Should you allow prospects to enter a personal email address when they fill out lead gen forms? B2B marketers seem divided on the question. In a recent LinkedIn poll, almost half of the respondents (46%) indicated they’d rather force prospects to enter business emails on forms, even if it resulted in higher abandonment rates.

Historically, the attitude towards personal emails in B2B marketing has been that they betray a lower level of intent. However, forcing that same individual to enter a business email address instead doesn’t change where that person is in the buying process; it simply creates more friction in the user experience. By forcing someone to comply with your process, you’re not making them more interested in doing business with your company (or talking to sales); more likely, the result is the exact opposite.

Statistics from conversion optimization company Hushly indicate that only 44% of users will provide business emails when requested. Translation: requiring business emails could cut lead volume in half, albeit (in theory) by eliminating those prospects less motivated to complete the form.

Anecdotally, the trend seems to be shifting in a direction of a more permissive approach. In our work with B2B clients, fewer companies are demanding that forms reject personal emails. A primary driver for this trend is the recognition that the buying process is evolving, and that buyers download more content, and are further along in the sales process, before they’re willing to engage with a vendor. Allowing personal emails enables prospects to conduct research on their terms, rather than forcing them to comply with criteria based on what your sales team considers a “good” lead.

In the COVID era, the line between work and personal lives is blurring, so prospects are also more likely to conduct research, download and consume content, and engage with business advertising at home, and on a personal account. Moreover, the lifespan of a business email address is shorter than ever, as people move from one company to another more frequently. If nothing else, a personal email address allows you to nurture, educate, and build a relationship with a prospect over a longer period, increasing the likelihood that they’ll reach out to your company when the appropriate need occurs (even at their next company.)

This much is certain: allowing personal emails on forms will result in a greater percentage of early-stage leads, as well permitting those prospects who set up dedicated addresses (junk@ etc.) solely for the purpose of diverting marketing emails. But both issues are solved for by a lead management process that filters, segments, nurtures, and educates leads until they’re sales-ready and meet the requisite criteria.

One middle-ground approach is to label the email field “Work Email” on your form, but allow for personal emails if they’re entered. Another common method for eliminating junk emails is to fulfill content requests (or event details) only to the email address provided, versus sending the prospect directly to a Web page or PDF. This forces the respondent to at least use a legitimate email address, and also allows that prospect to access the content more conveniently at a later time.

If you gain twice the leads (based on the statistics) by allowing personal emails on forms, the low-intent, early-stage, non-ICP and junk leads can be managed, scored, filtered or even deleted automatically. Meanwhile, if doing so allows even one qualified decision-maker or influencer to engage with your company and enter the nurture stream, isn’t it worth it?

Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash