Landing Pages Best Practices: Getting Smart With Forms

In our last installment, we highlighted some things to keep in mind when determining the design elements of landing pages. Once you’ve styled your content, you’ll probably need to build an appropriate form for your landing page. Here’s some tips for building effective forms and discouraging drop-off and form abandonment.

  • Don’t waste your visitor’s time. Don’t you hate having to fill out the same medical history forms in triplicate every single time you go to a doctor’s appointment, thinking Can’t they just record this information once and store it for future reference? Don’t put your website’s visitors through this same hassle. Never ask visitors for the same piece of information more than once, and once you’ve collected that information, make sure you store it in their profile so you never have to ask them to repeat themselves. Pardot’s progressive profiling tools (read more below) make this process easy.
  • Make the most of structured data fields. Standardize the data you collect and streamline the visitor experience by using structured data fields for your forms, instead of blank boxes that require visitors to craft their own answers. Structured data fields include things like drop-down lists and menus, checkboxes, and radio buttons. There are two major benefits to designing your forms this way:
    1)  Standardized data is cleaner and more useful to you. You can focus on collecting the exact information you need, and you won’t have to sift through prospect responses to find the relevant data.
    2)  Filling out this kind of form is much easier and less daunting for your site’s visitors. Less daunting forms generally yield higher conversion rates.
  • Use progressive profiling to minimize the required fields. Progressive profiling involves using conditional fields to gradually ask for prospect information; upon subsequent visits, new form fields are displayed based on the data you’ve already collected in previous visits. Pardot’s “smart forms” make this easy by automatically requesting additional profile information to fill in the gaps until the prospect’s profile is complete.  Asking for a smaller number of data points in each interaction will yield less drop-off in the short term and higher overall conversion rates in the long term. Try to limit each of your forms to four fields or less for maximum success.
  • Configure forms to display instant error messages. Forms with instant error validation are a great safeguard against form abandonment. Waiting until a prospect submits the form to inform them of errors will only frustrate them and encourage drop-off. When you display the message as soon as the invalid entry is made, it greatly improves the chances that the prospect will correct the information, submit the completed form, and successfully convert.
  • Block invalid email addresses to weed out unqualified leads. Pardot’s invalid email address blocker enables you to disallow invalid email addresses, including those associated with free email providers, so that you can weed out unqualified prospects and prevent bogus form submissions. By ensuring that you only receive valid business email addresses, you’ll maximize your chances of sending your sales team legitimate leads that aren’t a waste of their time.

Pardot’s drag-and-drop form builder helps you build professional-looking forms in a user-friendly interface. An intuitive wizard guides you through the process of building your form, from deciding on the fields you want to include to determining the styling of the form. Pardot allows for custom form fields to capture any data point desired, whether your aim is to sync it with your CRM or to use that data to score, grade, or assign prospects. You can also set up the form to produce a particular action (e.g., autoresponder, redirect, etc.) once it is filled out and submitted.

One a prospect submits a form, you can store this information in that prospect’s profile and track it against future site visits. If the information is changed later, Pardot will also keep track of this. The data gleaned from visitor audits can give insight into where a prospect is in the sales cycle and can also provide clues as to why a form might have been abandoned (thereby allowing you to improve upon the form’s design).

The next step in developing an effective landing page is to determine what you’ll be giving prospects in exchange for their completed form. What sort of content should be shared only upon conversion? Which content should you make freely available to the public? The next installment in our series will address these questions in addition to providing best practices for sharing locked up content with prospects.

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3 thoughts on “Landing Pages Best Practices: Getting Smart With Forms

  • All great suggestions! Applying structured data fields is a big one that is underutilized. A great opportunity to apply this is to Job Title. Rather than allowing free text entries, which make for very messy analysis and automation rule building, determine what job roles are important for you to know, identifiable for your prospects, and usable in your marketing programs. Then build a drop-down list for them to choose from (with an Other option if you’re not sure you covered all the bases). Now you have consistent values, and you can use them to segment, trigger, and target.

    • Thanks for the tip! Standardized data is much easier to deal with on the back end, and in most cases it makes the completion process quicker and easier for prospects. Structured data fields also let you weed out responses you’re not interested in. As suggested here, you can build lists to offer only choices that you’re interested in knowing. To stay with the “Job Title” example: If you are targeting only serious decisionmakers–executives, managers, and IT folks, for example–make those be the choices you include on your drop-down list, along with “Other” (which you will know is actually a catch-all category for leads who don’t have the desired job title).

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