sample landing pageIt’s critical to use online marketing forms well. They are the one place on your website where you have the chance to capture contact data that a prospect willingly provides, in essence giving you permission to market to them. Of course, this works only if you offer something of value, such as access to an eBook download or a webinar, in exchange for the contact information.

You can use online marketing forms as the workhorse behind marketing campaigns, in a variety of ways:

  • Collect prospect data during registration and survey sign-up
  • Use links in emails and ads that lead back to your form
  • Post forms on your website that trigger automated response emails, document downloads and sales team alerts

No matter how you use online forms, consider implementing the following three sophisticated means of gathering prospect information. These methods make your forms far more dynamic and useful, and drive more conversions.

1. Progressive Profiling

Progressive profiling is a method for gradually gathering prospect information by asking questions incrementally. Implement automatic progressive profiling rules during registration so you can ask the right questions of your prospects based on what you already know about them.

The rules of progressive profiling include the following:

  • Ask only what you absolutely need to know: The first marketing form should ask only for the basics, such as name and email address. A long form with too many questions comes across as aggressive and is much less likely to be filled out. Short forms feel less invasive and can be completed quickly, both of which are important to a new prospect just getting to know your company. Think of it like meeting a new acquaintance; you don’t ask personal questions in a first encounter.
  • Time your questions carefully: With the first form out of the way, serve the prospect new forms on subsequent visits with one or two questions at a time. For example, on the first return visit, the form may display the name and email address already filled in, showing the website recognizes the person, which usually feels friendly. This second form might ask one or two questions about the person’s company, or intent. The second return visit may ask one or two follow-up questions depending upon how the prospect answered the previous question(s).

Progressive profiling builds trust and eventually tells you enough about your prospect to perform the next technique: segmentation.

2. Supporting Segmentation

This is when you target your campaigns to the appropriate audience instead of promoting the same campaign to all your prospects. The purpose of segmentation is to promote engagement by meeting a prospect’s known interest or intent. Because it focuses on your buyer and what that person cares about specifically, it can increase response and conversion rates.

When building your segmentation strategy, start by defining the “personas” of your ideal buyers based on your existing best customers. This includes exploring demographics (a prospect’s job title, geographic location, age, and income) along with online behavior (website visits, webinar attendance, email responses, form submissions, and purchasing behavior).

You can capture data related to demographics and online behavior in two ways:

  • Explicitly: Any information the prospect provides, such as job title, or that you can gather directly, such an IP address, is considered to be explicitly captured. Asking prospects to fill out online marketing forms allows you to gather data in this way.
  • Implicitly: This data is gathered by observation, such as by analyzing which pages the prospect visits on your website or by linking an IP address to a specific company. A website tracking tool is a primary method for gathering data implicitly.

With the data collected, it’s time to define your segments. Desirable characteristics of different segments include:

  • High contrast from one another in terms of problems and needs
  • A large enough group and enough data to justify the effort involved in creating a marketing campaign for that segment
  • Willingness to pay for a solution
  • Reachable through your existing marketing tools

Use an automated marketing system to create dynamic segments, which new prospects are automatically added to when they fill out your online marketing forms. This helps you categorize your prospects to lead them through the sales process faster and more effectively.

3. Enabling E-Commerce

You can use online marketing forms to securely gather credit card payments. All you need to do is add your PayPal,, or FirstData account information to the marketing form and you’re all set to take credit card payments.

Your prospects can rest assured that the transaction is complete safe and secure because no credit card numbers are stored; funds go directly to PayPal or a bank account. No extra steps set you back or complicate the process, making the choice to select e-commerce enabled forms an easy one.

Using forms well is a key skill; even small improvements along the way can yield big rewards. It’s worth taking the time to test your forms for the very best results.

Do you have a success story with online marketing forms to share?