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Long vs. Short Signup Form? The Debate Is Over

By Ed King – Founder & CEO, Openprise.

openprise-signup-form-thumbRecently, I was talking to a customer about their requirements for real-time lead routing from signup forms using the Openprise API. That led to the discussion of how to improve the conversion rate on their various landing pages, which is currently around 3%. One of the signup form theories on why the conversion rate is low is that the forms are too long and have too many required fields. Their forms have a range of 8 to 10 fields, and most of them are mandatory. This leads to an age-old debate for marketers, which is “Do I”:

  • Ask for more data to get fewer but higher quality leads, or
  • Ask for less data to get more but incomplete leads

I used to subscribe to school of thought #1, but now I firmly believe #2 is the right approach, because of the availability of new data automation and marketing automation technologies.

When Less Was More

Three to six years ago when I ran marketing, I believed the right approach on lead acquisition was less-is-more, or more precisely less-but-higher-quality-is-more. This was simply due to constrained resources. We had neither the bandwidth nor the budget to sort through a large volume of poor quality leads, let alone make them better. To this day, there is still no quicker way to get a sales guy to scream bloody murder than to give him a bunch of low-quality leads to qualify. If you wanted to improve on poor lead data, you either did it manually or hired a data vendor like Jigsaw (before Salesforce bought it) or ZoomInfo. It was expensive, slow, impossible to scale, and frankly the output quality often couldn’t justify the investment. We were better off doing a good job chasing after fewer but higher quality leads.

This philosophy carried over to the web signup form as well. Using a longer form served two purposes: get the information we wanted and let the prospects self-qualify. The logic goes that serious prospects will not be deterred by a long form, and you don’t care about the window shoppers. That logic is of course flawed. It is largely true for late stage prospects, but not for early stage prospects. The prospects in information gathering mode often rather do it incognito until they are ready to engage. This recognition brought in the idea of incremental profiling, in which you ask for a few pieces of information up front, and then get more as the prospect continues to engage. It’s a great tool, but in practice, it can be difficult to figure out when it’s too soon to ask for more. How much personal information can you ask about on a second date? A third date?

Now More Is Just More

In the last few years, marketing and data automation technologies have made tremendous progress that more is now just more. Quality of data from data vendors is much better than before, correlation technology has improved, and data automation technologies like Openprise are affordable and accessible to non-technical users. With the ability to enhance data in real-time and continuously, you have to ask the question: Why don’t you grab any lead you are able to get? If the data is incomplete, you have a chance to make it more complete using technology that can scale. For data that is still too incomplete to be meaningful, just ignore it until it becomes meaningful.

There are more than a few ways to enhance the data you already have, even without validating the data against a third-party commercial database:

  • Create job level and job function segmentation from job title data
  • Infer missing data from known data relationships, e.g. infer country = US if state = California
  • Extract name and company name from email address and URL
  • Derive missing or bad email address using name and company information
  • Infer geographical location and company information from IP address

Add to this equation cheap storage, advanced search technology, and easy-to-use business rules. There is very little downside to encourage signup, even with the most minimal information.

So I think the long vs. short form debate is over. Any data can be turned into more and better data over time, whereas no data is just no data.

By Ed King – Founder & CEO, Openprise

Originally posted on Openprise.