July 14, 2005
Case Study

How to Collect More Email Opt-Ins from Your Contact Us Form -- Seven Tactics

SUMMARY: According to MarketingSherpa's new IT Marketing Benchmark Guide, only 9% of surveyed marketers called their site's Contact Us forms "very effective." That's pretty sad. Here are seven specific tactics one B-to-B marketer uses to get a whopping 67.4% of prospects visiting his contact form to fill it out and submit it (includes creative sample).
CHALLENGE Mike Wallen has a vested interest in business Web site's Contact Us forms pulling in the maximum number of leads and email newsletter sign-ups. As President of lead qualification firm The Lead Dogs, he only makes money if his clients' sites turn as many visitors as possible into leads for his firm to act on.

Anyone who visits your site's Contact Us form stands a good chance of being a better, more qualified lead than someone who responds to a direct response offer. They may be further down the sale cycle than a sweeps, white paper, or webinar registrant who signed up because of the offer alone.

These are volunteers who are proactively seeking information from you. But fewer than 10% of marketers we surveyed this spring said their Contact Us forms were working well to convert these visitors into form submitters.

You can guess why. Most Contact forms are pretty dreary, especially in B-to-B. Wallen wondered if he could rev up his clients' Contact Us forms to work harder, convert more visitors.

CAMPAIGN Wallen decided to test a series of tweaks on his own site's Contact Us form and then he'd transfer what worked over to his clients' sites. He made seven critical tweaks (link to screenshot below).

Tweak #1. Kill site navigation but keep the phone number

Wallen decided to treat his Contact Us form as a landing page rather than a normal site page. After all, the entire site's purpose is to serve as a vehicle for the offer -- it is an ad campaign of sorts.

So, although the Contact Us kept a similar feel and color to other site pages, when you go there, the navigation was gone. (If folks wanted to leave, they could click their back button.)

Wallen deliberately left the phone number on the page (and even made it fairly big typeface -- although we'd quibble with the sideways placement). He hoped this would appeal to two different Internet populations: Super hot leads who didn't want to fill out a form and wait for someone to get back to them, and cynical surfers who didn't trust anyone would ever get back to them.

Tweak #2. Add an offer

Just because you don't advertise an offer up-front to get folks to come to your contact form doesn't mean you can't put one there. Wallen figured anyone coming of their own accord was pretty qualified; he hoped an extra offer would boost them over the edge to filling out the form.

His offer, a "Success Kit," was a 12-page PDF report he'd authored.

Tweak #3. Add a graphic on the offer

MarketingSherpa studies have shown that if you include a graphic of the specific item the person filling out any form (or shopping cart) will get, page abandons go down and final submission rates go up. A thumbnail of an item makes the offer more real and compelling.

Wallen worked with his artist to make sure the report cover title in the thumbnail was extremely readable, even though it had been substantially shrunk down.

Tweak #4. Keep copy brief, bulleted, and benefit-oriented

Some marketers can't resist adding a bunch of "about us" copy to registration forms. Others don't see the need for any copy at all because the visitor supposedly just saw the rest of your site.

Wallen took a middle road. He didn't want to roadblock the form by putting too much copy near it, nor did he trust that a copy-free page would convert. So, he wrote very brief copy explaining his company's USP (unique selling proposition) in one sentence at the top and then briefly outlining the glory of his offer with three bulleted benefit points.

The copy doesn't take up much space (although we'd increase the point size a little), so the form begins well above the fold where folks can see it.

Tweak #5. Separate check-box for newsletter sign-up

Best practices in email are never ever to assume that, just because someone fills in their email address on a form, he/she wants to get a mass blast from you on a regular basis.

Slamming an incoming lead into your regular newsletter list without asking isn't "quid pro quo," it's invasive and annoying to many prospects no matter what your marketing department thinks about it. If the name is of little value to you, then go ahead and risk your relationship by emailing them regularly. (But then if it's that worthless, why bother emailing them at all?)

Tweak #6. Ask a few more questions to qualify visitors

Wallen and his clients plan to invest in qualifying and nurturing these leads, so he added four qualifier questions to the form just to be sure the name was worth investing in getting back to.

Only the two most critical questions are required and every question includes a negative option answer such as "No Comment" or "n/a." Also, although some questions use radio buttons, none are prechecked because some visitors are too likely to leave checked settings on default rather than answer questions carefully.

Tweak #7. PDF versus postal mail option

Instead of assuming everyone was cool with getting the special report in PDF form, Wallen's last question asked whether they'd prefer it in print or electronic. It's not only thoughtful, but great placement, they've jumped the rest of the Q&A hurdles, now you remind them of the offer to get them to click that submit button!

(Note: Have you had your Web department run you a report on partial form fills recently? You might be surprised how many visitors get partway through your forms and then abandon.)

RESULTS The new Contact Us form worked so well that Wallen extended it across all of his clients' sites in the past year. (He has roughly a dozen clients who are high-tech B-to-B marketers targeting fairly different niches.)

The following stats are aggregated across all clients:

- 67.4% of visitors who land on a Contact Us form fill it out completely and submit it. (According to our data that's as much as 10 times higher than other sites.)

- The offer graphic is key: without it, responses drift down 13% on average.

- 13.8% of form submitters are scored as "sales ready," which Wallen notes is completely in line with industry averages.

- 3.72% submit bad email addresses. This is slightly high according to our data but nothing to worry about. However, this stat should make anyone who requires visitors to type in emails twice to "confirm" the spelling, think twice. That makes your form more arduous; some people resent it; and average bad addresses are not a big enough problem to be worth adding that extra hurdle to submissions.

- 83.7% of visitors check the box requesting the "fast download" PDF copy of the offer. The rest either don't give a preference or say they want mail. (In both cases Wallen mails them. We've done Case Studies suggesting you mail a print copy to everyone even if they weren't expecting it.)

Wallen notes, once you've got a good offer on your form, you can leave it there for a year or more. Contact Us forms are not like ad campaigns where you may need to switch offers to boost response every now and then. He's been using his offer now for four years and it's so evergreen that it's still going strong.

Useful links related to this article

Creative sample - screenshot of The Lead Dogs capture page: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/leaddogs/study.html

MarketingSherpa's IT Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005: http://sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1154&p.cfm/2150

The Lead Dogs: http://www.leaddogs.com

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