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As a complement to my series of “Ecommerce Hints” (dealing mainly with the B2C market) I thought I’d start a series on “Lead Generation Hints” (more skewed to B2B).

My first couple of posts will discuss best practices surrounding contact forms. My apologies if some of these tips sound so basic—so obvious—that they should go without saying. But if they really went without saying, we wouldn’t see so many companies still doing the opposite!

First up, I’d like to discuss unnecessary form fields. If there is one “law” of form completion rates, it’s this: the more questions you ask, the lower your form submission rate.

Of course, you must ensure you gather sufficient information to contact the prospect. And in many cases, you may want to qualify your leads by asking a couple of extra questions. So there’s no absolute rule as to which questions you should ask. That will depend on many factors, including:

  • Your industry
  • Your business goals
  • How you plan to follow up your leads (email, phone, via post, etc.)
  • Whether is it necessary to qualify or channel your leads
  • The expectations of your customers
  • Your website’s traffic
  • Your capacity to follow up leads
  • Whether you’re offering something of value in return for the form submission
  • How motivated your prospects are likely to be

That said, the general principle of “ask only what you really need to know” still applies. We suggest that when you’re creating your contact form, consider the factors listed in the above bullets. Figure out what you really need to know, then prune your list of questions down to the bare minimum. Questions and fields that can often be eliminated include:

  • Salutation
  • First Name and Last Name (Can often be condensed down to “Name”)
  • Position/Job Title
  • Mailing Address (Where contact is virtually always made by email or phone)
  • Phone Number (Where contact is virtually always made by email)
  • State
  • Zip
  • Country
  • Confirm Email
  • Anything that could be deemed personal or confidential
  • Marketing questions, like “How did you hear about us?”

It may well be that you’ll end up deciding you really do need to ask most of these questions. My point is simply that you should put some thought into it. When creating your form, do not simply copy what you’ve seen on other websites. And certainly don’t just ask everything you’d like to know about a prospect.

If you can eliminate even one or two fields, you will have improved your form. And you’ll also make a more positive impression on your potentials clients—by demonstrating that you value their time and won’t waste it on unnecessary hurdles.