E-commerce Link: Leads by Design
Think about the e-mail messages you receive in a day. Whether from colleagues, family or friends, this amount of e-mail adds up quickly. In fact, studies show that, on average, business users receive 133 work-related e-mails daily. In one year's time that totals 35,000 e-mails.
Lead generation campaigns have the challenge of competing with this full inbox. To break through the clutter, you must: 1) be a trustworthy, respected or notable brand; 2) offer content of real and continuing value; and 3) make it easy for customers to engage in a relationship with you as a marketer.
I intend to address the third point, providing advice on creating an online call to action that entices your users to click through to a subscription form that then promotes completion.
The Call to Action
A call to action on a Web site is a button or widget to be clicked. Clicking initiates an interaction: "Add to Cart" or "Send to a Friend," etc. In the case of a lead generation campaign, the call to action is typically "Subscribe," "Register" or "Sign Up." As a marketer, you should pay careful attention to the language you use on your Web site. For example, "Subscribe" may connote having to pay a subscription fee. The threat of a fee, imagined or otherwise, may be enough to turn off a cautious prospect. "Sign Up" or "Learn More" are potentially more benign.
The action word itself is not enough to interest most customers. You need to hook them with a description of the benefits of starting a dialogue with you. Let users know how regularly they can expect to hear from you, and assuage their fears about what you'll do with their personal data. Make sure to use language or imagery to reinforce your brand personality. In providing this information, remember that users generally don't read on the Web; they scan. Use bullets and bolding to shape a clear, focused pitch.
Consider allowing your customers a taste of the type of information they will enjoy once they subscribe. In the interaction design field, this is called "gradual engagement," and it helps make visitors more amenable to signing up to access the rest of your content.
So where does this call to action get placed on your Web site? Ideally, you can make the ask in several places: on the purchase confirmation; within your resource library; or on the search results, contact us, or news and notices pages where users obviously have an information need. Your offers will be received better if they are positioned in a relevant context than if they appear randomly as a callout; particularly in the right-hand column or footer. After years of using the Web, people have developed "banner blindness." Eye-tracking studies confirm that users don't look to the portion of the page traditionally reserved for promotional banners. If your call to action too closely resembles an ad, it likely will be ignored.
Overly long forms lead to drop-offs. So streamline and simplify your form fields and page copy. At the same time, don't be afraid to require specific information of your users and then use that data in a way that is smart and personalized. If you are a technology company and you learn a lead works within the pharmaceutical industry, send him case studies and technology solutions that are related to pharma, not retail. This tailored approach may help lay the foundation for a trust-based relationship. Moreover, this initial interaction ideally is just the beginning of your customer relationship. For now, be cognizant that the length of your form should be proportional to the value you're promising.
On the form itself, make sure entry fields are formatted consistently and aligned on a strong vertical axis. This orientation decreases completion times by not requiring users to hunt for the next data entry point. Similarly, make sure your developers set a logical tab order when they program your form—allowing users to complete all fields using only their keyboards.
Strip away any extraneous links or information not required for form completion. This is particularly the case with any navigation options or exit points, as you don't want to highlight opportunities for users to abandon the process. Bring those navigation options back once the user hits "submit" and effectively exits your lead generation channel.
Lastly, consider the way you will request your users' permission for future interaction. To comply with CAN-SPAM legislation, marketers cannot send commercial e-mail to an individual unless they have received the individual's express permission to do so. Permission interactions include:
Double opt-in: Following form submission, a confirmation e-mail is sent to notify users that subsequent action is necessary before their e-mail addresses will be added to your list. Users must click a link to be considered confirmed. This is the highest-level permission standard, but marketers can expect to lose about 20 percent to 30 percent of subscribers during the process.
Single opt-in: At the point of entering their e-mail addresses, users affirmatively request to be included in your commercial mailings by actively selecting a checkbox to be subscribed. Because two clicks are required, one to check the box and one to choose the submit button, these two interactions should be placed in close proximity on your form.
Opt-out: In this case, the permission checkbox is pre-checked and users must actively request NOT to be included on an e-mail list. This method generally is not recommended. Users must physically uncheck the checkbox putting them into a "no" mind-set. In contrast, making users do the work of checking a box to be included signifies a real commitment.
Design for Performance
It's not enough just to grow your contact lists. It's the value of the leads on the lists that will truly impact your business. You can use Web analytics to begin measuring the value of the contacts brought in through your new lead generation campaigns.
First set a baseline; then begin tracking drop-off points, conversion rates and the lifetime value of your leads. As you tweak the language or appearance of your call to action, or the length and complexity of your subscription form, watch these measurements and optimize your pitch.
Cristin Siegel is a senior user experience designer at Designkitchen, a Chicago-based interactive design agency. She can be reached at email@example.com.