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Making the perfect lead generation form

How to create a lead generation form that captures quality data at volume

Lead generation forms are deceptively simple. A few fields, a clear CTA and in theory, you should have leads pouring in faster than your ESP can handle. The reality of lead capture forms is very different – in a tiny space of digital real estate, you have to make decisions that mean the difference between getting a valuable new customer and wasted traffic.

We create thousands of lead generation forms every year (in the wake of GDPR, we created 3,000 in a single year), and have captured more than 15 million leads along the way. All this has given us a pretty clear idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Here, we’ll break down the must-haves of a lead capture form that gets you the data you need. We’ve used data from the hundreds of different lead gen forms that we’ve been creating this year to give you guidance on each step of creating a form that converts.

Lead generation form: mobile example

1. Targeting your lead capture form

Creating the perfect lead generation form actually begins with thinking beyond the form itself. The story starts with thinking about who you should be showing it to.

The best way to drive your submission rate up is to be selective about who you’re showing your lead capture form to. We’ve run the numbers and it’s clear that having 3-5 segmentation criteria (i.e. geography, session number and basket value) is the sweet spot for a high submission rate:

Lead generation form tips: Average submit rate by number of segmentation criteria

So what segmentation criteria should you be using? It’s going to be different for every website and depending on what exactly your lead generation form is asking for.

However, there are a few trade secrets we can give away. The first one is cart value. We found that targeting your lead gen form at users depending on whether or not they’d added to cart had a 3 percentage point difference in submission rates.

The second one is inactivity. We found that triggering the appearance of your form based on when your user becomes inactive raised average submission rates from 3.8% to 5.1%. British beauty booking service Treatwell used this successfully last year:

Finally, think about exit intent technology. It might seem a little counter-intuitive, but we’ve found lead generation forms that launch when the visitor is about to leave to have an average submission rate of 6%.

On the other hand, we recommend avoiding the route that many website take in launching a lead generation form the second that a visitor arrives on-site. While the numbers may initially look good, this is an extremely aggressive tactic that we encourage our clients to avoid.

One more thing to think about – consider targeting your forms depending on the traffic source your visitor has come from. This is an important way of ensuring that there’s complete alignment between the reality of the experience and the expectations set by whichever ad, email or post that’s brought your visitor to the site.

Here’s a great example of this from recipe box brand Simply Cook, who targeted lead capture forms exclusively at traffic arriving from Facebook campaigns:

2. Timing your lead generation form

Once you’ve decided who you’re going to target your lead capture form at, you need to think about the right timing for your strategy. There are good times and bad times to put your lead capture strategy front-and-center, so we’ve crunched the numbers to give you an indication of where they are.

First up, we looked at what time of day visitors are most likely to hit ‘submit’ on that form instead of abandoning it:

Lead generation form average submit rate by hour

It becomes clear pretty quickly that:

  • Mornings are pretty erratic for submissions – the immediate pre- and post-commute hours work best.
  • Early afternoon hours can be a good time to pick up on people spending time at their desks
  • Post-commute is a sweet spot – from about 7pm onwards, the submission rates are consistently higher. They dip during the late afternoon, so avoid these periods.
  • Serious night owls seem to love submitting forms. Nope, we don’t get it either.

So now you know how to vary your lead capture efforts across the day – consider applying this to your social media and display efforts that link into this. But what about how this fluctuates across the week? We checked out those numbers too:

Average lead capture form by day of the week

The pattern that appears clearly here is that the later part of the week (Thursday to Saturday) is where you want to concentrate your efforts in order to get the best submit rates.

3. How many fields for your lead capture form?

The eternal question for a lead generation form is how many fields it should include. Too many and you risk putting your visitor off, too few and you’re not getting the data you want.

We wish there was an easy answer. Bad news on this one: there isn’t.

We ran the numbers on hundreds of lead capture forms to contrast the number of fields with the submit rate. What we found confirmed our expectations: single-field lead gen forms have the highest submit rates.

As a great example, this one-line lead gen form from Domino’s helped capture over 50,000 email leads in just one month:

Domino's PIzza example for new visitors

The moral of the story is keep the number of fields in your lead gen form to a minimum. But that’s not the only thing you need to consider when it comes to form fields, and we’ll look at those factors next.

4. The structure of your form fields

Having a lead generation form that captures lots of data is great, but it’s pointless unless that data is clean. Having a database that is gradually filled with invalid email addresses, incorrectly formatted birthdays or 20 different ways of spelling ‘United States’ is a recipe for disaster.

This is where regex validation is critical as part of your forms. This makes it so that data has to be valid in order for your user to be able to successfully submit.

Another option is to consider the use of different types of field, such as dropdown menus. These ensure that more complex data can be captured and processed cleanly, as well we making it easy for your user to complete:

Lead generation form with dropdown menu

Read more about how you can use these in our Product Update.

5. The incentive for your lead generation form

To incentivize or not? It’s the million-dollar question.

Giving away a discount in exchange for signing up to a newsletter is standard for many e-commerce sites, but it runs the risk of giving away margin. So is it worth it?

To help you decide, we reviewed lead capture forms that offered an incentive versus those that didn’t and the results were pretty clear:

With a discount: 5.9%

Without a discount: 3.8%

Worth losing some margin? It’s up to you. However, remember that a discount is not the only kind of incentive available to you. Another incredibly effective incentive mechanism is competitions, where you’re liable to give away much less in exchange for that data. Here’s a great example from Essie:

6. The message on your lead gen form

When you’ve built a beautifully-structured and well-targeted form, there’s the final matter of messaging. Pitching the value that your user will receive in exchange for handing over their data makes all the difference to your submit rates.

When reviewing your copy, keep in mind the following principles:

  • Clarity – be transparent about what your user will receive when they sign up
  • Brevity – cut any word you can, and use bulletpoints if you need to make multiple points
  • Privacy – in an age of GDPR, ensure that your forms are compliant for any users from the European Union

Kiehl’s is a great example of this in action:

Kiehls email sign-up overlay

You’re unlikely to get this right on your first pass – that’s fine. A/B testing elements of your copy is hugely valuable to ensuring that you can optimize over time.

What next?

A strong email database, fed by well-optimized lead generation forms, is a critical commodity to any business. As we’ve shown here, there are some simple core principles that can make a huge difference, but a great deal of ‘what works’ varies from site to site. Rigorous attention to data, thorough testing and good benchmarking are key to making sure you get a steady stream of those all-important leads.

At Yieldify, our lead capture forms average a submit rate of 10% and they go from concept to live in less than two weeks. We’ve helped business likes Domino’s, Marks and Spencer and many more achieve incredible results using our methodologies and we can do the same for you. If you’d like to find out more about how that would look, just request a demo here!

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