13 Steps to Optimize Inbound Marketing Forms For Better Sales Leads

Table of Contents

Improving Your Online Lead Generation Tactics

Like many people, I subscribe to various internet based newsletters and other services.  As such, I have plenty of experience filling out lead generation forms, but did not have a clear idea of how to design and how to optimize forms on my own site, www.SAPBWConsulting.com which provides customized business intelligence solutions, SAP Recruitment Services as well as Hubspot Inbound Marketing and Sales Consulting Services.  Many small business decision makers also subscribe to newsletters, read blogs and participate in social media.

 

Plan, Do, Check, Act

Hubspot Forms Best Practices

   

As you learn Inbound Marketing, develop marketing content and begin to drive traffic to your site to fill your sales funnel and generate current customer referrals, you will, like all Inbound Marketing pros, begin to experiment. 

Inbound Marketing Form Performance

The Data We Use is Driven Directly From Our Own Results

Data Driven Form Field Optimization 

Now, after generating more than 500,000 site visits from verified SAP customers, consultants, and partners and more than 21,000 conversion events also known as marketing leads, we have started to have enough data points to come up with a Form Field Optimization methodology when using Hubspot forms. We have learned to follow these form design optimization methodology steps to drive very high levels of both marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads.

 

Optimized Lead Scoring for Sales Teams

While generating sales leads is what the business owner is hoping the marketing team is doing, the sales team is looking for qualified leads.  Using optimized forms, you can fill your sales pipeline with highly qualified sales leads.  

Generate Sales Leads with Content

Marketing teams spend their time developing lead generation content, which can consist of conducting original research, such as we did for SAP Partners, to developing various types of content designed to engage leads with helpful offers.  This content, along with well designed and well written content, is what drives cold leads to provide you their contact details on an optimized lead generation form.

Content Types Used to Generate Leads

Marketing teams spend a great deal of their time mapping out their customer's journey.  Once a typical customer journey mapping exercise has been completed, the next step is to create a content plan such that there is sufficient quantity of content of sufficient quality, at each stage of the customer journey, to create to generate sales prospects, who become warm, then hot leads and ultimately, customers.  Some types of content and marketing activity (that would all require some type of lead capture form) include:

 

  • White Papers
  • Trade Shows
  • Networking Events
  • EBooks
  • Free Product Samples
  • User Generated Content (UGC)
  • Checklist
  • Webinars
  • Comparison Guides
  • Quote Tools

As can be seen, there are wide variety of lead generation strategies and tactics a modern sales and marketing team can employ.

 

Drastically Shorten Your Sales Cycle

Want to know how to optimize your inbound marketing?  Though there are many tweaks and tactics, by optimizing your lead generation forms, you not only collect better information, you improve your lead quality.  Fewer low quality leads getting sent to sales will result in much better win rates, and a fast sales cycle.

 

Hubspot Form Design Optimization Methodology

    1. Decide Upon the Minimum Number of Form Fields You Need
    2. Define What Constitutes “Lead Quality
    3. Combine Smart Form Fields with Smart Content
    4. Modify Forms Per Marketing Channel
    5. Eliminate the Form as a Conversion Variable
    6. Use Statistical Process Control for Measurement
    7. Set an Arbitrary Form Conversion Rate Set Point as a Goal
    8. Define the Minimum Number of Required Data Points
    9. Use Multiple Conversions to Enrich Prospect Data
    10. Create Buyer Personas in Your Hubspot System
    11. Create Buyer Persona Specific Forms
    12. Create Sufficient Buyer Persona Specific Content
    13. Monitor Form and Sales Performance Constantly

Detailed Instructions For Each Step

 

  1. Decide Upon the Minimum Number of Form Fields You Need

    The least is not necessarily the best.

    Though it may be true that the highest conversions happen when you have the least amount of friction, i.e., first name, last name, e-mail, this probably won’t meet your business' Sales goal of creating fully qualified B2B leads in your centralized contact database.  Nor will it result in getting the right sales.

  2. Define What Constitutes “Lead Quality”

    Good Sales Leads 
    (Quality) are better than Bad Leads (Quantity). 

    Bad leads actually cost you money as you pay to store the contacts even though they won't be useful.  What you really want to do is create a perfect customer profile within your contact database.

