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Lead Generation Hint #1: Eliminate Unnecessary Form Fields

Dammit, just answer my questions!

As a complement to my series of "Ecommerce Hints" (dealing mainly with the B2C market) I thought I'd start a series on "Lead Generation Hints" (more skewed to B2B).

My first couple of posts will discuss best practices surrounding contact forms. My apologies if some of these tips sound so basic—so obvious—that they should go without saying. But if they really went without saying, we wouldn't see so many companies still doing the opposite!

First up, I'd like to discuss unnecessary form fields. If there is one "law" of form completion rates, it's this: the more questions you ask, the lower your form submission rate.

Of course, you must ensure you gather sufficient information to contact the prospect. And in many cases, you may want to qualify your leads by asking a couple of extra questions. So there's no absolute rule as to which questions you should ask. That will depend on many factors, including:

  • Your industry
  • Your business goals
  • How you plan to follow up your leads (email, phone, via post, etc.)
  • Whether is it necessary to qualify or channel your leads
  • The expectations of your customers
  • Your website's traffic
  • Your capacity to follow up leads
  • Whether you're offering something of value in return for the form submission
  • How motivated your prospects are likely to be

That said, the general principle of "ask only what you really need to know" still applies. We suggest that when you're creating your contact form, consider the factors listed in the above bullets. Figure out what you really need to know, then prune your list of questions down to the bare minimum. Questions and fields that can often be eliminated include:

  • Salutation
  • First Name and Last Name (Can often be condensed down to "Name")
  • Position/Job Title
  • Mailing Address (Where contact is virtually always made by email or phone)
  • Phone Number (Where contact is virtually always made by email)
  • State
  • Zip
  • Country
  • Confirm Email
  • Anything that could be deemed personal or confidential
  • Marketing questions, like "How did you hear about us?"

It may well be that you'll end up deciding you really do need to ask most of these questions. My point is simply that you should put some thought into it. When creating your form, do not simply copy what you've seen on other websites. And certainly don't just ask everything you'd like to know about a prospect.

If you can eliminate even one or two fields, you will have improved your form. And you'll also make a more positive impression on your potentials clients—by demonstrating that you value their time and won't waste it on unnecessary hurdles.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
One of my pet peeves is not only forms that ask for too much, or inappropriate information given the stage of the relationship and the value of the exchange, but also that they want my information at all. Why do companies ask full contact info to retrieve their product fact sheet... I'm just looking! I don't want to talk to you right now!
# Posted By John Hossack | 3/5/09 9:25 AM
@John I agree, and the more information I'm asked for, the greater the chance I'm making up stuff to input.
# Posted By Erik Vold | 3/5/09 11:13 AM
Oooh VKI conference in the comments!

I suspect that the answer to Johns question is that info you gather from your clients/users is seen as a means of attracting customers/inverstment. For instance, a company I used to work for had customers (businesses interested in appearing on their site) and users (who were interested in information about projects by the customers) who relied on data about each other. If you wanted to sign up as a user or a customer you had to fill out an intricate sign up form that took a lot of information. When I confronted them about their dismal sign up levels on the user side, it was explained to me that this data was required, as it was as a selling point for the customers who wanted to have metrics on who their audience was. On the other hand, the information from the customers was used to attract users, in order to get the users to come to the site and sign up, etc.

What they didn't get, perhaps because the boss never looked at the database of signed up users, was that we had 20 odd Mickey Mouses, a hand full of Bart Simpsons, a Ray Liotta, and yes, even an Optimus Prime.

Explaining that was a fun job.
# Posted By KentC | 3/5/09 12:04 PM