February 22, 2012
Case Study

Lead Capture: HP increases conversion rate 186% on email opt-in page

SUMMARY: Email marketers are torn in two directions when designing opt-in forms. They have to make the form easy to fill out, but they also need it to capture enough information to deliver relevant messages to recipients and quality leads to Sales. It's a delicate balancing act that can send your conversion rate crashing if you're not careful.

HP struck this balance beautifully. The company's B2B marketers increased conversion rates on an email registration form 186% without hurting lead quality. You'll see the team's before and after shots and steps taken in this case study.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


You have probably heard the quip "a camel is a horse designed by committee." What you may not realize, though, is that a landing page can become a camel over time.

Daryl Nielsen, Worldwide Email Manager at Hewlett-Packard Company (HP), thought he had a camel on his hands. His team manages email marketing for HP's B2B products, and it had an email opt-in page that had grown into a beast.

"We're kind of a middle operations group, and all of the business groups say 'we need to know job title,' or 'we need to know if they're interested in printers,' or 'if they're in the banking industry,'" Nielsen says.

The registration form had ballooned over the years into a confusing 15-field monster that required visitors to scroll three times to finish. HP needed to grow its database, but it also needed to gather enough information to segment leads. Wanting to improve the page, the team was in a tight spot.


The team had an idea. HP could overhaul its email opt-in page, dramatically reducing its number of fields, and gather the lost data on the backend. This way, the team could increase the page's conversion rate without undermining the quality of its leads.

Here are the steps taken:

Step #1. Identify the target audience

The people in HP's B2B email database are primarily in the IT industry, Nielsen says. The majority are customers who own an HP product and are looking for either:
  • More support on those products

  • Information on additional products

People are typically directed to the opt-in page from another part of HP's site (as opposed to arriving from ads). For example, visitors on HP's support page can arrive by clicking a link with the following text:
  • "Sign up: driver, support, & security alerts"

On the original registration page, the trouble started after visitors saw a confusing, lengthy form to fill out. Over time, fields were tacked onto the page to satisfy various departments, but at the cost of customer experience, Nielsen says.

"Somebody would have to really want to get email from us if they want to go through this form," he says.

Shift goal to 'quantity'

The form provided such a high barrier that Nielsen's team was confident the leads it generated were of high quality. But this quality came at the expense of the large number of leads the team lost.

"When we ask 15 questions of the customer, I think we all know that conversion rates go down quite a bit," Nielsen says. "We needed to go to the other extreme by whittling down the form to a few simple fields."

Step #2. Plan to supplement data

HP's B2B marketing strategy hinges on knowing the size and market of a customer's business. Different tactics are used for small-to-medium-sized businesses, enterprise-level businesses and public sector organizations.

The team needed this information to market effectively, but it also needed to avoid scaring away good leads with a long form. To address this conflict, the team found a third party to supplement the data it received from subscribers. That way, the team would not have to request the data from subscribers directly (which would hurt conversion rates).

After a visitor entered a few pieces of information, the team received a profile of the visitor's business, giving HP all the information it needed to effectively market to the customer.

Step #3. Focus on a handful of fields

The team explained to other stakeholders in the company that it was shortening the form, but it would provide additional information on the backend. The concept was easily understood, Nielsen found, and was well received.

Here are the five form fields the team selected for the new page and the reasons why it chose them:
  1. First name - to personalize the emails

  2. Last name - to personalize the emails

  3. Email address - necessary to send emails; also provides domain name

  4. Company name - to cross-reference with third-party data

  5. Subscription selections - to deliver the desired emails

The above fields gave the team the core essentials -- everything it needed to effectively deliver emails to the audience. The visitor's IP addresses and email domain names were also collected to cross-reference with third-party data.

Step #4. Design a new page

The team threw out the old page, freeing itself to design a new opt-in page from scratch. The new page is far simpler, and is more in-line with HPs brand, Nielsen says.

Key design points include:
  • Shorter - the entire page fits onto a regular computer screen and does not require scrolling. As mentioned, the number of fields dropped from 15 to five.

  • Faster - the page does not slow visitors with lengthy descriptions. A banner image includes a headline and sub-headline, and the form includes a headline and a sub-headline. That is the only descriptive information before the form.

  • Additional perceived value - the page's headline tells visitors to "Get Connected with Updates from HP." Additional text mentions the "award-winning eNewsletters" that deliver "updates on the latest technology, new products and solutions, promotions and events, and driver and support alerts." This conveys more value than the copy on the older page, which had the headline "Driver, Patch, Security and Support alerts signup."

  • Form emphasized - the top navigation, sidebar, and footer are either black or dark shades of gray, and the form is white. This emphasizes the form. The page focuses entirely on getting visitors to register and does not distract them with additional content or ads.

  • Expectations set - visitors can click to request any of four different types of emails. The page gives a title and brief description for each type, as well as links to view samples.

Always set expectations

The information at the end of the form helps set subscribers' expectations for what they will receive in HP's emails. Without descriptions and examples, the audience would have had to guess at the content being offered. Some people would have been happy with what they received. Others would have expected something different and become disengaged, pulling down the quality of the database. This is why you must clearly explain your email program at the point of opt-in.


While the team's original page had a 14% conversion rate among visitors from HP's support pages, the new page had a 40% conversion rate -- an increase of 186%.

On average, subscribers generated through this page are more engaged than subscribers generated through HP's call center or product registration pages, Nielsen says.

"If you compare a customer that we get on this form to someone from a rental list, it's a thousand percent better," he adds.

The team is getting more leads from the page and feels that lead quality remains high. This is due, in part, to the team appending "critical information" on the backend from a third-party source instead of requesting it directly, Nielsen says.

Auto-fill may be next

Happy with the results, the team plans to test ways to increase conversion rates further, possibly by auto-filling fields as customers fill out the form. For example, after a customer enters an email address, the team's system will automatically enter their company name in the field below.

Useful links related to this article

  1. Old opt-in page

  2. New opt-in page

  3. Support page

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Email Summit 2012: Meeting email marketing challenges

Lead Generation: Testing form field length reduces cost-per-lead by $10.66

Improving Conversion Rates: How a MarketingExperiments optimization training alum generated triple-digit conversion gains for his client

Internet Marketing: Optimizing form fields to maximize conversions

Demandbase - provided the team instant data on customers


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