Don’t fight the power of the ‘back’ button

It’s common sense that the more horrific an online response form is, the fewer people will fill it in. Yet most companies still insist on asking a prospect for an inside leg measurement before they’ll come down off their throne to send a data sheet, which, remember is to sell their product.

It’s sheer arrogance to think all vaguely-interested potential prospects will be happy to fill in a huge form, just for the opportunity of being sold to. Anyone who thinks it’s not off-putting severely underestimates the power of the ‘back’ button. Here’s what happens:

  • 1. Potential prospect searches Google for ‘blue widgets’.
  • 2. Potential prospect sees, at a glance, 10 companies wanting to sell him blue widgets.
  • 3. Potential prospect chooses a link.
  • 4. Potential prospect is taken to a website and given details on a product.
  • 5. Potential prospect approves, and is led to a form to request a sales call.
  • 6. Potential prospect sees massive form to fill in, asking for unnecessary details, and has two choices: to fill it in, or to hit the ‘back’ button twice and select another supplier from that huge choice which was on display just 20 seconds earlier.

The reason why the form scares people off might not be its size. It may be just the intrusive nature of the questions being asked. If I want you to email me a data sheet, all you need is my email address. There is no need for you to have my phone number, and if your form requires me to give it to you, I won’t fill in the form. Unreasonable? Maybe. But often a reality.

Now, maybe – just maybe – the majority of potential prospects will complete the form. But even if the loss is only 10%, how much has that cost you? Most of the companies I’ve worked with are willing to pay £25 to £250 for an enquiry, depending on their market. Even if you tend to get just 1 person a day as far as an enquiry form, by losing 10% of them, you may be throwing away hundreds of pounds a month.

When I ask companies why they make things so hard in this way, I usually hear that “the Sales Department need all this information”. But do they? I was recently talking to a company which uses one of those services which give you a vague indication of who’s been visiting your website. The marketing department was planning to stop the service, because a list of companies didn’t seem that useful. The sales department (who didn’t pay for the service from their budget) wanted to keep it, on the basis that it was useful, saying: “even if we only have a list of companies from where someone has visited our website, we can hunt around a bit and maybe track down the prospect”.

But at the same time, if it’s to be worth having, an enquiry from the website apparently must be accompanied by full details of the enquirer’s address, company activity, size, and so on. Forgive my cynicism.

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