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FutureNow Article
Friday, Jan. 22, 2010

Graduating Prospects: Getting the Most Out of Your Customer Information Form

By Natalie Hart
January 22nd, 2010

graduation-cap-300x242.jpg (JPEG Image, 300x242 pixels)_1264022543574The core of FutureNow’s service offering is helping clients persuade their visitors to move from one stage in their buying process to the next, to ultimately convert more visitors into customers.  One common question we get from B2B marketers is how to design marketing efforts that “graduate” their prospects from one stage of their buying process to the next.

If you’re familiar with FutureNow’s process or are a frequent grok reader, you’ll already know that our process involves not only designing effective marketing efforts for each stage of the buying process, but also involves identifying what the conversion points are for each stage of the buying process. However, for those who are not familiar, let’s review:

Early stage visitors are qualified as someone who has only begun their shopping process and may not know exactly what they want, nor are they convinced that they want to purchase from you. At this stage it’s important to answer visitors’ questions and not push them towards anything that says “Buy Now!” Offering these visitors comparison among your own products is also helpful so they can narrow down what they’re shopping for.  An example of a search term an early stage visitor may use is: “car insurance.”

Middle stage visitors are qualified as someone who has decided upon the product they’re searching for, but are not convinced yet that you can provide them with what they need. They may be shopping to find the best price or the best company to fill their needs. An example of a search term a middle stage visitor may use is: “comprehensive and collision auto insurance.”

Late stage visitors are qualified as someone who have decided upon the product they’re searching for and know who they want to purchase this product from. These visitors are yours to lose. Even though they’ve already decided upon purchasing from you, there are still barriers that may make these visitors lose confidence, such as a confusing checkout process, expired product assurances, and slow loading speeds. An example of a search term a late stage visitor may use is: “Progressive comprehensive and collision auto insurance”

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get into the meat of this subject. At each of these stages, you have the opportunity to convert these visitors to move to the next stage of their buying process. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily became a sale or a lead. This simply means that you’ve identified the point of interaction at which a visitor has demonstrated to you that they have been persuaded to go from the early stage in their buying process to the middle stage. This micro-conversion point may be the action of “landing on a page” or “signing up for a newsletter.” Identifying micro-conversion points for each of these stages of the buying process is key because they tell us the paths we’re trying to guide visitors through. The two most important parts of graduating prospects from one stage of the buying process to the next are:

1. Getting qualified traffic

2. Getting visitors to complete the lead generation or customer information form

So, how do you improve these two key parts? Let’s start with getting qualified traffic. This may require an over-haul of your keywords. First, write down every one of your marking efforts (PPC, radio ads, print ads etc.) Now it’s time to start digging. Eliminate any efforts that cost you more than you’re making in return. Look at who else you’re competing with for the same traffic and evaluate if/why, they’re getting a larger portion of the market that you are. Are your keywords too specific? Too general? Does your scent trail leave visitors at a dead end? Look through your analytics data, are you using content targeting that is bringing in the wrong type of visitor? If you’re getting 30,000 visitors a month, but none of them are qualified, you might as well be getting zero.

Lead generation forms are my personal nemesis, mostly because I feel I’ve been betrayed by them before. We all have had the experience where, as visitors, we fill out a customer information form, only to begin receiving random emails from a source you’ve never heard of, or asked a legitimate question about the service only to have it go unanswered. To put it simply: lead generation forms have a bad reputation. However, they’re a major win in terms of a micro-conversion so they need to be optimized to their utmost potential. Here are a few tips I regularly use when optimizing customer information forms:

1. Assurances: Let your visitor know that you wont sell their information to email/phone solicitation lists. For extra points, you can give them the option on how they’d prefer to be contacted.

2.  Let them know how long until they’ll be hearing from you. Having a 24-48 hr window for response is typical. (And, not just some automated response that says “Thanks, we got your inquiry, we’ll be in contact with you soon!”)

3. List your phone number near or within your customer information form. Many people (myself included) have been so put off by the use of lead generation forms that they no longer want to involve themselves with them. Having a note nearby that says “Want to talk to someone now? Call us as 123-456-7890″ this way you won’t lose a visitor simply because they fear the form.

4. Let them know what they’re getting. Is this a form for more information? To answer questions? Or, by filling out this form have they begun the purchasing process? Have a title to your customer information form that tell the visitor why they should fill it out, and what they’ll achieve by doing so.

Still want more information? Check out these great posts from Kevin Lee, and Dave Young.

Add Your Comments

Comments (89)

  1. In my opinion while doing keyword research one should look only for the third kind of visitor. One that has already learned about the product and is almost ready to buy it. Those visitors convert a lot more easily to sales.

