page, where you read about the three-part information series. And then you take a decision. You decide to sign up. You can't see the information unless you sign up. And so you've got to make the "transaction". You've got to give your information and in turn I've got to give you the information I promised. And as soon as you sign up, you've gone through the second stage of conversion.

So what just happened?

The first step focused solely on attraction. It didn't say "sign up" or "register". It simply attracted you to the page. The second step did the work of conversion. It reiterated what you read in the email, then got you in the right frame of mind to sign up.

But where do most marketers make the mistake? You guessed it. In the email, they tell me to sign up for a course. Or to register.

Or to do something that's clearly "conversion-based".

And, as a customer, I want to read what I'm signing up for, before I sign up. The job of the email, radio ad, or whatever you send me is just an attraction device. The only job is to get you to the next step.

And yes, I know I'm overdoing this emphasis, but it's where you'll make the mistake. You roll the attraction and the conversion together, and that's why the message fails.

Keep the attraction separate from the conversion.

Which brings us to real-life examples.

* If you're advertising in the local newspaper, you need to make sure you get the customer to come into the store.

* If you're advertising on radio, the ad should not get me to bbuy. It should get me to call.

* If you're sending an email, the email should not get me to do any transaction. It should simply get me to the conversion page.

Keep it simple so the customer moves from one stage to the other, and you'll start to see your conversion (and eventually, consumption) rocket.

To ensure that opt-in works you need to have three core elements at the point of conversion.

* You must offer something of great value. No rubbish allowed.

* That value must be tangible. That offering must have a price (even if offered free).

* The rules of transaction must be clear.

Here's an example for an online advertisement.

Value: Take any series that we do on Psychotactics. A product with audio/text/transcript and formatting can take 10 to 20 working hours. It's not flippant information, but information that can be sold. In other words, it's valuable information.

Defined price: The course can be valued at $150 or $450, but it must have a price. And you need to actually let the customers know that value up front.

Clear rules: The rules of the transaction are clear; the course is being held to demonstrate the value of a workshop, or some online course that's about to be held. The customer needs to know they will get the information, but they will also get some component of sales. They then need to know what is going to happen as a result of filling in the form.

These three steps can be rolled out offline as well.

My friend Julia used to own a bed store, and here's how she got opt-in.

When customers walked in, they were shown the various options and given solid information. However, when the customer asked for a quote, something unusual occurred. They were not only given a quote, they were also given a set of pillows worth a retail price of $50.

The rules of transaction are clear: the prospect gets the set of pillows because he/she visits the store and asks for a quote. There is no requirement to buy any product.

It's not enough to get a customer to your store or web page. Once there, you need to get them to opt in. And when you follow these three core elements - great value, clearly defined price, and rules of transaction - you'll see the conversion go up, up and away.

Sean D'Souza is chief executive of Psychotactics and an international author and trainer. He is the author of The Brain Audit - Why Customers Buy (And Why They Don't)
www.psychotactics.com