"Being able to get the correct information in front of our customers using forms can be a pretty arduous task," says Mike Calder.
As a Marketing Program Manager at Tektronix (NYSE:TEK), Calder runs lead generation campaigns to broadcast and cable industry engineers. The company offers such a wide array of test, measurement, and monitoring equipment that it can be tough to figure out which particular product to pitch to a particular engineer.
Calder tried using traditional registration forms for years, but he found he had to ask a heck of a lot of questions to both qualify the lead as being worth the sales department's time, and to match that lead with a product.
And, as every b-to-b marketer knows, more questions on a form equals a lower completion rate.
Calder had three goals to meet:
a. Raise registration form completion rates to get more leads
b. Prequalify leads so the sales team didn't waste efforts
c. Educate leads with useful materials on products that were right for them, to soften the ground for the sales teamCAMPAIGN
It all started in the springtime three years ago. Calder had just come back from NAB, the biggest tradeshow of the year for his division, with a big list of engineers and engineering managers who'd dropped by the Tektronix booth.
He knew some of the leads were golden - but there was a lot of straw to sort through to find the gold. Plus, in the rush of the show, there was no way to determine exactly which product each attendee was most interested in.
Calder didn't want to waste the telemarketing department's time by giving them this mess of unqualified leads for them to sort through and then hand off to sales. Instead he decided to experiment first with something entirely new: an interactive form.
It worked well enough that he's run about 15 of the campaigns since, and the tactic's spread to other divisions of Tektronix. Here's how the process works (link to sample below):
Calder sends out an emailed invitation -- generally an educational offer for a useful free report. However, when prospects click, instead of seeing a traditional registration form to get the report, a little white box pops up on their screen, entitled "A virtual conversation with Tektronix".
The box contains a simple question with a yes/no radio buttons:
"Would you like to receive [offer mentioned in the email]?"
The entire thing looks much more like a simple, interactive poll that you might enjoy taking, rather than yet another registration form that's a bore to fill out.
The interactive form is designed to keep the experience swift, enjoyable, and useful in five ways:
a. As the respondent answers each radio button question, the form instantly moves to the next question, without any prompting required. (This alone probably reduces abandonment rates significantly.)
b. Multiple choice questions with check boxes do require the respondent click on a "next" button, but it's very obviously placed for easy clicking. Plus, Calder is careful to only use such questions when the respondent is already involved in the process and less likely to abandon.
c. Contact information fields are pre-filled to require no typing (unless a pass-along email recipient wants to change the contact info to their own name.)
d. Each question is generated based on the respondent's answer from the last one - so questions become increasingly relevant and targeted to the respondent. So, the act of filling out the form becomes continuously more engrossing and personally involving.
e. Based on their answers, each respondent is then offered more report and/or product info based on their pain points and specific needs. Since the offers are highly targeted, respondents are more likely to accept.
Calder has to copywrite these forms in the same manner you might write a complex telemarketing script -- as branching tree. If they answer "a" then reply with "b" as your next question; if they answer "x" then reply with "y."
He ends up writing a total of about 20 questions, but the average respondent will only see eight-10 of them depending on his or her answers.
"It does change your mindset on how you approach clients. You have to think it through. You're starting a dialog. You don't ask them to buy right away, first you have to understand what they are looking for. It's different from a typical marketing approach through DM. It's a conversation."
If the prospect completes the form, an email autoresponder system instantly shoots off a text-only message to them containing a link to the specific report and/or product info they requested. Plus, their answers are added to the marketing database and forwarded to the telemarketing department for further qualification in the pipeline that ultimately leads to the sales team.
If the prospect abandons the form, and clicks the box closed, they find themselves on the info page deep within Tektronix's site that Calder guessed would be the most relevant for that email list.
They can poke around that page (and the rest of the site) to find the same white papers and tech specs they would have been offered through the form, but of course it's not as targeted for relevancy, so they have to do a bit more work to get at useful information for their needs.
So, the interactive form leads prospects by the hand to help them find information precisely right for their needs, while the Web site requires that the prospect does the digging.
Tektronix marketers have noted that on average the interactive form has a three-times higher completion rate than traditional online registration forms.
"I get a 30-40% completion rate continuously," Calder notes.
"Another person here has gotten an 80% completion rate. She's in wireless and networking diagnostics and she may have some particularly good offers or a market predisposed to this. We're seeing the more specific the product, the better you can target an audience. For general applications with a wider audience the completion rate is not quite as good."
Interestingly, the completion rate doesn't seem to be affected by list source. Marketers using third party email lists tend to get the same completion rates they'd expect with a house list (although naturally the initial open and click rates are generally lower.)
Calder happily notes that click and completion rates have stayed consistent for his house lists, even though he's now emailed them many times with the interactive form offer. It seems that customers and prospects enjoy the process enough to readily take the interactive quizzes repeatedly to get relevant information for their needs. (Can you imagine a similar response for traditional HTML registration forms?)
Often when you get a higher percent of leads from a campaign, it means your offer is too generally compelling and lead quality can sag. However, Calder's discovered this isn't true for his campaigns.
"We get a better quality lead by going through the process than to a traditional form. It might be because they only saw relevant information, and that the process is so much more engaging. Probably just the fact that the interactive form's unusual has impacted it as well."
He's learned four lessons to increase results:
Lesson #1. Start with a useful offer - not a product pitch
"You should look at this approach as customer-centric, as opposed to product-centric. One of my first campaigns simply offered data sheets on new products. That didn't work well at all. I went back to the same list and offered application notes -- if you are measuring these types of things, here are typical problems and here's how to go about solving them (not necessarily talking about what instrument you use) -- and results were very good."
So, Calder learned to make his initial email offer as purely useful and non-salesy as possible. (For example, he's offered free show passes to NAB.)
Then during the interactive form process itself, he includes a question asking if the respondent would like specific product info as a follow-up to a relevant conversation. 90% of the time the prospect is more than happy to check the box and get the product info in addition to the useful offer they've accepted.
Lesson #2. Tell them up front there will be a dialog
The interactive form should not come as a total shock to people who click on your email. "You have to set expectations that there will be a few questions, and assure them you're doing this to make sure they'll get information that's relevant to them. And, that at the end they'll receive information immediately after the consultation; they won't have to wait."
Lesson #3. Measure where they drop out
Calder watches his response reports carefully, noting which types of questions and total number of questions tend to cause drop-off. Aside from doing the best you can with the initial email message, this is the most critical area to constantly review metrics on.
You need to be sure you are getting the highest possible response from each prospect who clicks. (Here at MarketingSherpa we're constantly surprised by how few marketers measure their form abandonment rates or tweak forms to raise qualified completions.)
Lesson #4. Don't ask irrelevant questions
Calder notes, "As long as they are getting better, increasingly relevant information with each question, they are willing to stay. If we stray off subject, that kicks up the abandonment rate."
Next, Calder would like to test using interactive forms with search marketing, "polling folks who use Google for instrument product research." We're looking forward to hearing the results... Useful links related to this article:
Sample of an email campaign that links to a sample interactive form:
i-OP, the tech that powers the interactive form: