People often ask how well web forms work for pulling in leads from visitors to my web site.
They’re not asking the technical how-tos of setting up the form – more like whether posting a form on your web site to gather names of leads works.
I typically use either Google Docs (Which allows you to create free forms to embed or link into your site) or on WordPress – Gravity Forms http://www.gravityforms.com/ – which I like because the CAPTCHA (anti-spam code you enter to submit the form) seems to work well. All other forms I’ve tried on WordPress produced more spam than they were worth.
For the sake of simplicity I’ll refer to people who submit info via a web form as leads — though they’re typically barely what I’d term “suspects”
Most of the leads completing the forms are nice enough after you scrape away the obvious advertisements.
And forms are 1,000,000 % better than having leads call you on the phone for two hours to tell you how their prior consultant set something up all wrong.
You may think to yourself – why the heck wouldn’t you talk to them on the phone – they’re a lead!
Well – perhaps.
Except that you’re likely to find a huge percent of those leads have no budget to fix the major problem they’re experiencing.
(Note: I fully understand the common wisdom among consultants that says “bring on all leads”. I just find that once you start getting more than 3 or 4 of these a week that you really need to filter out the obvious unqualified leads before they get you on the phone for one or two hours. I’m not exaggerating about the time that this process takes.)
(Note #2: At this point someone usually brings up the point that back in 1989 they pulled in a $150,000 lead via a single inquiry from one web form and that web forms rock their world. I’ve done that too. Multiple times – though not always on that scale. I’m not disputing it happens. I am telling you that in my experience it doesn’t happen all that much and that there’s more hard work that goes into this than meets the eye. There are FAR FAR more people who I believe are taking on web leads at a loss because they fail to factor in ALL the qualifying time, analysis time and follow-up time when they quote an hourly rate covering only the time to fix a problem).
Or equally as important the leads have some type of unfixable problem (wife is running the accounting department, lead is trying to run a nuclear reactor plant with Peachtree Quick Start).
60% of web form inquiries are from some poor overseas soul paid less than a nickel to pass through CAPTCHA and fill in some type of advertising drivel.
The next 30% are leads with no money but some variation of the following:
– lots of time to tell you their technical issues and ask for free tips
– complain about their last 12 consultants
– just moving off the software – so can’t justify paying
– never trained properly (the #1 complaint) – see “can’t justify paying ” above
– new on the job (if you ask you’ll find out about the prior 12 people who held the position)
– ask why you cannot fix something for no cost – isn’t that what the web is for?
– piss and moan about the unfairness of software maintenance plans
In short my experience is that these 30% aren’t really bonafide leads. You’ll spend a lot of time satisfying yourself of this. You’ll probably take on one or two of them before you learn to diligently filter out leads and do a better job of qualifying.
Which leaves the 10% that are actually looking to pay something for work. Those will shake out roughly as:
– Bids (no matter what the lead says to you most are looking for competitive bids)
– True prospects with no plan or timetable – they’ll take a bid and call you back in 15 months asking what time you’ll start tomorrow?
How do you know the true leads (I call a true lead one that is likely to close – aka has budget and fixable problem and is aware of my company)?
– Usually these people have some relationship to you. They were referred, found a valuable article on your web site (more than once) , subscribe to your newsletter for 1+ year, worked with you at prior employer
– They are willing to pay for an initial assessment of their existing systems (Hats off to any consultant who in 15 minutes can diagnose today’s ERP systems over the phone. Most leads don’t know the full extent of what their using and/or incorrectly diagnose their problem).
– They typically don’t spend the entire conversation blaming someone (often their prior consultant) and don’t have more than one prior consultant.
The upside to web forms is that once you filter to the final 10% (and by filter I mean you develop a way to not spend all your time qualifying those 90% who in my experience will never do business with you) the number of those final 10% who become paying long term customers is pretty high (probably 80%).