Funnelholic Tip of the Year: Avoid the Reg Form Decathalon

I just read a great blog post from one of my favorite bloggers and b2b marketing thought leaders, Howard Sewell:  “Should You Require Registration for Web Content?”

Howard gives his opinion on the three common tactics regarding access to content:

  1. No reg form or free content. According to Howard: “ridiculous”
  2. Initiation ritual reg form (e.g.,  making users fill out numerous forms and activities to get to your content). According to Howard: “don’t do it”
  3. Light reg form, which captures minimal information. According to Howard: “thumbs up.”

As you can imagine, I loved his post. I was going to let my registration form rants lie quietly for awhile (see “Don’t Scare the Buyer Off on the Reg Form:  3 Things You Don’t Ask on a First Date“ from earlier this month, but after his post, I think it’s time to pile it on.  I won’t even address free content. I am in lead generation not public service.

The question is: Do you want leads or not?  The answer is not whether you are going to try to “qualify” users via the reg form decathalon.  There are some simple rules here:

  1. Everything and anything you add to a reg form affects conversion. Did you get that? EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING.  We don’t put street addresses on our forms because guess what, we don’t do direct mail (or stalk our buyers).  We certainly don’t make users go through numerous screens. We like our high conversion rates.
  2. You don’t need all that information on the first shot.  Allow yourself to gather information progressively as the prospect gains trust and advances through your lead-qualification cycle.
  3. The more you ask, the more the data sucks anyway.  Hello? Ever filled out a reg form?  Do you really respond: “Please have sales call me” or  “Timeframe: 3 months.”  You hate that stuff, and you either answer it untruthfully or you drop out.

Howard drops a great take on why we have ridiculous reg-form disease:

Putting prospects through this type of initiation ritual is ridiculous. But clearly it’s the result of some past sales VP saying “unless we know these facts about every prospect, I don’t want my reps calling them.”

News flash to all sales VPs: you don’t need to capture all that information as a first step.

The guy originally wanted to read your white paper. He doesn’t give a damn now. He’ll find the information somewhere else. He’ll find a shorter reg form. Asking for just the facts, ma’am. Not only do you not have him in your database, you’ve lost the chance to educate him.

I’ve said this so often, I should have it tattooed on my forehead (for all you know, it is, and that’s just an old photo …) — forms should ask “business card” information:

  • Name
  • Company
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Zip

There is one question that may be relevant and if it is essential, add it.
Howard said,

If there’s some other absolutely vital qualifying data — for example, the person MUST have Microsoft Exchange installed or there’s nothing you can do for them — then ask that too, but stop there.

To recap:

  1. Limit reg forms to business card data and maybe one knockout question.
  2. Gather the rest in your nurture process via lead-qual teams or marketing automation.
  3. Make money.

Boom outta here.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Great post Craig (and Howard)! I think many marketers are wondering about this very topic.

    I go back and forth on the form dilemma, I want my content to get to those that are interested and I don’t want to scare them away with a form of many questions but I also REALLY want to know who’s reading our stuff.

    Along with business card information I also try to ask 1 question that will help me better target messaging to them or segment them into a group with similiar traits. We get very bogus information on our forms so I like to think we’re asking just the right amount of questions?

    But, let’s face it, we all know once we hit submit on a form we are giving someone the ok to follow up with us. I wish there was a way to determine who’s interested in us vs. those that are interested in just our content…..we can dream right?

  • bobjachens12

    Totally true. Great post

  • Great Post, Craig (what else is new! Just because we don’t comment it doesn’t mean we don’t *love* it :).

    Amy – yes, THERE IS a way to “determine who’s interested in us vs. those that are interested in just our content” – it’s called testing and optimization. At the risk of sounding self-promotional (who? me?), we at Widerfunnel Marketing ( do this all the time (in fact, this is all we do).

    This is how it works:
    1. You develop hypotesis on what data capture might generate both the highest queality and highest number of lead.
    2. Then create web page Variations on these forms.
    3. Then, with the use of a tool such a Google Website Optimizer (free!), create an experiement and montoro the coversion rate on each Variation
    4. Then, track each lead by source in the CRM system

    This way, you will know “what works”! In other words, by testing, you can make data-driven decisions instead of “hope-driven leaps of faith.”