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Are your online forms sending people offline?

A website should always be a work in progress, and an exercise in growing your database. Turning your website into a marketing machine won’t happen overnight (with the keywords and SEO and Ad Words and everything else you need to do), but a good place to start would be your online forms. How they are converting visitors to leads or sales is a key performance indicator of your website.

A bad online form can kill an otherwise great website.  You need to balance the need to get more people to actually fill it out and build your database, with the need to get more insights about your potential customers. How do you strike a good balance between these two needs?

Whether its an online enquiry form, shopping cart or a registration form, these tips should help you get closer to a perfect form that does what you need it to!

1. Start with the numbers

Look at your Google Analytics and get your numbers. Check your abandonment rate and if you’ve set up funnels in Analytics, see where your stumbling blocks are. This will give you a good indication of where the biggest problems are and which pages you need to look at first. It gives you the starting point to improve on. A “normal” abandonment rate is really hard to define, as it will vary depending on your industry and what your business offers. We see so many different stats floating around but they are mostly around 50 or 60 percent.

2. Cull your questions

Look at the questions in your form. Forget the standard fields of a online form and think about what you really want to know and what details you use. If you aren’t shipping anything, you don’t need a mailing address, a state or postcode will be enough to segment them by location.

If you’re not ready to eliminate several questions at once, consider making some optional.

If you don’t cull your questions you end up with a list that may make your form too much work. Every additional question placed on the form could prove one too much for a time poor lead.

3. Separate form functions

The problem with having one form for everyone is that what you might ask of a current customer for is different from what you might ask a potential customer, or you may need different information depending on what the customer is after. Having different forms where you can tailor your questions to those audiences usually improves your statistics. We found this really worked for us. We have a form for marketing enquires, a general contact form, and a newsletter sign up form.

If you’re asking someone to just join your database, it’s good to reward them for finishing the form. We give our subscribers a free e guide, and special offers in the newsletters. You could offer something similar, but something that works well for online retailers are promotional codes and discounts for the online shop.

You need to understand what the customer wants from you, and design the form to make it as easy as possible to get it.

4. Don’t bury the form in content

The general rule of thumb is you lose 30% of traffic every click through. If your conversion is low, check how difficult it is to find your form. Make your contact portals easy to find and use, preferably on the homepage. Place a quick contact  form on every page of your website. The easier it is to find the more enquiries you’ll get.

5. Don’t use the form to pre-qualify

Would you go up to a stranger and tell them what your budget is, turnover, and number of employees? Pre-qualification questions like that could potentially scare off customers who do qualify, but who don’t trust you yet. Grabbing only the completely necessary details then spending a few minutes pre-qualifying a lead over the phone, even if that person ultimately doesn’t qualify, is better than losing a sale all together.

We should all want to build our database into a huge resource for your business. The basic question you need to ask when crafting your forms is how much of the information you are currently collecting are you really using. Consider the needs of the visitor and remove those barriers to engagement, which will have an impact on your abandonment rate and in turn, the bottom line.