One recommendation that nearly every blog post on contact form optimization makes is to minimize the number of fields in your form. Abiding by that credo – an extremely popular one - could actually be preventing you from realizing greater revenues.
Here’s why. Most marketing organizations believe they’re delivering high-quality Marketing Qualified Leads. If that’s actually true, then why do so many sales people I speak with regard their marketing leads as sub-standard? This disconnect is a lot like the famous fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, “all men are sure it never happened to them and all women at one time or other have done it, so you do the math.”
The prevailing wisdom is that shorter forms deliver more leads, so most companies capture little more than a person’s contact information and demographic details on their ‘Contact Us’ page, and send that over to sales as a Qualified Lead. BUT! Typically, not enough data is collected on the form to facilitate a truly accurate assessment of qualification status.
Let’s examine a different approach. SEER Interactive is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC and Analytics. SEER uses one of the longest contact forms you’ve ever seen. Though the form is dynamic, many people (and certainly potential customers) experience a form that is 8 pages long. 8 pages! How can that work?
According to Wil Reynolds, SEER Interactive founder and CEO, as of two years ago, SEER’s investment in building their brand (through blogging, speaking and referrals) was paying off so well that the sales team couldn’t keep up with the growing lead volume. In this situation, most CEOs will staff up their sales team. Wil took a daring approach, and decided to lengthen the lead form instead. “So many people submitting lead forms just go through a spray and pray process. They don't put a lot of thought into what they want, or what their real problems are. When you ask people a lot of questions, it will get some people really frustrated and they’ll drop out of the process. Those aren't the types of people we want to talk to. The longer lead form helps us prioritize motivated customers. Those that do complete the form are more motivated, and have thought through their problems. That also helps us to get to meaningful discussions more quickly. A company who says 'I don't have enough traffic and rankings' doesn't understand their real problem, and that also makes it very hard for them to judge whether or not the solution we propose will help them.”
The result was remarkable - a 60% reduction in leads, BUT!! YOY revenue growth of 32%.
The long-form strategy provides value for Seer in multiple ways. First, cutting down the lead volume helps SEER keep their team small, making them more profitable. Second, a lower volume of the most highly qualified leads allows the sales team to spend more time on each prospect, resulting in bigger deals. Additionally, Wil says "closing the wrong customer is wrong for everybody. If the client doesn't know what they want, it's really hard, maybe even impossible for us to help them." Finally, closing clients with a better overall fit has resulted in a higher rate of mutual satisfaction, and a high referral rate. "If you select the right client that's right for your team, when you do your best work you have a referral machine."
The key difference in SEER’s form is that many of the questions are designed to assess the lead’s self-awareness of their own needs.
Your company might benefit from this approach if any of this looks familiar:
To follow SEER’s approach, examine your own lead form for client engagement signals. You may need to create new opportunities to collect data on:
Finally, don’t forget about the customer experience. When someone fills out SEER’s Contact Us form but doesn’t meet their MQL requirements, SEER lets the user know that there doesn’t appear to be a good fit between the two companies at this time. They don’t stop there. Seer analyzes the user’s data and matches them against their network of partner and peer agencies, and then recommends some agencies that would be a better fit for that company. In doing so, even though they couldn’t directly help that company, they’ve provided value which will influence that relationship in the future.
Now it’s your turn.
Do you dare to lengthen your own Contact Us form? How would your sales team respond, and how would you go about achieving alignment?
Please share your recommendations, frustrations, strategies and wisdom with all of us via comments below.
This article is second in a series of “5 Strategies to Improve Marketing ROI in 90 days.” Also in this series:
Get a Quick ROI Lift from ABM Advertising
Drastically Improve Your SEO Instantly (Really)
Trisha Merriam is VP of Demand Generation at SWOPtimize, focused on helping companies optimize their digital marketing strategy for higher volume and better quality leads. We are Your Partner in Awesome.