Guest post by Adam Clark, VP of Strategy and Business Development for Outbox Systems

3 keys for creating webforms that work.

A well-executed webform (with all other things being equal) can be the difference between a 12% conversion rate to a 41% conversion rate – as was the case with one of our customers. When you have hundreds or even thousands of visitors to your home page, that percentage difference sure can add up!

When integrating websites with Salesforce, it’s very important to take the time to design a webform that is; SALES INTEGRATEDUSER FRIENDLY, and WELL DESIGNED

Let’s look at each of these and discuss three good tips for them.

SALES INTEGRATED

Generally, webforms are used to gather contact information from people that you hope to sell to. This means that you need the webform to, at a minimum, gather sufficient information to assist in the next step in the sales process. Many marketing and sales teams try to have the webform assist in the sales process by using it as a “qualifier”. I disagree with this in 99.9% of cases. People fill out forms if they want something, period. So make sure you know what you are offering to them when they fill out the form and don’t assume anything beyond that offer. For instance, if they fill out the form for a white paper (not a fan of this, by the way), never assume they want anything more than the white paper. Sales people, by the way, typically dislike whitepaper leads (miserable things) for this reason. In sum, you need a form that seamlessly integrates and facilitates the sales process.  Here are three tips to help you accomplish this.

1. KNOW YOUR NEXT STEP

You need to have defined your next step in the sales process once the prospect fills out the form. This means knowing what the offer/context was that enticed them to fill out the form (a promotion, whitepaper, free consultation, etc). Knowing this will help you  achieve the next step.

2. GATHER LESS INFORMATION

Gather the minimal required information needed to contact the person and  nothing more. Really. If you use the webform to do the work for you, then you are  pushing that  effort onto the customer. The more information required of them, the less  likely they  are to fill out the form.  If you don’t want to talk to everyone that submits  through your  form, then you should re-design your form strategy on the website. If  you do want to  talk to everyone, then all you need is a name, a phone number, and  probably an email.  Quit asking for information that you can get in person.  Webforms  are not supposed to  make your job easier – they are simply there to obtain contact  info from someone who  you might be able to sell to.

3. FOLLOW UP QUICKLY!!

What you do with a webform submission is more important than the form itself. Did  you know that research shows that, “the odds of contacting a lead increase by 100x if  attempted within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes (study by Insidesales.com ).”  Pretty  powerful, right?! Make sure you have a solid process in place both inside Salesforce  and with your people to ensure that new leads submitted from your webform are  contacted immediately! This is a critical part of your success.

USER FRIENDLY

I really dislike filling in forms more than about 3-4 fields long. I don’t want to give a ton of information that frankly only helps the seller. When I fill out a form it is because I am interested in getting help or knowledge, etc. That should only require very basic info. And the form should be very simple and easy to use without any confusion. Here are three tips for making your forms more user friendly.

1. NO OPTIONAL FIELDS

If the fields are optional, meaning that you don’t HAVE to have the information, quit  asking for it. It has no purpose and does not help users. Either require it, or remove it.  The example below is just a small part of a large 16 field form Accenture uses to let  you subscribe to their newsletters. You can see some fields are required, but others are  not. For instance, here we have the experience in number of years as required, but not  company. Hey, it’s their choice, but seems a bit odd to me. Plus, all this for  newsletters? This form gets them to set up a login for the newsletters – why not just  make it easy to get setup and then let them fill in profile info after they login to  manage their subscriptions? 

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2. DON’T PUT FIELD LABELS IN THE FIELD BOXES

This is a terrible idea because sometimes it actually interferes with the submission of  data and the fact that once I start typing in the field, I can’t see the label anymore and  might forget what it was exactly asking. Just don’t do it.

3. NO INSTRUCTIONS

Honestly if you have to put instructions for the form, you are not designing it right. For  instance, don’t try to tell them how to input a phone number. Either build the form to  help make that obvious or don’t worry about it and manage it on the back end.  Salesforce can format phone numbers pretty intuitively. The example below from  Accenture’s website shows how NOT to do it. First, the instructions kind of repeat the  text under the fields, but in a more confusing way. I mean, am I supposed to use the  “<” button to enter my phone number?  And the example number at the end of the  instructions doesn’t make any sense based on the format of the fields and the format  instructions. Not great, folks.

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WELL DESIGNED

I love a site that has integrated their webform nicely. There is just something so sincere and refreshingly simple about it. Design refers not just to the form itself, but how the form is integrated into the site as a whole. Here are three tips for form design.

1. DON’T COMPETE WITH YOURSELF

Perhaps the most important factor in webform design is not to distract them with everything else on your page. They need to quickly know what they need to know, feel motivated to act, and then be quickly lead visually and verbally to a call to action – your form. Don’t use motion graphics, pictures, and other elements on your page that distract the user from your singular message/offer that is associated with the webform. Their eyes shouldn’t be driven all over. They should naturally go to and see your offer and call to action quickly. Don’t make them wonder what they are supposed to do or why they should fill out the form.

2. STAY INSIDE THE BOX

This means that you shouldn’t try to be clever with webforms. There is no purpose in  this. It’s not a contest for who is the most creative. Don’t use words in picklists that are  uncommon just to sound or be different (“I am a Male” vs. “Male”, for instance). Pretty  doesn’t make practical. It only makes pretty. However, pretty can take away from  practical, so be careful. Work within common practices and expectations for forms for  your average user. The example below is from Daptiv’s website, where you can  download this Forrester report, but only after filling out a form. It looks nice, but the  problem is that nothing tells you what is required in the form until you submit and get  an error.  Perhaps they don’t want the “*” most people use to designate a required  field, but design in exchange for clarity is not a great idea.

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3. HAVE A CLEAR PURPOSE

When people fill out your form, they should know exactly why they are filling it out. In  other words, they should have the same, clear expectation as to what they will get  when they fill out the form as you do. Be clear to the customer what the form is for  and how their information will be used. This will help keep everyone happy and drive  lead conversions higher because the lead is better qualified. You see, qualification  doesn’t always come from a set of data you gather. Their decision to fill the form out is  a form of self-qualification. It’s a very nice piece of transparency.

It’s really not so complex. And getting it right can make a huge difference! Good luck!

Adam Clark
[email protected]
801-691-3249
www.outboxsystems.com