“If you build it, they will come”
In the 1950s the world was entering a post-war torn economy, where demand outpaced supply. In that time, it truly was a case of if you could build it, you could sell it.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite fly in 2020. A lot has happened in the space of 70 years, but for business owners what sticks out the most is perhaps that we are no longer sales or product centered in our approach. Quite the opposite, actually. Today is the age of the customer.
Customers are smarter, savvier and demand a greater experience when buying. They truly are in control, and that can be worrying for business owners who are stuck in the ways of the past.
Fortunately, once you earn the trust of potential customers they’ll be willing to give you their information and support them as they move ever closer to buying whatever it is that you’re selling.
A central part of that new relationship is digital marketing. And, to be more specific, the introduction of digital forms on websites in the 1990s to capture interest in your business.
Today we’re looking at the reasons you should rethink how you are gauging who may want to buy from you.
The age before web forms
Marketing and sales before using websites, forms and the full arsenal of digital technology relied on relationship building, cold calling, direct mail and other tactics to generate awareness of your product.
However, where the waters became murkier was what happened after that awareness stage. If you provided a phone number or PO Box, that still left a lot unknown. Would someone call you back about your special sales event for the ‘98 Ford Fiesta?
Even if you had a website, it acted as nothing more than a means to crudely regurgitate information, and at best you had a fax or phone number promoted there.
But the mid 2000s saw the dawn of inbound marketing.
This new, ‘revolutionary’ approach switched businesses’ focus from colding calling, interruptive tactics to creating content which would attract your ideal buyers to your site, and then when they got to your site, making it *very* easy to buy (eCommerce, e.g. Amazon) or gain more information through web forms.
What is a web form?
Web forms are a digital form placed on a website or landing page where you ask a viewer to enter their information for access to content (e.g. webinar), to ask for more information (or a demo), or to purchase an item outright.
What is the purpose of a web form?
Businesses, marketers more specifically, will use a web form to help build a better understanding of who their potential (or actual) customers are, provide more content to build trust, and ultimately drive that potential customer through the marketing and sales pipeline to a conversion.
What are some common examples of a web form?
There are an endless number of forms you can create and for many purposes, but commonly they will be for:
- Newsletter sign ups
- eBook downloads
- Webinar registrations
- Call back requests
- Customer service requests
- Book a meeting
- Order form
Why should you rethink web forms?
Perhaps you have web forms on your site already, or you’re embarking on your first PPC campaign and landing page, or your site is being built. These are the top reasons for you to ensure web forms are part of your tactics.
Knowledge is power
It’s true. If you could know exactly who is interested in your business and you had a means to contact them and build a relationship that leads to a sale, and repeat purchases, wouldn’t that be grand?
Well, with web forms you’re inviting the unidentified many (your web visitors) to provide their information in return for something that they want from you.
That information around web page views then acts as the colour to the black and white outline you’ve already drawn about who this person is as a result of them providing their details via the form.
Smart forms, smart results
Hold up. Smart forms? Yep, smart forms. These are the next level of using web forms, and are a great step up for those of you already using forms.
Certain CRM providers will allow you to create forms within their system, embed them on your site, and use a tick box feature which enables you to do one of two things:
- Progressively profile (ask more questions based on whether someone has submitted a form on your site before), or
- Pre-populate information on the form.
Both of these are incredibly powerful hacks for reducing a web visitor’s resistance to wanting to complete your form.
Simply put, it means that you’ll never fill in the same form twice.
However, you must be mindful of which of these options you use. I would suggest that you consider grouping your forms on the perceived value of the content that sits behind it.
From there you can then think tactically about whether you would want someone to provide new details for submitting a newsletter subscription if they’ve already requested a demo of your software.
Give value to what you’re selling / talking about
Yes, the customer comes first, but that doesn’t mean you should devalue who you are and what you have to say to those potential customers.
Many factors impact the success of your product / service, but perhaps none more than perception. You put considerable time and research into how you package what you’re selling, how it compares to your competition and a pricing strategy behind it.
That effort equates to a perceived value from your potential customers of what you’re selling.
That same effort is put into your content marketing, for example, and as such you should ensure that your web visitors are confident of the value of whatever sits behind your form.
If your website, CRM and marketing platforms are all connected then you are able to create a marketing ecosystem which builds a clear picture of your sales pipeline.
With everything connected, your sales team and finance team can forecast accurately the quantity and quality of projected sales in your pipeline.
And, with the form helping you to capture the right information, down the line you can then target similar people and forecast accordingly.
Qualify your leads
Another added benefit of using web forms is that they can easily support a lead scoring strategy.
Indeed, some forms will be of a higher value to your business and indicate a readiness to purchase sooner. For example, if you are an energy supplier a newsletter subscription is certainly worth less than a price comparison form.
Using tools such as HubSpot you can then attach a numerical value to your forms, with higher value forms being assigned a score which pushes a contact closer to being seen as marketing qualified.
This is particularly effective for those businesses already using forms and want to better qualify their leads.
Automate your marketing
Web forms should act as a trigger for many things. With the correct marketing platform, you can do a number of things:
- Autoresponder thank you emails for completing the form and offering follow up content and setting expectations of next steps
- Trigger a contact into a marketing nurture workflow where you promote content to generate more interest in your product / service
- Make your sales team aware of more high value form completions
- Create lists of form completions to analyse performance
Personalise your marketing
With more information collected through your web forms you can start to personalise your marketing in a number of ways:
- Address contacts using their name
- Create smart content which talks to contacts in a particular industry, meaning you can truly get laser focused on your messaging and increase its impact on segments of contacts
- Help your sales team understand who the contact is and what they’ve done on your site
- Share content related to the form submission and site behaviour to enrich that feeling of you’re putting your customers first
And the future?
As useful and must-have web forms are, there is an emerging trend to rely on forms only when it is appropriate, and introduce a fresh, more interactive way to capture interest.
That comes in the form of conversational marketing.
Simply, it is using messaging technology on your site to start a conversation with a user, making the process of capturing name, email etc. more of a conversation.
Tools such as Drift are gaining in popularity, and for good reason too.
The technology easily sits on your site and allows you to take your lead generation to the next level in a more relaxed manner. It provides the same benefits as forms, but is simply a different way to approach lead gen.
However, there still remains a need for forms. Variety is the name of the game, and using what you feel is most appropriate for the content. For example, software companies use Drift to make it easier to request demos.
Another worthy contender is the calendar form.
A hybrid of a web form and an embedded calendar (Outlook, iCal etc.) which allows your visitor to directly book into your sales’ team calendar. Presenting less friction between the potential customer and your team, it’s a great evolution for web forms.
As with all things marketing, web forms present an opportunity for you to get closer to your potential customers and offer a raft of benefits outside of simply capturing information.
The reality is that for your business to be successful, web forms are a must. There is no escaping the fate that a business without a means to let its audience give their information is almost doomed to fail.
However, with many advantages to using web forms, and calendar forms and conversational marketing evolving the area, there’s never been a better time to be optimistic about generating more interest in your business.