Blogging can (and should) do more than just update readers on the latest news and events of the day.
When done right, your posts can educate readers, establish you as an authority in your field, and help position you as a go-to resource in your audience’s time of need.
But, you don’t want to put all of your coveted information and expertise on the web for just anyone to find.
Sometimes it’s important to collect quality information about your audience — before handing over the goods.
For those unfamiliar with marketing speak, this process is known as collecting leads.
Leads help you better understand how many people are interested in your information, and tell you some specifics that may help you produce better future content for your engaged audience.
It also can help you forge more of a two-way relationship with readers.
How to Collect Quality Leads for Your Blog
Many good content marketing strategies — whether for a blog or company brand — include a lead generation form.
It seems easy enough. Search the web for the first marketing automation software you find, build your form, upload it to your blog, and done. Right?
We wish it were that simple.
Just like a solid foundation on a building, having all the right details in place on your lead generation form is essential. You don’t want to rush the process.
The first and most important question you must answer is: Why would anyone bother to give you their personal information?
Many online users increasingly are savvy about Big Data and will be wary to give out information. They might also be on a phone and have to make extraordinary efforts to fill out that form (Note to self: Make sure your form works easily on mobile).
Ensuring your audience gets something of value for their effort is crucial. Make it worth their while. This is called finding your value proposition.
Examples of winning value propositions:
- You’re an influencer with a blog and budding e-commerce site. In exchange for your reader’s email address, you give them 10 percent off their first purchase.
- You’re a blogger with coveted industry expertise. For your reader’s name, location, and email address, you send them your specialized monthly newsletter.
- You’re an infopreneur with exclusive blog content. For your reader’s name, occupation, phone number, and email address, you send them your next e-book directly.
Chances are, if your reader is looking through posts already, they’ll be up for giving you some information in exchange for offerings.
But don’t be stingy. Give your readers something they can use.
Examples of so-called value propositions (that aren’t working):
- You’re a blogger covering a wide variety of topics. In exchange for their information, you offer nothing more than unfocused email spam forever. (This will only work if you’re their extra super favorite of all time.)
- You’re an individual brand offering up a whitepaper with hot, new information. But, you want readers to fill out 35 fields in exchange for a paper about … what again? (This doesn’t mean no one wants your whitepaper … it just may not seem worth the time those 35 fields take, especially if readers can’t see exactly what they’d be getting)
So now that we’re crystal clear on the why, let’s look at best practices for building lead gen forms:
Rule No. 1: Have a clear value proposition for why someone is going to give you their information.
If you’re not sure why I’m saying this, please read the above again. It’s super important.
Rule No. 2: Have a clear title and instructions for filling out the form.
This may sound obvious, but nothing will make people scroll on by faster than not knowing what the form is for or what to do with it.
This is where you can show off that great value proposition you crafted from step number one above.
Literally write it out as clear as day: “FREE STUFF! Just tell us your name, email, and favorite XYZ, and we’ll get you the free thing right away. Please make sure to add ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ to your email whitelist.”
Rule No. 3: Have the right number of fields and consider progressive profiling.
You might ask: “What’s the right number of fields?” Answer: As few as possible.
Don’t ask for information you don’t need. Or, maybe add one to two extra fields for information and make it optional to answer.
Either way, the fewer the fields, the more likely people will answer the questions. Use checkboxes, dropdowns, or simple answers to lessen the work.
One strategy that’s a little more complex, but useful is to use “progressive profiling” on your lead generation forms. Essentially, you only ask for a few pieces of information at a time.
When done correctly, you won’t be asking deeper questions until you have a better relationship with the lead. If you use marketing automation software (e.g. Marketo, Oracle Marketing Cloud, HubSpot, Pardot, Eloqua, Act-On, etc.), it should allow you to do this. Unbounce offers some helpful pros and cons when considering this strategy.
Rule No. 4: End the form with a clear, customized call-to-action (CTA) button.
Too many forms end with a “Submit” button, which isn’t the most effective thing you can do.
Like any successful CTA button, your form’s customized submission button should be short, first-person, and remind your audience about what they’re getting.
Adding an icon that symbolizes moving forward, downloading, what they’re getting, or anything that subliminally reinforces what happens next, can exponentially increase the chances of that form being completely filled out and submitted.
Rule No. 5: Make sure you include important dates, websites, or information they need.
Don’t leave out anything important, like the date of a webinar or an email address to expect a PDF attachment from (they might need to whitelist it if it’s a generic email address).
Any steps you might verbalize in a conversation or Q&A with someone, you should also express on the form.
Remember you can usually have a page appear after they hit your customized “submit” button (see No. 4) to give them necessary info. It doesn’t need to clutter up the view of the form itself.
Rule No. 6: Take reader privacy seriously.
The honest truth of the matter is that you’re wanting your audience’s information so you can email them forever with all of your awesome content.
Similarly, you can have a checkbox where someone acknowledges that they agree to be contacted by you again in the future.
Rule No. 7: Make sure your form works.
Test it and have it set up correctly from a technical standpoint.
It’s wonderful when Chrome will auto-fill a form for you on your desktop (make sure you do not disable this feature), but don’t forget about your mobile users.
- Use a site like responsinator.com to look at both desktop and mobile versions to ensure it stands out, design-wise, and functions on both site versions.
- When looking at the rest of the site, make sure the form isn’t buried too low on the page, unless it flows naturally after some other content.
- Take an audit of the CTAs on your site. You may want to scale back, redirect, or remove other calls to action to promote the best engagement.