Instead of forcing a customer to fill out a lead form, why not discover their information the same way real people do?
I think it’s really cool that any business can have a basic lead funnel up and running in a day or two. With a ThemeForest template, a basic CRM, and a couple hundred bucks in Facebook ads, almost anyone can build a traffic machine that brings in a steady pipeline of potential customers to their website.
But funnels are really tricky to get right. If a single asset isn’t crafted properly, or the transition from once piece to the next is clunky, the customer gets spooked and you lose the lead.
Setting the Pace Naturally
The difficulty lies in the fact that most customers don’t want to hear a sales pitch. They need to feel that the decision to buy was their own, and if you try to move them along too fast they’ll realize you’re trying to sell them something and get turned off.
They want to feel good about a brand before they even think about pulling out their wallet. And more and more frequently, they expect to receive something of value (whether it’s something tangible like a whitepaper or guide, or intangible like a positive emotional connection) before they’ll consider a transaction.
Customers behave this way because they have limited time and resources. They don’t want to jump right into being best friends with someone they just met. They want to make sure they’re not wasting their time with people who aren’t on the same page. So if someone seems to be moving too fast, or sharing too much information about themselves, it’s human nature to regard them as weird – or at the very least suspicious. Why are they so desperate to have a relationship with us?
The normal (non-weird) thing to do is take the time to learn about other people’s background, interests, and goals. When we find alignment, we warm up a little bit, and move down the road a little further together.
Once a customer feels understood, they almost magically become open to understanding a brand or product’s value, and the sale can proceed from there.
That’s why good sales and marketing people typically don’t take customers directly into a sale – not right away at least. Instead, they invest in making sure their customer feels understood first. They’re patient. They provide value up front. They lead customers along a buying journey, where there’s this natural push/pull of questions and answers that helps everyone feel comfortable. And they look for opportunities to tell genuine, emotionally-driven stories which will cement that buyer-seller relationship until it’s time to purchase.
In other words, they have normal conversations.
In a normal conversation, it’s totally natural for people exchange information about themselves like this:
“Hi, my name’s Tom, what’s your name?”
“You live in the city too? What neighborhood?”
“You know who else lives there? My friend Kate Green, do you know her?”
That kind of thing.
If this sounds sensible to you, you might begin to wonder why it’s so common for marketers to dump a customer onto a form page when they think they might be ready to buy. Haven’t we just spent a lot of time and energy getting them to feel comfortable? Given that, does it really make sense to present them unceremoniously with a regimented form to fill out and a button that says “Submit”?
I think brands should be finding ways to have more human conversations with potential customers. The goal should be to fill out as many of those form fields as possible before the customer even gets to the form. This could be done conversationally. Here are some tactics that could work:
More and Simpler Forms
Do we really need a first and last name in exchange for some lead magnet? Could we provide an item of smaller value in exchange for a first name only?
Instead of requiring all fields on a form, why not let the customer decide what they’re comfortable sharing at this stage? You can always cookie them and ask for any missing information in a later session.
Consumers are still warming up to chatbots. And they still need work in general, but they’re a step in the right direction. “We’re glad you’re enjoying this article. My name’s Tom, what’s your name?”
Geo and Industry Targeted Networking Recommendations
If you can determine a customer’s location or industry, you might try and introduce them to other customers who are in those same circles. “Hey, we noticed you’re in Delray Beach. There’s another company that uses our software nearby in Boca Raton, do you know them?”
Site Usage Tracking
Has the user looked at articles that are all under a specific topic umbrella…say Organic SEO? Probably safe to assume that’s their industry and role, and you can prepopulate it on a lead form.
When a customer is absolutely ready to order, a form is the best way to quickly convert them to a sale. But not every customer who makes it to the form is ready to go all in. By being more natural and conversational in their approach, brands can help customers feel more relaxed and heard. That will ease the transition from prospect to hot lead.