Form - it's a word with several meanings and all of them are more interesting than the one we're talking about here; the one that's part of your B2B lead generation strategy and the pain of your life.
Form is exciting when it means the red-hot streak of results your football team has put together. It's interesting when it describes an innovative style used to thrilling effect (think Hunter S Thompson or Ulysses), or an idealised version of the human body seen through the eyes of an artist - Michelangelo's David or the Mona Lisa.
You get the picture. The form we're dealing with - the 'please-fill-your-details-in-below', official-means-of-collecting-information type of form - has none of these glamorous connotations. Nobody has ever read the words 'please complete this form' and felt a rush of adrenaline. And that's why the landing page form is usually the most neglected part of a lead generation strategy.
So firstly, it's time to stop overlooking those forms. They have the power to make or break any lead gen campaign. But I want to recommend going one step further. Optimising your forms to increase conversions is great, but what about making a form the starting point of your next lead generation campaign.
This means putting the humble, unglamorous form before anything else (not necessarily creating a final version of your form, but at least planning carefully what it will contain) - before you think about your persona's pain points, before you brainstorm blog topics, before you come up with an irresistible content offer. Sounds crazy? Let me explain…
Lead generation yin and yang
Inbound marketers spend a lot of time trying to make their forms work for the prospect. They want people to convert so they remove fields, shorten copy, play around with the design and A/B test constantly - all in the name of creating a form that looks as quick, easy and frictionless as possible.
But if you're serious about lead generation, just convincing a prospect to complete a form is not enough. You also need a decent chance of actually selling to that person - otherwise they aren't really a lead. And this means your form needs to work for you too. Remember that the form is your only means of acquiring information about leads at this stage, so it has to provide details that you can use to support your sales process. This is why removing fields simply to make a form shorter can sometimes be problematic.
The best landing page forms are those that manage to make these two seemingly opposite forces work in harmony. For best-in-class lead generation, you need a form that will both persuade people to become leads AND provide the information you need to convert them into customers. Not an easy task, but this is why putting your form first is so important.
Visualise your goals
Remember that football team on a hot streak? When it comes to lead generation, it's possible to put a run of outstanding results together with a combination of laser-focused forms and a technique popular in the world of professional sport: visualisation.
"I use visualisation to think about the perfect technique. If I can get that perfect image in my head, then hopefully it'll affect my physical performance." So said Jessica Ennis-Hill before her stunning heptathlon victory at the London Olympics in 2012. Use of the technique is shared by many of the world's top athletes, from past greats like Muhammed Ali and Jack Nicklaus to Michael Phelps and Wayne Rooney.
So next time you prepare to launch a lead generation campaign, BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE, stop and visualise. Imagine your perfect lead for the campaign filling in your form and handing over valuable details about their buying plans or upcoming projects. It could be a real person - that customer who was the source of your company's biggest deal last year, or your most loyal returning customer. Or it could be some kind of hybrid of the two.
Whoever it is (and their characteristics should closely resemble one of your main buyer personas), getting this person to complete the form is your goal. So in your visualisation, what does the form they're filling in look like, and what information are they giving you? Once you visualise it, you can work on making it happen.
OK, so using visualisation in this context is slightly different to a sportsperson - you're imagining the ideal version of somebody else's behaviour, not your own performance. But it should help focus your efforts on achieving the best possible outcome.
Now that you have a good idea on how to create and optimise your forms to increase submissions, learn the rest of the tricks to improve your B2B lead generation strategy with our free to download 'B2B lead generation website checklist'.
This blog was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated where possible for accuracy and comprehensiveness in June 2017.