Businesses use a variety of channels to build awareness and reach out to customers, but websites remain the digital home for most companies. Effective search engine optimization practices can bring new visitors to the site, so it makes sense for organizations to invest in SEO. But there's one facet of their website that too many businesses overlook - their online forms.
Forms are widely used by businesses of all types, and many companies have multiple forms. But online forms don't get the attention they deserve as a lead generating tool. Here are three ways to make online forms work harder to generate leads and create customer relationships:
- Use the right type of form in the right place: Forms are designed to serve a number of purposes, such as demo requests, whitepaper downloads, contact information exchange, after-hours chat or email list opt-ins. The type of form that is appropriate depends on what the purpose of the form is; once that is decided, it's time to choose where to place it.
Forms can appear on the homepage, a landing page created for a special purpose, the blog or the footer. Forms can also be placed in a smart bar at the top of the site or in a pop-up. HubSpot recommends placing the form above the fold so the visitor doesn't have to scroll to find it, and it's generally a good idea to make the form easy to locate.
- Keep it brief but gather needed data: It's important to find the right balance when designing a form. Forms that are too long or that include too many personal questions may intimidate users, which can decrease response rates. Experts recommend including at least four fields for users to complete, with a mix of required and non-required fields that are clearly marked.
When visitors who complete the form fill out all of the fields, including the optional ones, that's a good indication that it's a hot lead as opposed to a warm lead. But when designing a form, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the form should be brief enough to invite user interaction while also gathering the necessary data.
- Use compelling headlines and offers: The most effective form headlines are a call to action that appears in a link or on a button that leads to the form. The call to action should state what the visitor will receive for filling out the form - "submit registration" for an email list or "download whitepaper" for information on a product, for example.
When the visitor clicks through, the copy preceding the form should be designed to get their attention and further communicate the value they'll receive for filling out the form. It should also reinforce the call to action in a compelling way and let visitors know why they should download a form at this site instead of at a competitor's page.
Long before live chat and social media, forms were embedded on websites to give customers a way to communicate with companies and receive something of value. Conveying that value is critical in optimizing an online form for lead generation. Form designers should keep in mind that it's a value exchange from the customer's perspective: they provide information, and they get something in return.
Whether the form gives customers access to a whitepaper or brochure, provides an opportunity to view a product demo or gives visitors the chance to watch a webinar or join a mailing list, it's a good idea to look at the transaction as an exchange and to frame the offer and design the form accordingly. With the right elements in place, forms can be incredibly efficient at turning website visitors into leads.
By Chad Reid, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, JotForm