Forms are your lifeline to your prospects. They’re valuable tools that let you collect crucial data so that, once qualified, you can funnel those prospects into the sales pipeline. Typically, prospects visit a website and can only look around so long before they’re confronted with the dreaded form requesting their information before they’re allowed to proceed. This is a make-or-break moment in that if the prospect doesn’t yet see enough value, s/he won’t be persuaded to divulge such details and will abandon the form (and probably your website, too).
Think about the last time this happened to you. You Google something and click on what looks like a promising link, only to encounter a daunting form asking for a whole lot of info after you’ve clicked through just a few pages on the site. Either the form is too long and tedious to bother filling out, or it asks for more information than you’re comfortable providing. “Why is it asking for my mother’s maiden name?!” you ask incredulously, promptly clicking back to try another search result. You make a quick calculation that the tradeoff (your mother’s maiden name in exchange for a view of the page you want) isn’t worth it, and you abandon the form and navigate away from that site, possibly forever.
You obviously don’t want the same outcome with visitors to your own site. You want them to come in and have a look around, be dazzled by what you have to offer, and gladly give up a few bits of personal data in exchange for the myriad of benefits your site so clearly provides. Don’t lose them at this critical juncture!
Remember that, just like you, your prospects are also prone to form abandonment. But you can help them work through their abandonment issues by designing simple, un-intimidating forms that they don’t mind filling out. A recent ReadWriteWeb article gives some helpful tips:
Show them what’s in it for them. Let ’em have a look around before they’re asked to sign up. Lay out your value proposition — the What’s-in-it-for-me? that’s in the back of all of our heads as we check out new websites.
Take things one step at a time. Follow LinkedIn’s lead and let visitors fill out their profile in bits and pieces.
Minimize your request. Use tiered profile requests. Ask for the most crucial information first (name and email address), and collect other useful tidbits (company and job title, phone number, etc.) one by one at a later stage. Using the progressive profiling feature on your forms allows you to set up the tiers in advance so that each time a prospect returns, they will be asked the appropriate questions.
Don’t waste their time. Don’t make them repeat themselves, and don’t ask them for the same info more than once. Whenever possible, use time-savers like drop-downs and checkboxes that don’t require visitors to craft their own response. This also makes it easier for you to aggregate data and automate processes on the back end.