Thursday, August 06, 2009

Asymmetrical web contact forms

It used to be that a prospect’s first impression of your company would be your phone system. Nowadays it is more likely to be your web site, so it is critical to make a good impression. Your home page should download swiftly, have an intuitive navigation interface, contain large font with good print contrast ratio, and have plenty of white space. It other words, it should be easy on the eyes.

Even if you have addressed all the basics, an easy to understand web site with all the relevant information organized in a intuitive fashion, the effect of all this can be spoiled by a poorly designed web contact form.

One of the problems with online communications is the delayed feedback. When you are talking face to face you have all sorts of visual cues that tell you how the other person is reacting. Even on the phone you have tone of voice that communicates so much. Online you only have text, which loses so much context. Online forms are a critical part of the sales process, and so it is crucial to put yourself in your prospect’s place and see things from their point of view.

An online form that demands detailed information while providing none in return is very irritating. It is so much easier to contact John Smith in sales as opposed to merely SALES, a name is a great confidence builder. Of course it is easier to route a lead if you know the person’s name, title, company, address, phone, fax, and email. On the other hand it is slightly invasive to be asked to provide all that by a company that will not so much as provide the name of the recipient of the form. You can’t see all the prospects who glance at the form and decide it isn’t worth filling it out without knowing who they are sending it to. It is so much more friendly, more low key, more trust inspiring, to give the names of the contacts and ask only for names and email addresses in return. Don’t expect prospects to give you more information than you give to them.

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