Building Online Forms for Lead Management

Let’s talk about forms.

You’ve spent money to target and re-target prospective users to drive them to your website. You’ve put out your most beguiling and persuasive content to make this perfect moment — the conversion — happen. Your prospect is ready to give up the goods (i.e. contact information) and start down the road of becoming a customer.

So what happens next?

  • How is this information captured after the form has been submitted?
  • Where is the form information routed?
  • Who is going to follow up? How will you know if they did and if the lead was any good or not?

As a developer, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked to create a form and been given no information about where the prospect data is supposed to go, who is supposed to be alerted, and what information the prospect should receive in return. Often this is because no one has really thought the process through. Someone just said “Let’s gate the asset” and everyone thought that was sufficient.

But what we actually DO with that hard-won contact information and how timely we are in dealing with it is incredibly important. In fact, it’s often the difference between winning a customer and losing one. The whole point of our lead generation effort is to generate revenue… not just unanswered inquiries.

The handoff of leads from marketing to sales can become a graveyard of mishandled leads. Don’t let it happen to you.

Let’s explore how to properly manage your lead so that critical information doesn’t get dropped and your sales team gets the results they are looking for.

Make sure Form Tracking is in place

If you are using a marketing automation system, you should send form data directly into the system. Pardot, for example, allows you to build forms and then place them anywhere on your site using an iframe. A marketing automation system will allow you to track how the prospect got to your landing page or website and link that trail to your form. Plus, most marketing automation systems have a user-friendly interface (i.e. no coding required) for setting up the actions that should take place when a form is submitted — so you can do it yourself without needing a developer.

If you have a WordPress website, Gravity Forms is a terrific plugin for managing forms and form data. While it is not a substitute for a marketing automation system, it stores your form data in an accessible way and sends notifications to whomever you like and customized confirmations to your users

If you don’t have marketing automation or a content management system, you may need to build a solution on your website. Talk to your developer about how you can keep the forms and form data secure. Forms are a vulnerable part of any website because you are allowing the public to submit something. It’s up to you to make sure this is the data you expect and not an SQL injection. Keep it simple so that the maintenance is manageable. You can easily have the form data stored to a text file on your server and email alerts sent to your staff.

Questions to ask before implementation

The purpose of your form will help guide the questions you should discuss with your developer.

Gating Forms

This is a form that promises to give the prospect something in exchange for their contact information.

  • What are you giving and how will that be delivered?
  • Is this something that can be automated? If so, does your developer have the information needed to do this?
  • What if you have an email that the user receives?
  • Will the email be updated or changed over time? Is it text or HTML?
  • Who is writing and designing this email? Do you want to personalize it, do you have the right data for this?
  • Where does the form data go? Should it go to sales? Does it need to be vetted or sorted according to territory
  • Should this prospect be added to a lead nurture program? Signed up for your newsletter?
  • How will you know if you are attracting the type of prospects you expected?

Buy Now and Contact forms

These are special. Incoming Hot Lead!!! You do NOT want to fumble this one.

  • Who will call or email this prospect?
  • How will you know this has been done?
  • What happens if your salesperson is away?
  • How will you close the loop and see how many leads came in and how many ultimately lead to sales? (Yes, the elusive cohesion between marketing and sales. Read more on that here.)

Class Signup and Specific Customer Interaction

Do you interact with your customers directly on your website? With some thought, these forms can free up your front office and admin staff from answering obvious questions.

  • Should the user get a confirmation email when they sign up? This email can confirm their information and answer any questions that you can anticipate.
  • Are you collecting all the information that you need? Will your salesperson/trainer/front office staff have to call the user to fill in any data gaps?
  • Is this an opportunity for an upsell or to learn more about your client’s business and how they use your product?

More to consider for all of your forms:

  • Who is monitoring these forms? If they break (which happens) how will you know?
  • Notifications can go to anyone and everyone. Ideally the notification should go directly to the person who will take action and possibly to the person who manages this action.
  • In case the ball is dropped, do you have a record of the form data? Where will this be stored? How will it be retrieved?

“Not many sounds . . .exceed in interest a knock at the door.”*

A form being submitted from your website is kind of the modern day equivalent of the jingling bell of a shop door being opened. If you have thought through what should happen next and have communicated this to your personnel, it’s the digital equivalent of being greeted with a smile by well-trained staff. Isn’t that what you want your prospects and customers to experience?

*Charles Lamb — a dead Englishman. In spite of being dead, he has a point. If he were alive, I bet he would have had a different alert sound for every notification on his cell phone. It’s not that I’m distracted by wikipedia when I should be writing this blog post but did you know his sister went mad and killed their mother? With a knife! Ewww. Messy.

Susan Gamble
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