If you're offering something in exchange for name and contact details, anyone looking at the offer will have to decide if the perceived benefit of the offer outweighs the inconvenience that they might suffer in return
If you're offering something in exchange for name and contact details, such as a brochure or a subscription, anyone looking at the offer will make an instinctive decision. Does the perceived benefit of the offer outweigh the inconvenience that they might suffer in return? Let's look at how you might increase the chances of a positive response.
On the first side of the equation, you need to maximise the perceived benefit of the offer. So that means giving as much detail as possible about what they'll get (including what it looks like) and how it will make their life easier. That's the easy half.
Now we have to minimise the perceived inconvenience. I think the two main deterrents here are the effort involved to complete the offer, and the fear of what might happen as a result of the information provided. So fight your corner against the sales director, who will insist that the form asks for everything down to inside leg measurements. The shorter the form, the more people will fill it in. If you only need name and email address, only ask for name and email address. You can chase the rest later.
The fear of what might be done with the information requires a more complex assessment. You'll have people at all points on the spectrum from not caring what you do, to those who are terrified that they'll wake up to find your salesman at the end of their bed. If you really aren't trying to gather names for a sales blitz, then assure them that this is the case. That should be obvious anyway if you're only asking for an email address, because it would take a tenacious salesman to track them down in person from just that, but it's surprising how many people out there don't think that one through.
Let's say that you decide in return for being emailed your brochure, people have to give you their name, job title, company, email address and telephone number, and that you intend to ring all of them afterwards. Let's say 10% of people out there are actually interested in talking to you. So for every 10 people who fill in the form, you have to make 10 follow-up phone calls to get 1 expression of interest in your product. That's a reasonable summary of the strategy many companies take. Now, let's say you change the form, and no longer make the telephone number compulsory, instead adding the line: "Your details will not be held and will not be used for any further marketing purposes. However, if you would like someone to call, please fill in your telephone number". Now, instead of 10 people filling in the form, how many are you likely to get? 15? 20? And if there are 10% who want to talk to you, that means you'll probably get 1 or 2 expressions of interest …and only have to make 1 or 2 phone calls.
I appreciate that nothing's as simple as this. But it is worth considering. One client of ours was following up all the requests for literature with sales calls, and found that of the people they got through to (which was far from all of them), about 20% were serious prospects. They then added a box to their enquiry form which simply said: "Comments". Obviously, it didn't increase the completion rate, but to their astonishment, nearly 20% of the responders filled in something which in effect said: "Please call me". The prospects to call simply became self-selecting.