  3. Combine Smart Form Fields with Smart Content

    Good content keeps them coming back for more. 

    Though we had and continue to have many internal debates about ‘giving away’ our content, which is one our main online lead generation tactics, only about 8% of people actually use bad data to get to the content. 

    Of those, many of them eventually reconvert multiple times, and by constantly cleaning out the bad data, using clever automated workflows, they magically become ‘good leads’.

    Develop a content strategy that delivers progressively ‘deeper content’ to prospects as they progress through your marketing funnel. Use Hubspot’s Smart Form Field capability combined with Smart Content to progressively collect more up-to-date contact information as leads are nurtured using lead nurturing email and are pulled through the sales funnel.

    This contact information can be used to send emails out that are highly customized and are part of a comprehensive, contextually relevant email marketing lead nurturing sequence.

    These emails, when done well enough, can actually be used to generate even more leads, as they get forwarded and shared among the leads contacts, often even on their social media channels.

    By using the listening capabilities of both the social media channels themselves as well as via Hubspot's social media tool, they become a powerful business development tool.

    Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Hubspot and others allow you listen to and route lead activity information to the contact owner, instantly.

  4. Modify Forms Per Marketing Channel

    Different marketing channels yield different conversion rates.

    They also perform different different for different target audiences.

    By extension, you need a range of forms and form field combinations to garner those conversions from those who have shown interest in your product or services and may prove to be a good fit. 

    Until you get sufficient traffic (though possible to do it with fewer than 30 conversions, shoot for that number before you start trying to make decisions), down any particular conversion path, you have to guess at whether it is the fields, the content offer, or the way it is presented or the source of the lead or some other element of SEO. 

    A beneficial social media platform, such as Facebook, allows you to use lead capture forms right on their platform, and via their integration with Hubspot, can pass the lead information directly to Hubspot and ultimately, once all lead qualification criteria have been met, to sales as a sales qualified lead, for immediate follow-up. Google Adwords now also offers this capability. Like Hubspot’s Form Designer, you must decide what fields you want to have a user fill out, keeping in mind that more fields usually equals lower conversions and thus, higher advertising costs.  

    The reader should keep in mind that when you using any of the social media platform lead generation forms, if you have access to the Hubspot Marketing and Sales Platform, you can create lead generation forms on Hubspot and use those, via the Hubspot Adds Ad-on as your lead capture form.  There are quite a few advantages to this approach, not the least of which is to use contextually aware fields, or smart fields that change based on what you know about the person.

    Generate B2B Prospect Intelligence

    For B2B marketers, another highly beneficial social media platform is LinkedIn, which allows you to create corporate family tree information when you bring in company detail information into Hubspot. As well, it allows you target specific people for lead generation activities, based on information they provide in their LinkedIn profile, not just generic buyer personas as well as letting you aim ‘wider’. Having managed very large LinkedIn ad spends, I can tell you the quality of LinkedIn leads is very high.  I actually consider it one of my best performing social media marketing channels.

    Once all the other aspects of the conversion path are optimized, then, and only then, can you apply statistical analysis using your actual results to make some form field decisions.


  5. Eliminate the Form as a Conversion Variable.

    When you start out, develop a standard form (same fields, same order, same way, every time) and normalize all your site offerings using the ideal form.

    If some offers continue to convert at a high rate while others drop off even though both offers use the same form, we can say the reason was the strength of the offer and not the form.

    Focus on the poor performing offers.

    Why focus on the poor performing offers? Initially, this is where you can make the most improvement. You will have spent money developing the offer, whether it is poor performing or high performing. The high performing content offers will eventually garner your attention as it already has for the search engines which are sending traffic to it because it converts at high rates, but for now, they are already working for you. You need every member of your ‘content team’ to perform well.


  6. Use Statistical Process Control for Measurement

    Using Statistics and Process Control Charts, form tuning is possible using more science and less art.  We use really simple forecasting techniques to eliminate inaccurate sales forecasts.

    You need to have a basic understanding of setting up control charts in excel, of which there are plenty of templates available, to do this. Don’t just look in the Hubspot Form tool and make decisions based on the counts. Decide what you’re measuring and then wait until you have enough information to actually plot it. This is a key part of what should be your on-going Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) efforts. If you need a CRO calculator to start with, you can try our free online CRO calculator here.

