Web Forms 101: Best Practices Your Site Should Use
You've planned out or even designed a nifty new website. That's awesome! Congrats!
However, it's just a monument to your creativity if you don't use it to generate and nurture leads that eventually convert.
That's where website forms come in.
By asking a user to fill out a form, you're requesting they give you pieces of personal information about themselves.
In a day-and-age where the barrier between data and privacy is fragile, your audience needs a good reason to give you their information.
It takes advanced strategy and planning to create web forms on your site that are valuable: the more benefit you offer them, the more info they're willing to share with you.
The "Why" Behind Web Forms
You should NEVER have a form on your site that has no specific reason for living. Every form should have a plan in place for what will happen to the information it collects.
Are you merely trying to generate leads? Maybe you're trying to develop an offline e-commerce relationship. Perhaps you've created a stellar piece of content you want to share.
Regardless of what the web form is for—even if it's just a "contact us" page—you should have a detailed objective set before it ever appears on your site.
It's an essential tool for your business, and if you don't have a path set up for each form, it's a waste of resources.
Moving Through the Funnel
According to Hubspot, 74 percent of companies use web forms for lead generation, and nearly 50 percent say their online forms are their highest converting lead generation tool.
Since web forms are critical tools for business, you need to be sure you're collecting the right information and optimizing it for your marketing and sales teams to move leads through the funnel.
What do you need?
What information you ask for is tied directly to what you want to do with it and what the user will get from it.
Simple is safe. The less information you ask for, the more likely people are to fill out your web form. Getting a first and last name and an email address is always a great place to start. It gives you someone to contact and a non-invasive way to do it.
However, if you are giving them something likely to engage them, asking for more information such as company, job title and phone number becomes more agreeable.
The more information you have about a person, the more you can qualify them as a lead and, hopefully, convert them into a customer.
"Every piece of content should include a call to action that could keep them cycling through your site forever."
Once you understand what you need, you should have an actionable plan of what happens with it from there.
Internally, you want to make sure that all the contact information you collect is stored efficiently in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
A CRM helps you access all the details on each contact and even see where they are in your marketing or sales funnel (some CRMs can set this up automatically).
Externally, after the user fills out the form, it should be clear to them that their information was successfully received. If they filled out a form to receive something from you, this would be an excellent time to give them what they want.
Ideally, you would send them to a thank you page or an email that keeps them cycling through your site. Keep them browsing and engaged by suggesting new content or other offers.
Every piece of content should include a call to action that could keep them cycling through your site forever. Don't let the chain stop on your end.
Now that we've covered the basics, here are some important topics to consider as you begin to plan and create on your site:
NEVER AUTO SUBSCRIBE – nothing says "spammy" more than auto subscribing people to something without their knowledge or permission. Always ensure you have active opt-in subscriptions.
Security and SPAM Prevention – this should be a no-brainer; however, as we've seen from major corporations, data breaches can happen to anyone. Store your information on a reputable and secure CRM and ONLY use the information you collect for its intended purpose.
Make it easy – not only should your form be simple to fill out, but it should also be short and easy to complete no matter what device a person uses. Simpler forms provide a better user experience and increase your chances of securing potential leads.
If you're saving their data already, use that to help them along in the future via data repopulation. This is especially helpful if you plan to promote a lot of gated content. By remembering users and auto-populating your forms, you're giving them much easier access to your content.