Lead generation forms: Should you require contact details for freebies? Research says ‘no’

This week, I came across an interesting reading from Kampyle’s blog, debating whether you should always require contact details when giving some free material to your audience. Let’s take this question from a wide angle.

1. Common approach

In fact, this question is important for every marketer, but is even more crucial in the B2B space. In order to generate leads, one would draw a qualified audience to his website by offering (high) quality content for free, in exchange for contact details.
By doing so, your prospect must first fill some or many mandatory fields (in 2011, I still see online forms with more than 20 mandatory fields before any kind of first-level interaction). As a matter of fact, people hate filling out forms. Maybe it reminds them some painful offline forms like taxes or hefty processes in some way… But we have to live with that fact and find ways to facilitate lead generation processes.

Common approach when giving freebies

2. Timing is a key element when collecting information

The author suggest a more clever approach, emphasizing on timing, based upon a research conducted by Mac McIntosh, one recognized US expert in Business-to-Business sales lead generation:

“I found that only 9% of prospects filled out a form required to access some valuable content on my website” states Mac McIntosh. “So I instead let them download without filling out a form, simply opening a new window for the download, then changing the background window to thank them for downloading and asking them to tell us more about their needs. That resulted in a 45% form completion rate, vs. the 9%. Perhaps this is because I gave them something valuable first, then asked for more information.”

Source: CMS Wire

Not surprisingly, he claims that asking to give only name, title and email on the first page, then asking optional information on a second page after hitting the submit button doubled the amount of leads captured and information shared, compared to a quite heavy form on the first page.

3. Webdesign technology matters

All this makes sense but to me, timing improvements applied to information collection are also limited by technology. For instance, this background window switching technique after one clicks on “Submit” is not so simple to set up, and somehow confusing at best – if not annoying. In addition, I don’t think that a link at the end of an Acrobat or Office document drives a lot of clicks, because the environment is fairly separated from a browser or common browsers User Interface (UI) standpoint (though I might be wrong). However, with advanced Javascript frameworks and serious work, it’s possible to create beautiful, two steps/pages forms, without leaving that very same browser window. Simply, I’ve rarely seen such use until now but new techniques will make it easier to produce over time.

4. New Feedback 2.0 and chat tools helps to detect the engaged audience, with a higher “contact information sharing” propensity

According to Kampyle, it is not by pure chance that the request for contact details closes their feedback form experience: After website visitors were enabled to easily give feedback, the readiness to share contact details is extremely high, up to some 60%. Like I often repeat, you can’t succeed online without creating interaction. Even if it’s often understood as a click / action from the prospect or Internet user (which is wrong), it’s a two-way process based upon Permission rules.

5. End notes

I fully agree with the following statement: First let your site visitors succeed in what they were planning to do (to download a white paper, to give a feedback, etc…), then ask them to provide contact details.
Do it with advanced and well-thought webdesign techniques. Anyway, it will save you a lot of time and efforts because the ones willing to spend (rather, invest) time to do it, are very likely better qualified and engaged. Marketing-speaking, prospects lost by applying this optimization might not be part of your core target, but it’s another complex debate.

François – francois ( at ) francoisprigent ( dot ) fr