HOLY SHIT. There’s an epidemic going on. Small business websites seem to be infested with a bug that is knee-capping their efforts to attract new business through their website.
Thousands of dollars were poured into the design. The graphics were meticulously crafted by a high-end designer. The copy was worked and reworked. Effort was expended.
And then at the last second, the contact form fails to deliver. And I don’t mean that technically. There was no failure with the code. I’m talking about capturing that lead.
WE’RE BUILDING SHITTY FORMS. That’s what I’m saying.
Oh! They seemed fine when we first put them up there.
Keep it easy was the motto. And we did. We usually kept our forms to a minimum, just a name and a space for somebody to type out a message.
This is not a rookie mistake. Literally every local web design firm that I looked at here in town has variations on the basic shitty forms on their own websites.
Not a good look.
What Should a Good Contact Form Do?
Contact forms are the Point of Sale on websites for service-based businesses. That’s not strictly true, but it’s the point that the prospect moves from being a lurker on your website to jumping directly into your sales funnel. The contact form is where your prospect reaches out to you.
There are two things going on here:
1. A person has to want to use your contact form.
2. They have to give you enough relevant information but not too much, to keep the form manageable to fill out.
It’s important to remember. The contact is the beginning of something, not the end. We got it half right when we were thinking about keeping it easy. Because it’s true, all we need is a way to contact the person along with their message and we’re good to go. That’s a hot lead.
But when you’re the person filling out the form, it feels a little desolate. It requires some energy to want to fill the damn thing out.
And the more energy it requires (either because you sell a product it’s hard to get emotionally invested in, the user is looking for specific, timely feedback, or feels unsure about what to say in their message, etc.) the fewer people as a percentage are going to fill out your form.
Building A Better Contact Form
To address point #1 above, we need to lower the bar, so to speak. We need to reduce the amount of activation energy required to use it. There are two easy ways to do this:
1. Put the contact form at the logical place where your online sales funnel ends.
What this means practically for most service-based business websites is that you should put your contact form on the page that describes your service. Don’t force people to click over to a Contact page if they don’t have to. It’s like building a store and putting the checkout in the parking lot. It makes no sense.
2. Ask easy leading questions relevant to the particular service you’re offering
Generic forms have one memo field where a person can say what they want. But this presumes that your prospect knows what they want to say.
That’s all fine and good for the customers who are going to buy no matter what. But for the rest of us, we need to warm up to the whole idea. This can be done by using easy leading questions.
Every service has details. I don’t care whether it’s buying real estate or web design services, there are easy ways to get potential customers to warm up to what you have to offer.
A Real Life Example
I am in the process of building the new website for my company, Little Wing Marketing.
I offer four main services: web design, consulting, user testing, and conversion optimization.
Each of these services will have its own page explaining the benefits of the services and generally selling the idea.
At the bottom of the page will be a really solid Call-to-Action.
But rather than stop there, or have that link to the Contact page, I’m going to put the contact form right on that page.
And the contact form itself will be all leading questions.
The goal is to be short, simple, and inviting.
To that end, it will not start by asking them their name and email address.
This is something that all contact forms do but it’s the dumbest thing when you think about it. You’re asking people to tell you about themselves when really what you want is for them to engage in a little bit of thought about the product.
You can get their personal information at the end of the form, after they’ve filled out the rest.
The form questions I’m planning to use on my web design form are:
1. What’s your web address?
2. What are your biggest challenges with your website?
This is going to be a list of common problems: lack of sales/leads, can’t be found on search engines, problems with your current designer, lack of focus/goals, etc. This will be followed by a memo field where they can add additional bits. Also, this makes it unnecessary for them to choose from your menu of services what they actually need. This is the form for web design, but it could be that what they really need is user testing, and they just don’t know it. Rather than have them put themselves into a box, I want to know what their problem is, and then I can help them find the best solution.
3. How soon would you like to begin making improvements?
The first thing to notice here is the language. Specifically the word “improvements”. That’s something that people filling out this form want to have happen. What they don’t want to do is “start work” or “begin the job” or “start the project”. Those are lifeless words that make them only feel like grist for the mill.
Remember the 6 Things Your Home Page Must Do (to Keep from Sucking)? The very first point was that a website had to “speak the users language”. This is never more important than when you’re interacting with them.
From my point of view, asking the time frame is more relevant than knowing their budget. Budgets can be made available when it makes sense to spend the money. I’ve been in enough sales meetings to know that’s a fact. Sell something somebody wants and they’ll pay for it. Guaranteed.
But what I need to know is: how hot is this lead? And how will this potentially impact my current schedule?
And more subtly, it gets the prospect to think of their web project in terms of smart goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely). By getting them to put a time frame on it, we’re putting the T in SMART.
4. How would you like to be contacted? (Phone, email?)
Now that I know the site we’re talking about, a bit about their problems, and their time frame for fixing things, now it’s appropriate to get their contact information. I’m inclined to ask for a phone or email address, put a text field there and let them give me what they give me. Why should I need two lines unless I’m dying for both ways to contact them? Believe me, if they want you to reach them, a prospect will put their preferred method in that box.
5. What’s your name?
We finish with what most start with: Who are you?
Finally, I’ll end with the submit button.
Wrapping It Up
The exact nature of your contact form will change depending on what services you’re trying to sell. But remember these few rules and you’ll be creating contact forms that get more responses in no time!
– Put the contact form in the most logical place in your sales funnel
– You can have different contact forms for different product/service lines
– Ask easy questions that get at the essence of why the prospect would need your product/service
– Keep things as short as possible
– Speak the users language
– Get their information at the end of the contact form, not the beginning.
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Ben, I agree with you. A good contact form will help to increase leads/sales.
That is the reason we made our contact form simple, user friendly and responsive. Also, we don’t use CAPTCHA as it is hard for users and may put them off. We use real SPAM patterns and user behavior to verify and stop spam. Eg:
– Users can not enter and submit form less than 10 seconds.
– Users can not submit form without click on Send button or type “Enter”
– And many other spam patterns…
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