June 10, 2009

Simple Registration Form Changes To Lift Conversions: 5 Ideas to Test

SUMMARY: Making the most of limited resources often means generating incremental improvements from your proven tactics, rather than testing big new campaign strategies.

Content registration forms are one of the best places to look for simple changes that can boost conversion rates. We’ve combed through some of our best past case studies and B2B research to highlight five registration form tweaks that have given marketers more bang for their buck. Consider these tests when looking for your own ways to improve campaign response.
Registration form optimization is a never-ending process. With careful testing, you can continue to improve the conversion rate of your forms -- often by tweaking even small elements, like buttons and images.

Improving registration forms is a great way to do more with less: It can get your valuable content, such as white papers and webinars, into more prospects’ hands. And it can improve the ROI of email, search and other promotional campaigns.

We examined past case studies and B2B marketing data to find simple but effective ways marketers have boosted the conversion rate of their registration forms. If you’re looking for ideas for your next test, here are five to consider:

Test #1. Shorter registration forms

Most marketers know that long registration forms with several required fields lead to higher abandonment rates. But when providing educational content for complex sales, it’s tempting ask a few additional questions intended to jumpstart the lead qualification process.

Rather than trying to skip a step or two, remember to treat white paper downloads, webinar registrations, or other transactions as one step in an ongoing conversation with your prospects.

Focus your registration form questions on the information that’s essential to getting the piece of content into a potential buyer’s hands and beginning that conversation. Often, that means limiting questions to basic contact information.

We asked B2B buyers how often they accurately answer typical registration form questions:
o 72% said they always give their correct name
o 68% said they always give a valid email address
o Just over half said they provide an accurate industry and company name (59% and 55%, respectively)

Questions considered more intrusive were:
o Phone number -- only 38% said they always give a valid one
o Custom questions, such as current needs or budget status -- only 29% said they always give accurate answers

If your basic registration forms include those fields, consider testing a simpler version. Instead, design a follow-up communication strategy that can gather detailed information as the prospect shows more interest in your company.

Test #2. Voluntary registration

Some B2B marketers have eliminated registration barriers altogether in an effort to spread their thought-leadership content as widely as possible. But if you want to increase your reach while still adding names to the top of your nurturing funnel, you can split the difference.

A voluntary registration form for B2B content can generate impressive conversions:

- Win Ross, Product Marketing Manager, INTTRA, used a voluntary registration alongside an online demonstration of one of his company’s products.

Prospects could view the demo without registration, but were invited to supply contact information to receive more information from the company:
o 23% of those who viewed the online demo filled out the voluntary registration form.

- Trevor Schoerie, Managing Director, PharmOut, used a voluntary registration form on a white paper offer. Prospects could download the promoted white paper immediately, but were invited to provide contact information to receive future white papers.

They then tested a version of the landing page that highlighted the fact that registration was optional:
o Clickthrough rate to the registration form increased 15.38% when prospects were told registration was not required
o 16% of visitors to the page provided contact information over the course of six weeks

Test #3. Add targeted, relevant secondary offers

Landing page best practices include eliminating external navigation options and providing a single call-to-action. But in some contexts, a relevant, secondary piece can convert some prospects who aren’t ready to give up information for your primary content offering.

For example, Eric Myers, Director, Internet Marketing, Quest Software, designed content landing pages to reach members of a buying committee who had different needs and interests.

Myers and his team conducted a test of landing page variations for a free trial download of one of their enterprise systems-management tools. They knew that not all prospects had the authorization to download and install trials. Others might be in the research phase of their buying process, and wouldn’t want to test drive the system yet.

So they added a second offer on the page, for a free white paper download. They made sure visitors understood the primary action they were being asked to take, through design elements such as:
o Placing the primary offer in the center column
o Using a large, yellow "Download Free Trial" button
o Placing the white paper offer in the right column, with a smaller text link to download

The additional offer produced a significant lift:
o Page with no sub-offer = 9.09% conversion rate
o Page with white paper sub-offer = 17.97% conversion rate

Test #4. Pre-fill the information you have on hand

When marketing to your house database, you have the advantage of knowing some key information about your prospects. You can make it easier for them to re-engage with you if you pre-populate fields on a registration form. That tactic can also make them more likely to answer additional qualifying questions if they are a returning visitor.

You can pre-fill data using cookies to track returning, pre-registered visitors, or by providing personalized URLs in email and direct mail campaigns. The impact of the pre-filled forms can be huge.

Two examples:

- Aaron Dun, VP North America Marketing, Ness Technologies, wanted to re-engage a cold prospect list with an email campaign and white paper offer. They tested two landing page variations:
o Half of the list received a personalized URL that pre-filled fields for name, title, company, email address and phone number
o Half received a standard landing page that used the same fields, but did not pre-fill information

Landing page conversion rate increased 94.4% when using PURLs

- Shawn De Souza, Sr. Manager Online Marketing, Eloqua Corp., and his team incorporated PURLs into a webinar campaign. A rented list accounted for 76.8% of the campaign, and 23.2% of the contacts that came from their house list.

For contacts in their house database, they used PURLs that pre-filled registration fields for names, titles, companies, phone and email:
o 76.4% of registrations came from PURL recipients
o 66% of their actual sales from the campaign were from PURL recipients

Test #5. Eliminate "reset" buttons

Although this should be obvious in 2009, marketers must remain vigilant about any legacy registration forms in their systems that still offer a "reset" or "clear form" button.

These response-killing options are an unwelcome remnant of old-fashioned database development from the early 1990s, when such forms were created by IT-types, not marketers. Somehow, that feature got included on customer-facing forms, and you’ll still see it lingering to this day. In 2007 (the most recent data we have available) 22% of marketers said their forms still contain those old buttons.

Reduce that number to zero by removing the "reset" button from any form you use for lead generation. You don’t want your prospects to take the time to answer your questions and accidentally hit "reset" -- wiping out their data and making it unlikely you’ll get them to go through the process again.

Useful links related to this article:

Chart: Tech Buyers Don’t Always Tell the Truth on Registration Forms

INTTRA Case Study: Product Demo with Voluntary Registration Results in 23% Conversion Rate

PharmOut Case Study: How to Optimize Press Releases & Get Higher Search Ranking and 75% Clickthrough Rate

Quest Software Case Study: Four Strategies to Bend Rules on Landing Pages and Double Conversion Rates

Ness Technologies Case Study: Optimize a Lead Nurturing Campaign: 5 Steps to Boost Conversions and Warm a Cold List

Eloqua Case Study: How Email Series + Personalized Landing Page Lifted Webinar's ROI by 2000%

SherpaBlog: 22% of Registration Forms Include 'Reset' Buttons (!)

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