I previously posted on the dangers of asking for contact information too early. This week I'll take the concept further and explore how to actively engage and motivate potential leads.

The idea is quite simple: if you want to capture a lead, first get their interest by giving them something engaging. Once you've got the prospect interested and engaged — hopefully even excited — then ask for their contact information.

An example can be found at www.cars.com, a site that gathers leads for car dealerships. What the site owners want is for visitors to enter their contact information, so they can sell leads to dealers in their network. But they're clever enough not to ask for the contact information right away.

To start their search for a car, visitors simply indicate what kind of car they're looking for and enter their zip codes (so local dealers can be found):

As an example, let's assume I live in Beverly Hills and am looking for a Porsche 911:

After clicking “Search New”, I'm given the option of specifying my own car, or searching through existing local inventory. Note also the nice big headline reading “Find Your New Porsche 911”, reinforcing that I'm on the right path:

I think I'd rather “build my own”, so I click the first link and am taken here:

Oh yum. Now I not only see my make and model confirmed, but I'm given an enlargeable photograph and suggested retail pricing. I also see links reading “Get a Quote”, so I know I'm getting closer. Once I've picked my style and options (fun stuff) I click “Get a Quote” and I'm taken here:

It's only now — after I've become engaged in the process and indicated exactly what I want — that I'm asked for my contact information. By this stage, I'm very likely to fill out the form (assuming I'm really in the market for Porsche 911, of course). Had the site owners asked for this information earlier in the process, I'd likely have bailed even if I were potentially a good prospect.

Asking for the information earlier would not only have reduced the number of leads, but it also would have reduced the quality and value of the leads. After all, unless prospects have indicated what kind of car they're looking for, their value as leads is dubious at best.