Saturday, January 30, 2010

"I was told there would be no form."

You've probably spent countless hours and lots of money driving traffic to your website, where you intice potential leads with demo request forms, contact us forms, high value content download forms, etc.

If you have a relatively long sales cycle, chances are you will be asking someone to fill out multiple forms over the course of their buying cycle.

Any idea what your average form drop off rate is? You might be surprised that the average is about 90%. Yikes! That means that only about 10% of visitors to web forms actually fill them out. This is probably because these forms did not adhere to the form submitter's Bill of Rights.

FORM SUBMITTER'S BILL OF RIGHTS:
  1. I only want to fill out your stupid form once.
  2. I never want to give you the same information you've already asked me for previously.
  3. Your content better be worth the number of fields you want me to fill out – and btw, if there are more than 5 or so fields…forget it.
  4. PLEASE – make it easy! Give me pick lists wherever possible (but don't give me more than a handful of picklist choices).
  5. Don’t expect me to tell the truth (at least not initially).
So how does your current form process stack up against managing the expectations of most form submitters?

Do you ask for the same form information over and over? Are your forms too long? Too complicated? Too much?

Here's a summary of possible form solutions, from worst to best-in-class:

1. Do Nothing - Continue to present the full form every time.
  • Pros: Nowhere to go but up
  • Cons: 10% form conversion on average
2. Pre-populate known form fields
  • Pros: At least it displays what you already know about them
  • Cons: The entire form is still visible, causing noise and clutter.
3. Use a Gated Form

  • Pros: Checks to see if the form has already been filled out, if yes, then goes straight to the asset, etc.
  • Cons: Requires technical resources to develop
4. Use a Gated Form combined with Progressive Profiling

  • Pros: Checks to see if the form has already been filled out, if yes, then asks one additional question (usually a question tied to lead scoring) each time the form is presented
  • Cons: Requires technical resources to develop
5. Use a Gated Form combined with Progressive Profiling, combined with a date lookup to allow updating outdated information

  • Pros: Checks to see if the form has already been filled out. If yes BUT the information is older than say 1 year, it then displays only previously submitted data older than 1 year and requests it be updated. If all the form data is newer than 1 year, it then asks one additional question (usually a question tied to lead scoring) each time the form is presented.
  • Cons: Requires technical resources to develop
Of course, like anything else, testing will drive your decisions. Especially if you develop gated forms with progressive profiling. Maybe you can get away with asking 2 additional questions instead of just one each time, for example.

Forms are a fact of online life. But the closer you can get to adhering to the form submitter's Bill of Rights, the higher your conversions will be.

For additional form best practices, see my blog post:
You Had Me at Submit.

Updated 5-8-12
Visit my brand new website and learn more about form conversion best practices

Steve Kellogg
-Demand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
-Eloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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