  7. Set an Arbitrary Form Conversion Rate Set Point as a Goal.

    Like every other aspect of the Inbound Marketing system, in which management sets goals for leads, conversions and customers, you also need to set goals for form conversion rates and you may have to do this off-line, depending on your system.

    Management has to pick a number, say a 15% site conversion rate, and then work on improving it.

    Without a conversion setpoint, you have no way of judging when to stop or what's an acceptable conversion rate when measured against the quality of your conversion data.

    Remember, it is not only the number of fields you are asking for that drives your actual result, it is how they are presented, and the details of each, so think carefully about how you define each field, its help text, whether mandatory or not, whether smart or not.


  8. Define the Minimum Number of Required Data Points

    Sales needs surprisingly few data points to have an effective sales conversation


    Though we actually collect 192 data points system wide, we do it for a variety of purposes. 

    Many of our data points are derived, meaning we did not have to ask our users for them. 

    Our agile sales process really can start with a phone number, everything else adds valuable context. 

    As SAP solution providers who deliver customized business intelligence solutions, all those data points primarily serve to add focus and context to the conversation, and we don’t usually have all of those data points on any given prospect.  They also help us deliver appropriate marketing email messages based on data.

    Know when to stop marketing and when to start selling.

    After all, coffee's for closers.


  9. Use Multiple Conversions to Enrich Prospect Data

    Sticky websites generate a river of data


    When you combine prospect data with conversion data as well as the data about what content was viewed but did not generate a conversion event, you have the foundation for an improvement plan for your forms, offers and SEO.

  10. Create Buyer Personas in Your Hubspot System

    Different buyer personas convert differently on different forms


    This should be obvious, but until you get data in to experiment with, you need to ‘choke down’ your forms to the least number of fields and then expand from there.

    Ultimately, you will develop your "Ideal Form".

  11. Create Buyer Persona Specific Forms

    Once you have enough ‘actual data’, you can create forms that, when combined with optimized content, works best with specific buyer persona types. 

    It is virtually a guarantee that when you first start out, you won’t have a clear picture of either your buyer persona or your best content, so don’t despair, just build it, they will come, and the system will measure it.


  12. Create Sufficient Buyer Persona Specific Content

    When creating your buyer personas and content calendar, combine it with your form field design


    The basic concept is simple here, the deeper the content, the more you should ask for on a form, but data should be what drives your final design.


  13. Monitor Form and Sales Performance Constantly

    What worked yesterday may need to be tweaked today
    .

    This applies to not just your forms, but to everything you're doing on your website. 

    How do you know what needs to be your focus? 

    Look at your Hubspot keyword tool, in particular, the little up-down arrow that appears to any keyword you currently rank for. 

    Greenis good, Red is bad. 

Bonus round: 

If you are just starting out, using the Hubspot campaigns tool, you have the option of organizing everything into small buckets, including your keywords, and now lead generation forms as well. 

 

Inbound Marketing Campaign Naming Advice

 

If you follow the rule of naming the campaigns the same as the name of the downloadable piece of content, you will be golden here.

 

Design and Implement an End-to-End Naming Convention


So you might consider a naming convention for the forms that indicates which campaign they are used in.  

Besides form optimization, you might like to find out how companies are optimizing all aspects of their Inbound Marketing efforts by reading our guide, "Marketing Benchmarks from 7000 companies", which addresses how companies are optimizing each aspect of their website to create lead generation machines and drive dramatic business results.

 

Discover Marketing Benchmarks From 7,000 Businesses

 

 

  

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Lonnie Ayers

About the Author: Lonnie Ayers is a Hubspot Certified Inbound Marketing consultant, with additional certifications in Hubspot Content Optimization, Hubspot Contextual Marketing, and is a Hubspot Certified Partner. Specialized in demand generation and sales execution, especially in the SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Partner space, he has unique insight into the tough challenges Service Providers face with generating leads and closing sales using the latest digital tools. With 15 years of SAP Program Management experience, and dozens of complex sales engagements under his belt, he helps partners develop and communicate their unique sales proposition. Frequently sought as a public speaker in various events, he is available for both inhouse engagements and remote coaching.
Balanced Scorecard Consultant

He also recently released a book "How to Dominate Any Market - Turbocharging Your Digital Marketing and Sales Results", which is available on Amazon.

View All Articles by Lonnie Ayers

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