Over the last several months, I’ve had to make a few trips to doctor’s offices and medical facilities for myself and my kids. As a result of those adventures I have a new pet peeve: Organizations that ask WAY too much information for their files.
Filling out a patient form in a doctor’s office is like applying for a mortgage these days. Home phone number, work number, cell number, full contact info for your closest relatives, social security number, job title, on and on and on. Equally offensive is having to fill out multiple forms with this same information or to have to answer these questions after already having filled out the forms.
As a marketer, I understand the need to collect data. But, in my mind, if you’re going to ask someone for a certain piece of information, you’d better have a legitimate reason to need it.
After leaving several messages at my home phone number, a doctor’s office complained that I was difficult to reach. I responded that I work during the day and that if they needed to reach me, they could have used either the work number or the cell number in their file. That’s when they said: “Well, some people don’t like us to use those numbers.”
Which gets me to tips for website contact forms.
Tip #1: If you’re not going to use the information you’ve requested, then don’t ask for it!!
Your website contact form is a great tool for generating qualified sales leads. With a few pointed questions, you can determine pretty easily which leads are serious and which ones are just wasting your time.
However, it’s important that your contact form ask just enough to be able to properly steer the lead to the right department or salesperson; going much beyond that threatens to annoy the prospect at the least and, at worst, can cause people to abandon the form, and your website, entirely.
Tip #2: Don’t ask questions on your contact form that your prospect can’t answer.
Contact forms generally are going to be filled out by people who have no prior experience with your company, products or services. Because of that, your prospects may not know exactly how to describe what they want in the terms that your company would use.
For example, if you sell machinery called the Pro-Master I, Pro-Master II and Pro-Master III, it might make sense to have a question on your form that says: “I would like additional information on:” with check boxes for each of the three pieces of machinery. More than likely, prospects will check off all three because they don’t know enough about any of them to make a determination of which machine is best suited for them. And, in the process, you’ve likely annoyed them by asking them to know enough about your machinery to make that determination.
A better way to word this would be: “Please send me information about your Pro-Master machinery line.”
Tip #3: Don’t assume that all people who fill out your contact form read your whole website.
Many Internet users are skimmers, not deep readers, so chances are that the folks who fill out your contact forms have only looked at your site long enough to compel them into filling out your form. They’re not interested in reading all 300 pages of your website, they want to talk to someone to get their questions answered. That’s a good thing!
Tip #4: Give prospects information in the way they requested.
Folks who fill out contact forms generally do this to avoid phone calls. They want to be able to evaluate your company’s information on their own, before initiating a direct conversation. But, sometimes, the reason they fill out the form is because they don’t want to have to navigate your phone system to get to the right person. On your form, ask whether they would like to be contacted by phone or by e-mail, and then follow up in that manner. It will put your prospect at ease and make them feel that you understand them.
This doesn’t preclude you from doing a follow up phone call once you’ve e-mailed out the requested information.
Tip #5: Treat a contact form like a phone call.
I’ve always been amazed at retail establishments that will have a client standing in front of them wait while they answer a phone call. Shouldn’t the person who walked in your door two minutes ago get first priority over a ringing phone?
Similarly, it’s best not to make your contact form prospects wait several days for information they’ve requested. Contact forms should be treated as you would an incoming phone call. Process them in the order they arrive as efficiently as possible. You want to be sure that the prospect receives the information they requested before they forget that they ever sent the request.
Angie Charles is President of Pilot Fish, a search engine optimization (SEO) firm and website design company located in Akron, OH. Pilot Fish specializes in helping business-to-business clients get found online. For more information or help with your b-to-b website, visit Pilot Fish