To get online leads, what beats Web forms?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

In their quest to gather leads online, marketers have placed forms in myriad places on the Web — but their effectiveness is questionable at best. Our experts offer potential alternatives.

Robert Williams
Chairman/CEO, Conversive
More than 10 years experience in the marketing/technol­ogy industry

Imagine a world without Web forms. I can already hear most people applauding. Web forms are unloved and have very poor adoption numbers. The conventional wisdom is that approximately 20% of users will opt out of the form for every field that is presented. And, let's face it — many more people won't even start.

The only thing that can be said in favor of Web forms is that they are cheap. But are they really? What does it cost to generate a click-through? Can a process that actually sends more than two-thirds of your leads away really be considered cheap?

Instead of using Web forms, online lead generation, customer enrollment and surveys should be carried out by Web chat and conversational automa­tion. Humans are hard-wired for conversation. They trust it, enjoy it and even seek it out. It engages them on a deep level. That's why they will spend an hour on hold to talk to someone rather than fill out a Web form.

Qantas Airways held a sweepstakes that asked their American customers to fill out a 10-question survey. There was even a question that asked the customers to opt in for e-mail. It was hosted by conversational automation that automatically stepped the custom­ers through the survey. According to conventional wisdom, slightly more than 10% of customers should have completed the survey, and 3% to 5% of them should have opted in for e-mail. Instead, the form was completed by some 89% of customers, with 83% of them opting in to receive e-mail.

Peter Nieforth
CEO and co-founder, Vitrium Systems
Specializes in financing, organizing and commercializing startups

Web forms are used in pretty much all content-based lead generation campaigns these days — but sadly, they don't work. Web analytics have shown us that the bounce rate from Web forms is astronomical. Bitter experience suggests that the few people who do actually fill out forms often supply bogus data just to get the content.

It is hard to resist asking for too much information in a Web form. After all, how else do you obtain the data you need to identify high-quality leads? AWeb form only gives you one chance to capture this vital information – which comes before a prospect has had a chance to interact with your content. It's little wonder the bounce rate is so high.

Marketers need ways to gather lead data in a series of low-impact stages, after content has been accessed. You will get better results if you allow prospects to engage with your content before you ask them for any personal data — but the majority of marketers only provide the occasional video screenshot or whitepaper abstract.

Imagine, instead, a video demo that allows prospects to view an introduc­tion before giving them the chance to enter a few personal details, through a form embedded in the player. At the end, a survey appears, asking for reac­tions to the demo.

This kind of interactive lead capture strategy could be applied to any type of marketing content, including webinars, whitepapers and podcasts. All you need is software that will allow you to add interactive forms and surveys to your digital media.


Both experts agree that Web forms are not very effective for generat­ing leads. Williams argues for the human touch, suggesting that online lead generation, customer enrollment and surveys be carried out by Web chat and by conversational automation. Nieforth suggests finding ways to gather lead data after a viewer accesses content would be more effective.

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