Here at Terminus, we’ve been saying that engagement is the new form fill for a while. We borrowed the phrase from one of Marketo’s Fearless 50 marketers, Kristen Wendel, who’s one of the smartest B2B professionals I know. What we mean by this is that the level of engagement your ideal customers have with your brand is a better measure of success than the number of leads you generate.
But the ugly truth is that until recently, we were still overreliant on forms in some of our marketing programs. We knew it was time to reduce our dependence on forms, and we hypothesized that doing so would increase engagement with our target accounts.
Spoiler alert: we were right.
By removing the friction caused by asking people to fill out a web form, we’ve seen as much as 71% of people who click a link in a marketing email engage with our content. That’s more than a 100% increase in engagement!
And with more people engaging, we’re seeing more opportunities being created and accelerated.
The Arguments For and Against Lead Forms
Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting you kill all your lead forms.
There are real benefits to gating your web content, including:
- Lead generation – Forms are the bread and butter of inbound marketing. They help generate new leads that can then be marketed to and sold to
- Sales activation – Your sales team can take action on a lead’s engagement with your marketing programs and content. For example, if a lead downloads an e-book after a month of inactivity, your sales team can strike while the iron is hot and reach out with a relevant email or phone call
- Measurement – When a lead fills out a form to access gated content, you can attribute any pipeline and revenue that’s generated down the line to that particular asset.
There’s no arguing that forms serve an important purpose, and that’s why we haven’t done away with them completely. So, then, why are we advocating for fewer of them?
Let’s look at the flip side of the benefits we talked about above.
- Lead generation – The reality is that leads alone simply aren’t a good source of pipeline. Only 27% of leads will be qualified by sales, according to a study from MarketingSherpa — and in the end, less than 1% will ever become customers
- Sales activation – Like many marketing teams, we used to rely on forms to kick off workflows — but the lightbulb moment came when we realized we could trigger those same workflows without a form and increase engagement as a result
- Measurement – Traditional approaches to marketing attribution leave out key pieces of the buyer’s journey. They don’t tell you what happens before a form is filled out and how all the decision-makers, not just the lead, are engaging with your brand. Fortunately, modern technology makes it easy to attribute pipeline and revenue to every account touchpoint — not just the first or last touch from an individual lead.
Of course, you can’t just delete all your forms and hope for the best. You have to set up new processes that will help you track meaningful engagement instead of just form completions.
When, Where, and How to Eliminate Forms
Define Meaningful Engagement
If engagement is the new form fill, how do you quantify it? It starts with defining what meaningful engagement means to your organization.
In our case, we decided that reading one page of an e-book or pressing the play button for an on-demand webinar was the equivalent of filling out a form.
We recognize that “meaningful engagement” is subjective and may change over time, so it’s important to revisit your definition every quarter or with every new asset you launch.
Once you understand what counts as meaningful engagement, you can eliminate the friction that gets in the way.
Email Marketing with Ungated Content
You shouldn’t be sending marketing emails with CTAs that link to a gated landing page. That should go without saying (you’ve already got their contact info!), but the reality is, we weren’t taking our own advice until a couple months ago.
If you’ve already got a contact in your marketing automation database, you can bypass the form and drop them directly into the content experience. This will get dramatically more people engaging with your content.
We did this by integrating our marketing automation platform with Uberflip and Vidyard. We use Uberflip to host our resources library, including e-books and PDFs, and Vidyard to host our videos and webinar recordings. Both tools offer rich analytics and integrations with Salesforce, so we are able to track exactly how known contacts engage with our content. We are also able to trigger workflows when they reach our threshold of meaningful engagement.
Minimize Forms with Web Personalization
If you use web personalization tools such as Optimizely, you can serve dynamic CTAs to known and anonymous visitors to your website. Known contacts who have been cookied by your marketing automation tool can be sent directly to an ungated e-book, while those who are visiting for the first time can be sent to a landing page with a form.
Set Up Marketing Automation Workflows
What happens when a known contact fills out a form on your website right now? You’ll need to replace those workflows with new ones that trigger based on meaningful engagement instead of form completions.
For our team, this meant setting up workflows that add contacts to a Salesforce campaign and send the assigned rep an alert when the engagement threshold is hit. By integrating your marketing tools with Salesforce, your reps can also see exactly how much content their accounts have consumed and prioritize outreach accordingly.
Test, Test, Test
Keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, which is why testing your assumptions is crucial.
For example, we found that when we drop people directly into a PDF or e-book, engagement rates skyrocket. But in the case of webinars, we’ve seen mixed results.
We’ve tested scheduled webinars, on-demand webinars with forms, and on-demand webinars with no forms, and we’ve found that scheduled webinars perform best. Unsurprisingly, more people sign up for webinars than actually attend, even when offered the option to attend on-demand.
Here’s the kicker: we’ve found that people who register for a webinar but don’t attend are more likely to turn into sales opportunities. So, while sending people directly to the on-demand webinar increased engagement, it ended up reducing the number of opportunities created.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to double your web engagement, simply by minimizing your reliance on web forms?
All it takes is defining meaningful engagement, setting up new workflows, and testing your assumptions. Not only will your engagement numbers get a boost, but you’ll deliver a better user experience and get deeper insights into how they’re engaging with your content.