  2. Mike, i dont agree with you. It depends on what you focus. A world is not black&white, so not everybody should do like you said, everybody should find what works best for him!

    greetings, nagradne igre

  3. hi nagradne,
    you’re absolutely right, everyone should find what works best for him, because as you said the world isn’t black and white

  4. If consumers don’t consider your business in the first 2 (or 3, or 4..) stages of their buying cycle, it will be harder to convert them in the last. Marketing theory calls this the a marketing funnel. Not sure how proven this theory is on the internet… Any chance you have any info on that Natalie? Great post!

  5. I think it is best to convert the customers at the early stages because as Mark has said, it will be hard to convert them in the last. Also, once they’re converted, make sure that they are satisfied with the product as well as with the service so they can keep coming back for more and also refer you to others. This way you will have the chance to establish a loyal line of customers.

  6. I agree with the fact that most of the customers make up there mind whether to buy a product or not within minutes of entering your site. So it is best advised to convert casual visitors into potential costumers. As the last part of the article states helping your visitors with form is very necessary because many visitors are not very comfortable with filling long forms.

  7. Thats right it’s not black and white, more like a shade of grey. Customers know what they want and can form their opinions in seconds. Build it and they will come.

  8. Wow! This post has certainly generated some great conversations. Thanks to everyone for their inputs and perspectives. From my experience, I’ve found that its important to have content for every stage visitor, the key, however, is to make sure that the content is displayed in an area each visitor is most likely to find the information they’re looking for.
    As for keywords, I would not encourage a client to only focus on late stage visitors, however, if you’re operating in a highly competitive market place and you’re finding early stage keywords to be far too expensive/competitive and you are loosing money on them, you may want to consider shifting focus more towards keywords that bring in middle and late stage visitors.
    In the end it’s the pathways that you want to create that will encourage your visitors to become customers. You need to create “choices” for visitors that filer them from one stage to the next. This is true if you want to capture their email, make a purchase or simply click on a link leading them to a page that will answer their questions.

  9. for me, i think keyword is important for your customer to find out your product before next stage.

  10. Yes your damn right!
    Im with your mind in this aspect:
    “lead generation forms have a bad reputation. However, they’re a major win in terms of a micro-conversion so they need to be optimized to their utmost potential. Here are a few tips I regularly use when optimizing customer information forms!”
    I am agree with all steps 1 – 4.

    btw: I envy your tradition to wear a cowl at graduation.

  11. your utterly right!
    your words:”Middle stage visitors are qualified as someone who has decided upon the product they’re searching for, but are not convinced yet that you can provide them with what they need.” can be mine :)
    that’s so right!
    I only go shopping If i ONLY know what I want to buy!
    It sounds strange but I dont like 12 hours shopping :)

  12. Really wonderful piece of information and I appreciate it that you share something so useful with the readers of this blog.i never about it before and you say we can say some what a awesome way i am fully satisfied about that topic thanks for that post really by heart.

  13. omg i love shopping! i can stay the whole day in the city. but its only a money problem!
    but i am the first variant of your shopping argument ;-)

  14. Thanks a great subject and a useful

  15. oh, the females ;-)
    I’m only useful for the payment and to carry the bags ;-)

    But Rumor Has It…

  16. Thanks for the giving more info on the subject but lead based marketing does not work any more.

  17. Thanks for an interesting post
    Nice article

  18. I can’t believe you said lead based marketing is dead. I know a company that will pay out 20 grand a month based on 20% conversion of a lead form submit. They won’t even work with you unless you have a list of 2500 or more.

  19. [...] full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Enjoyed this article?WebsiteWordpress [...]

  20. You make some good points. I’d like to add another that has to do with the form filling process: Make it easy for your customer to NOT fill in information — that is, not more than one time. We can use server-side technologies that capture and hang onto input, so by the time the customer gets to the checkout, it’s already there, pre-filled. It is better to do as much of the work upfront, on behalf of the customer, so that his ride to the checkout gets easier and easier.

  21. Hopefully it doesn’t take 4 years to graduate these prospects :)

  22. @ Africa

    Agreed. I just got out of a job, for personal reasons, that relied solely on lead based marketing. I was making great money for this economy working solely off leads.

  23. Really interesting you used the comparison of a graduate, because in a sense aren’t we holding their hand through the whole process. Customers come in skeptical, and we teach them a thing or two before giving them the keys to the product.

  24. Nice article thank you.

  25. Don’t you think people will be leary of giving out there personal information online. I think you can easily overcome these objections with a strong “about” or credibility statement.

