How to Humanize Your Marketing Forms
I recently sat in on a Quick Win Intensive as the MECLABS team went to work evaluating the lead funnels and landing pages of one of our client’s competitors.
As a writer, this line on one of the competitor’s landing page forms really stuck out to me: “Contact may be by automated dialing technology and may feature a prerecorded voice.”
There may be more poetic ways to say to a customer “we don’t value your time or information,” but nothing cuts to the bone as deeply as “Contact may be by automated dialing technology and may feature a prerecorded voice.”
While that is an excellent way to depersonalize a form, it raised a question in my mind – can marketing forms be humanized?
Technology has done great things for marketing, but it has also seriously undermined the relationship brands have with their customers. I’ve written often about this topic, sharing examples of how to bring the humanity back to marketing.
But even I was wondering – can you humanize a form?
This article is my argument that you can. And here’s why.
A Form Is Just a Way to Connect With People
To understand the modern landing page form, it helps to take a trip back in history to its ancestors. There was a time in marketing, long, long ago, when there were no forms with landing pages. This bygone era was known as the 1980s.
And in this dark and primitive age there was a device known as the Rolodex. According to Wikipedia, “its name is a portmanteau of the words rolling and index.” You can think of it as a CRM made out of paper.
Of course, there were no marketing automation platforms to get the information from a person into a Rolodex, so you actually had to talk to fellow humans. Get their business card or just write down their information. Here are a few lessons from those bygone days.
Lesson #1: People Will Give the Information They Want to Give
You meet someone at a networking mixer, and you ask for their phone number. They’re hesitant, so you say, “Sorry, it’s required.”
Or they give you their personal email address and you say, “No, this will not do. I require your company email address.”
Your company may need certain information in certain forms. Absolutely. But for a simple lead gen form, be careful how much information you really, truly require right up front. You may lose many potential customers you could have started a relationship with.
And people will choose to give you the information they want to give you anyway. When we analyzed business versus personal email address usage in more than seven million form completions across 14 job roles, we discovered how often people put personal email addresses in B2B lead gen forms. For example, 70% of supervisors in companies with less than 100 employees used their personal email addresses.
Lesson #2: You Can Get More Information Over Time If You Build a Relationship
“Hi, nice to meet you. So what’s your first name? So what’s your last name? So what’s your phone number? So where do you work? So what’s your title? So how many people work there? So what industry are you in? So how much revenue does your company bring in? So do you think you’ll make a purchase in the next 0-3 months? How about the next 3-6 months? How about the next 6-9 months? Don’t tell me it will be more than a year before you buy something in my industry!”
If you just try to pump someone for information the first time you meet them, they will likely be resistant. Or throw their drink in your face and run away.
However, let’s say you see them at your association’s meeting every week. You build a relationship with them over time. And you learn more about them each week.
You can take this approach with your marketing forms as well using progressive profiling. Every time a prospect comes back to your site for a download or white paper, ask them for a little more information. And build your database over time.
For example, IHS shrunk its initial form from 15 required fields down to seven while using progressive profiling to build a targeted database over time, part of an effort by the global information company to transition from batch-and-blast to persona-driven marketing.
Lesson #3: Even a Form Can Be a Conversation
Depending on your business needs, you may not have time to get that information over several interactions. You may need the info all at once. Still, think back to that networking mixer. Try not to just hammer for information Try to engage in a conversation.
While this approach may not be necessary for a short, simple form, you may be able to increase conversion on longer forms with a lot of friction by engaging in some type of conversation with the customer.
For example, a large news syndication company worked with MECLABS to increase leads from a complex form 109% in part by engaging with the customer on the form. Throughout the form, questions were added to help guide customers through:
- With whom will we be speaking? (We collect your general information so we know with whom we will be speaking and how best to reach you.)
- Where are you located? (We collect information about your location in order to route you to the appropriate [company] representative.)
- What information are you interested in discussing? (In order to make our conversation as productive as possible, we would like to know a couple of pieces of relevant information.)
Lesson #4: The Way You Ask Makes All the Difference
Many forms have a standard “submit” button. But you would never go up to a person and ask them to “submit” information to you.
Make sure your form has a beneficial button that shows the value customers will receive by completing the form. The more value they understand they can get, and the quicker they can get it, the more likely they will be to fill out your form. For example, changing the button copy on a form from “Get Quote” to “Show My Instant Quote” led to a 263% increase in form submissions.
Lesson #5: Test to See What Works Best
Humans are natural optimization machines. We behave the way we do because it works for us. So if you go to networking mixers and ask for information a certain way and it doesn’t work, you’re going to try something different. Eventually.
With your forms, some success may blind you to the need to try new things. Sure, you’re getting some form fills. But can the performance be improved? Fortunately, it’s easy to engage in A/B testing online (much easier than at an in-person networking event).
These are all just ideas to get your creative juices flowing on how you can humanize your forms to improve performance. So give it a go with your own ideas, and try testing your form location, headline, call-to-action, and design.
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Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.