How many times have you clicked on a link to download content that interests you only to be faced with a form approaching the length of your IRS tax return? What most folks do next, according to my informal personal survey, is to hit the browser’s back button. Your prospects are eager to read your content and they’re even open to learning more about your products Best cannabis strains. They may or may not be interested in purchasing anything today but you’ll never know because your ominous form asking for everything except your mother’s social security number scared them away. That’s one less lead and one less sale. Technology companies, especially software vendors, are frequently the biggest culprits of “form over-kill.”
An example of online forms gone bad
Let’s look at a hypothetical company with a standard approach to online forms in their marketing. Software Company, Inc. has a reasonably professional web site where they host whitepapers, demos, webinars and free trials of their software. Software Company Inc.’s web guy (we’ll call him Bob to protect the innocent) insists that forms are tricky to build and insists that the marketing manager (we’ll call her Laura to protect anyone called Mary) must create just one form for each call to action. The marketing manager is feeling pressure from the sales team to provide highly qualified leads. The marketing manager is no dummy and knows that the more prospect information she can gather, the happier they will be, right? (Stay tuned for the nuanced correct answer to that question).
So, what does Laura’s form look like?: First Name, Last Name, Title, Company, Address Line 1, Address Line 2, State, Zip, Email, Phone. But that’s not all. The more information on the lead, the happier sales will be, right? So, she adds a survey, which she figures will also impress the Executive team when she sorts the data to create a snapshot of prospects and existing customers me who raise their hands. These are the survey questions that Sue believes would provide valuable company data for sales: What industry? How many employees? Annual Revenues? etc. etc. ad nauseam. The cherry on the cake is that Bob makes all the fields forced – meaning the prospect or customer MUST answer all the questions before hitting submit to get to that piece of content, demo or trial software.
In the age of 140 character attention span, what percentage of prospects who reach Software Company Inc.’s form are likely to complete it versus hit the back browser? The scientific answer = not many.
Of course, that was a slightly exaggerated and worst-case scenario for how- not- to manage your online forms. You are undoubtedly more cognizant than Sue that the use of forms and how to construct them for different calls-to-action plays a vital role in your interaction with prospects as well as effective lead generation.
The reality is that there are different approaches to online forms depending on the call-to-action or content and how each of them is marketed. The golden rule is to consider who you are trying to reach, how you are reaching them and then customize your forms to meet your goals.
If I were consulting for Software Company Inc., I’d sit down with Laura and Bob and ask them to diligently assess the goals of their online calls-to-action. Who specifically are you trying to attract and what are your expectations for lead volume? Based on their feedback I would offer specific recommendations on how to customize their approach to online forms for a better user experience and more qualified leads.
The key elements you need to consider when you’re creating online forms
Value of the content/call-to-action
High value: High value content is typically proprietary and involves a monetary investment, such as development or conducting research. It provides significant benefits, or higher perceived value to your target audience. An example is a whitepaper that is extremely timely in providing critical information to help your prospect or customer improve their business or do their job. For instance, a whitepaper on new Federal, state or local government legislation that is directly allied with your software solution. In my personal corporate experience in a variety of software and services categories, there is always an opportunity to create such high-value whitepapers, whether it is a horizontal or vertical industry message.