Smart Forms Rewrite The B2B Landing Page Playbook

Published: January 10, 2013

“Relevance” is the mantra for today’s B2B content marketers. Look beyond the content, however, and you’ll see other changes transforming another key to any successful lead generation campaign: the landing page.

Yesterday’s passé laundry-list web landing pages are giving way to a very different approach. Intuitive web forms powered by backend databases can recognize and profile “anonymous” visitors, populate forms automatically and deliver content – all in a quick and seamless flow.

For most B2B marketing organizations, however, one component – the web form – plays an especially important role in these changes. Traditional web form abandonment rates often top 90%; given the correlation between form completion and revenue growth, marketers are understandably eager to bring down this number.

Shorter Forms Build Trust With Prospects

One of the best ways to accomplish this involves the use of “smart forms” that append data in real time to a visitor’s profile. A typical smart form might ask a handful of basic questions, such as the visitor’s name, email address and phone number; it then appends data about the visitor’s company affiliation, mailing address, revenue and other intelligence available from online databases.

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According to Jason Stewart, Director of Marketing for data enhancement firm DemandBase, the ability to gather more data while explicitly requesting less information from prospects is a valuable combination.

“We know that shortening web forms increases conversion,” Stewart said. “This is important because people are becoming less likely to submit any information.”

To illustrate the reluctance of users to fill out and submit ponderous web forms, Stewart noted that when e-commerce was a new phenomenon, he was hesitant to share his credit card information with online retailers.

“Ironically, I’m now more comfortable putting my credit card information online than I am giving out my email address,” Stewart said. “Someone might rip off my credit card for $100, but that’s a one-time event. However, if I give out my email address I may have unwittingly entered into a lifelong relationship with someone I don’t want to be connected with at all.”

Solving A Familiar B2B Marketing Dilemma

According to Mary Firme, Chief Lead Accelerator and Director of Marketing for ReachForce, marketers often face a dilemma when they attempt to balance the risk of form abandonment against the opportunity cost of using shorter forms.

“It is an issue of math and compromise,” said Firme. “Each additional question I ask loses me another 20% of my potential leads. Should I accept higher cost per lead when I don’t have to? Perhaps give up potential business? Or do I take less information up front and then not know how to tailor the nurture conversation? In B2B, none of these are really acceptable choices.”

According to ReachForce officials, its data appending capabilities allow marketers to build detailed prospect profiles using shorter forms and without pestering subjects with too many qualifying questions. ReachForce’s main tool for this job is its SmartForm offering, which lowers cost-per-conversion, uses discrete data validation methods and incorporates landing page visual design best practices.

Firme says the company’s SmartForm solution was originally created for a publishing client that was very familiar with form conversions from years of subscription experience. “Once we started working on it we immediately realized it solved a whole raft of problems for all B2B marketers – who don’t like to give up anything,” she said.

Fatter – And Faster – Opportunity Pipelines

SmartForm has been deployed for more than 50 clients across six different marketing automation platforms and five different CRMs, using landing page formats from, WordPress and other content management systems, Firme said.

“We want to support all of our B2B clients,” she stated. “We made sure we could implement anywhere. We continue to expand our solution every time we have a new client with a different landing page platform.”

To quantify the success of SmartForms, Firme cited the example of the website analytics tool Webtrends.

“They went from 20 days to complete a progressive profile to one day, accelerated their nurturing time accordingly, and through a more precision nurture program, cut the number of deals but expanded their overall opportunity pipelines 40% per quarter since implementation,” Firme said.

David Cowings, Director of Product Management at ReachForce, also noted that B2B marketers increasingly see the technology as a tool for improving sales/marketing alignment.

“SmartForms not only assists with better data for segmentation and automated nurturing programs but assists with getting qualified leads into the hands of sales reps quickly,” he stated.

Given these results, and the growing sophistication of technology offerings from companies such as DemandBase and ReachForce, it is likely that more B2B marketers will rethink their approach to the landing page and to the forms that drive their lead-gen efforts.

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