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How to streamline your online forms and boost response

“Lie to me, but please don’t leave…” – Sheryl Crow, Strong Enough (1999)

Marketers typically ask too much of people. Give them a form field or two too many to fill in — a query that raises those sensitive “privacy hackles” — and your lead (and potential sale) has fled.

We need to ask ourselves: How much info do you really need to go to the next step?

Are You Actually Encouraging Consumers To Lie To You?

A critical step in a prospect’s shopping process is to learn more about your company, products, and services. When meeting a salesperson in a store, it’s typical to introduce yourselves, ask about your needs and interests as it relates to the sale, current set up, price range, etc.

When that “conversation” happens online as a form, marketers often probe for all those details, plus more. But shoppers hesitate to provide too many details. And for good reason, due to the number of security concerns and breaches.

It might be shocking to hear, but lots of people out there find there’s ample room for fuzzy morals and ethics when prospecting. Just as folks fudge some personal details on a dating app, prospects may not want to supply all their real info. Especially when they’re in the exploring stage of shopping for your product or service. The truth is: People lie when filling out “more information” forms.

Or, they simply slip away silently and show up as anonymous stats in your bounce rate and incomplete form stats. And even if you do capture information, you have little assurance it is correct. Hopefully this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

How Much Information Is Enough When Prospecting?

The blog post The Ultimate Guide to Lead Nurturing in 2018 wisely wonders “… why do so many businesses go in for the final sale right off the bat? Earning the business of high-caliber clients takes time, but far too many businesses are short-sighted and don’t know how to play the long-game.”

The reality is it’s okay to hold back a bit when you’re courting each other. Not only is the adage “close enough is good enough” true higher up the funnel, patience may get you farther along! Then, the lower you go in the funnel, the more precise you need to be. (That’s where the Sheryl Crow lyric comes in.)

Take health insurance for example. When shopping around for a plan, you can be “less truthful.” When you reach the stage when you want a quote that accurately reflects what you’ll actually pay based on your age, current health, and lifestyle, then prospects can happily provide lots of legitimate details.

In a recent blog post, my colleague Bill Spink addressed a tactic for capturing contact information from reluctant prospects. Present a worthy benefit to entice your customers to share. An example: For obvious reasons, an auto insurance client wanted prospects to share their policy expiration date. A prospect’s willingness to do that is very low, and resistance to share is high. The copywriter’s solution? While it may seem unconnected, crafting the CTA “How fast can you get me a quote if my coverage expires on < fill in the date >?” gave prospects a rationale to provide the desired detail. The result: 80% of responders willingly entered their data.

The “Real News” — Data and Internet Privacy Is a Legitimate Concern

Companies of all industries and sizes have had to make the shameful announcement that “your personal information may have been exposed” in the data breach du jour. From Equifax to Facebook and Under Armour to Panera, it seems to be a matter of when and how, not if. There is inherent risk every time any of us provide data as we browse and shop – mostly online, but in-store, too.

According to a recent study, only 25% of Americans would be willing to provide sensitive/private information in exchange for a more seamless/friendly user experience and product improvements. By comparison, China topped this list with 38% of its citizens willing to provide this data. Companies are increasingly caught between a “rock and a hard place,” needing to provide a better experience without violating consumer privacy.

As you can see, marketers face a growing challenge to collect data and tailor their communications. It’s hard to target someone when they haven’t given you truthful or complete information.

Don’t Need It? Don’t Ask for It.

The reality of data breaches offers more reason not to ask for something if you don’t truly need it. This reassures your visitors and responders that the less you collect, the less risk they’ll be exposed to. You could further reassure them with a note about the steps you take to protect any information provided along the way.

Reviewing your current forms and asks, are you too pushy? An all-or-nothing approach to data collection might be holding you back. Don’t depress leads or quality of data collected by asking too much, too soon.

As your buyers move through their customer journey, keep your team realistic about what you ask for and when. Think from the prospect’s point of view: What would they feel comfortable providing vs. what you really need to know to answer their question, fulfill their curiosity, and keep them on the hook? Trust that when the time comes, they’ll share all you need to know in order to make a sale, satisfy their needs, and build a lasting relationship.

Looking for more specifics on how to adapt these insights and data to your prospect’s journey? We’re always here to help you improve your targeting strategy and tactics for increased effectiveness.