  26. People are giving away information everywhere they go without thinking it over. More than “about” and a credibility statement I think a professional looking website is the most important “component” in being able to collect information. Getting this information is also a major moneymaker, because you now got a highly targeted mailing list; you can send them offers once in a while and KNOW that they are interested in buying. However, whatever you do, do NOT sell your list. That will just end up in spam, and you want to stand out from the crowd of spammers.. ;)

  27. good post. Getting this information is also a major moneymaker, because you now got a highly targeted mailing list; you can send them offers once in a while and KNOW that they are interested in buying. thanks for sharing

  28. Getting this information is also a major moneymaker, because you now got a highly targeted mailing list; you can send them offers once in a while and KNOW that they are interested in buying.

  29. I love posts that actually create a debate in the comments instead of just spam.

  30. Very interesting read. I think the look of your site is very important. If it’s hard to understand or get where you need to go then most people will just go somewhere else for sheer simplicity.

  31. My little sis is about to graduate, hopefully I can graduate some prospects in less than four years haha

  32. The post gives presents detailed analysis on identifying potential customers as per their needs in each phase.

  33. Make it easy for your customer to NOT fill in information — that is, not more than one time. We can use server-side technologies that capture and hang onto input, so by the time the customer gets to the checkout, it’s already there, pre-filled.

  34. Customer is our most valuable assets. While you’re selling something but there is no customer at all, then you’ll not getting any profit. So we have to have they trust us and respect them.

  35. Thats right it’s not black and white, more like a shade of grey. Customers know what they want and can form their opinions in seconds. Build it and they will come!

  36. Thanks for this great article. It gives me wonderful ideas that i can use.

  37. I think it’s realy useful to let the person know when we’ll be contacting them. We use sms integation to communicate immediately with the prospect. The message asks them to reply with when they would like to be contacted.

  38. I think it’s realy useful to let the person know when we’ll be contacting them. We use sms integation to communicate immediately with the prospect. The message asks them to reply with when they would like to be contacted.

  39. Thanks a great subject and a useful

  40. Thanks for your post.
    It is very useful, wonderful idea.
    to ultimately convert more visitors into customers, haha.

  41. Thanks for the very nice tips, but I think it’s more better that everyone should to find which kind of works that will be the best for them.

  42. To make sure you keep your buyers interested and actually buying, you need to guide them well enough through every step of the way. I completely agree.

  43. What a very informative post. Of course, keywords to get at the right type of visitors are important in making sure you get real buyers.

  44. It’s not that easy to convert visitors into customers, but I think that getting quality traffic is the key. Very good information here, thank you.

  45. Helal olsun valla ne güzel yazmış yaaa tebrikler

    10.Sınıf Coğrafya Kitabı Cevapları

    10.Sınıf Coğrafya Kitabı Cevapları

  46. thats right, we can´t sale something people didn’t want.

  47. It would have been great if there is some magical way to tag a keyword as one of the three stages of buying. If only Adwords can provide that insight to the keywords, it would help a lot.

  48. You can’t sale something people didn’t want, but you can make them believe they need that:)

  49. I agree with @Silviu, you can make them believe they need that.

    On the other hand, there are these last stage visitors which are your sure customers but there are still tendencies that you might lose them. This article is very helpful in explaining how to get most from our customers. Thanks for sharing.

  50. oh, i forgot, yes it’s a very useful article, offers a good perspective

  51. but there are still tendencies that you might lose them be far too expensive/competitive and you are magical you’re finding early stage keywords to customers way to tag a keyword as one of the three stages of buyingloosing money on them, you may want

  52. I think it is great to also include questions which could be used in your marketing campaign to directly target users in specific categories.

    Also it is crucial to add country of location and an email address to the form as these are valuable resources from a completed contact form.

  53. I think it’s great to let them choose if they want to share their personal information, but nobody does that. How many times you give up filling forms that requests your personal info?:) with just their e-mail address you can make a very good marketing e-mail with your targeted customers, right?

  54. Generalizations are all dangerous. All of them :) My wife and I shop very differently. What we experience is unique!

  55. Customers progress through these stages, generally without awareness. Their instinctual buying behaviors must be very interesting to study in depth.

  56. The consumer behavior is more complex than you can imagine, how many process pass before buying a product, starting with the needs. Between this and their buying decision are about 20pages, at least:)) (i had a project called: Purchase decision of a certain product) But the complexity of this action make this quite interesting to study in depth…

  57. i strongly agree the fact that many customer plans to buy from your site just by taking a look and the rankings and the standards which your site comply with,…..

    hope so this should be true enough….

  58. not really, i don’t think there is someone who check your rankings and standards before can buy your products. If your price it’s to good to be true, at least they search info and opinions from your recent buyers. But that’s it, nothing more…

  59. Each of these steps will have a little more weight depending on what your are selling. I myself have found find qualified traffic is most important as I do not need sell my product as much as I need to find those already looking for it. Other products may be different, if your selling something that people don’t already know they need or want you will have a little bit of a different approach.

  60. Good points. They really are things that I should have thought of long before. As a customer, I look for these kinds of things, but I completely forgot about it when I set up my own shop.

  61. @Travel,How do you sell another product, maybe newer?and how do you make customer buy again another thing?If you want to increase your niche, you don’t need to promote your business because you have qualified traffic for certain products? I hope my questions are clear, because your statement isn’t.

  62. Customers progress through these stages, generally without awareness. Their instinctual buying behaviors must be very interesting to study in depth.

  63. Great article. Many times it primarily comes down to marketing. I mean there are so many bad products on the market, but the manage to sell hundreds of thousands of them.

  64. Great information for me..Thank alot. From what i know, content marketing is information marketing, and it information marketing is the new currency on the Internet. The challenge is how to translate your information into products with high perceived value.

  65. A customer information form is a very powerful marketing tool that gives a fair insight on the personality of the customers. The information mentioned in here will help the companies and marketers to hike up the level in terms of converting their potential customers into buyers. Useful information on customer retention as well.

  66. Yeah, a good article indeed. We tend to overlook the good chance we have to receive valuable feedback from our clients in our contact forms. Sometimes, information is right before our faces.

  67. that’s our main target… for them to realize that the product that we have is the product that they need

  68. I’ve been burned in the past my marketers signing me up to several direct response campaigns when i only signed up to that specific one. It’s very easy to turn off a list as well.

  69. I hate filling up long form of information. If I really want to buy something through online store, I do spend time of filling up the forms even if its long but when I don’t need to buy and just browsing then I get irritated with those forms. hehehe..

  70. Great article and an excellent way to find information from your customers. But i have no filled out a feedback form and i may just move on to another site if it requires me too to purchase something.

  71. I’ve been experimenting with NOT requiring visitors to sign up.
    The option is there if they choose.
    I find that I get more targeted signups that way.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  72. You need to have your own credibility in the market for the customer to disclose his personal information to you.So at first you will need to establish your reputation in the market so that the customer trusts you and fill out the form completely.

  73. do good to the consumer for our business continuity as well. if they were satisfied with the services that we provide then they will return again to the future

  74. Great article. There was a lot of insight into the eye of the consumer. I suppose if you only target the first and second level of consumption you may be doing all of the work for those internet marketers that only go after the qualified customers. This article has been a real eye opener. Cheers

  75. ” Getting qualified traffic ”
    too hard..haha

  76. Nice article, though it is hard to make visiters disclose personal information. However if you can gain their trust, it opens a new level of business opportunity.

  77. Nice article, though it is hard to make visiters disclose personal information. However if you can gain their trust, it opens a new level of business opportunity.

  78. Always scary just how much psychology is behind marketing.

  79. Superb article. I agree completely that its not possible all the time that you get a qualified traffic but we can try to convert them into qualified. And you give the best tips for doing so. Thanks buddy for such an useful tips.

  80. great post on how to lead the customer through the buying process.

  81. dear natalie,

    thank you for your tip with the telephonenumber near your information form. this helped us a lot, when we had some delivery problems during the christmas season.

    best regards

    t.

  82. Wow. I just realized after reading this post that my web guy didn’t put a phone # field in my contact form.
    Thanks for making me double check that!

  83. I wonder if lead based marketing ever worked. The conversion rate is so low and the efforts required always cannot be justified.

  84. As some of the previous commentators have argued, it’s not so easy to make your customer disclose their personal data, especially when it comes to their telephones and even emails. But it’s worth a shot.

  85. The customer is one of our most valuable assets, so it’s better to let him choose between giving his personal data or not.

  86. Most of the people don’t want to waste time with sign up, unless is easy and quick. That’s way I always implement Register with Facebook account, I generated much more registration in one month then in one year.

  87. As different people have different wants, it is not that easy to create a want as ultimately we have to convert the want into a need. So we should try to convert visitors into customers by call to action method.

  88. “I think it is best to convert the customers at the early stages because as Mark has said, it will be hard to convert them in the last. Also, once they’re converted, make sure that they are satisfied with the product as well as with the service so they can keep coming back for more and also refer you to others. This way you will have the chance to establish a loyal line of customers.”
    you got me here

  89. It also depends on the type of product you are selling. Some purchases are make very quickly as in the first or second visit.

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Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

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