Once prospective customers find your website, you can convert them into sales by getting their contact information so you can follow-up using a simple online form. You've seen these forms on other websites - they ask you to fill in a few form fields and click on the "submit" button. Here are five best practices to make this kind of lead collection work for you.

1. Offer Something in Return for Personal Information

Internet users do math in their head as they surf websites, trying to calculate if the benefit they'll get from giving a website personal information will outweigh the pain of getting advertising e-mails from that site and all its partner sites. Most often, their answer is "no," which they express by clicking the "back" button on their browser.
But if you offer useful information or a necessary service in exchange for their contact information, then they just might give it to you. Offer free blueprints. Offer the opportunity to schedule an estimate appointment. Offer a short booklet on hiring a contractor or insider tips on the construction industry. Offer an e-mail newsletter. All these can be offered as incentives—it just depends on your audience. Be sure to put the benefit you're offering in the headline of the lead form. For example: "Give Us Your E-mail Address, and We'll Send You a Free..." or "Schedule a Free, No-Obligation Estimate Appointment."


2. Start with Non-Personal Questions

Friction isn't good for any engine, most of all a sales engine. Your goal is to reduce friction in your potential lead so that filling out your form is a no-brainer. Each piece of personal information (each form field) creates friction. The prospect wonders, "Why do they need to know this?” So warm up your lead slowly—don't ask for a Social Security Number right off. Start with a non-personal question, even if you don't need the answer. For example, "How many stories does your building have?" or "When do you plan to start your project?" are good examples. Always ask for the most personal information (usually phone number or address) last.

3. Ask for the Minimum Amount of Personal Information Necessary

Through testing our forms, we've found this to be especially true at QualitySmith. As we remove each piece of requested personal information, more folks fill out and submit our lead form. One of the disadvantages of a shorter form is that each piece of personal information asked for further qualifies the lead, so if you're only looking for very qualified leads, you may want them to jump through more hoops rather than less. If you have a good sales team and are looking for quantity of leads, reduce friction by getting the minimum amount of personal information—name and e-mail address only, for example.

4. Offer a Privacy Guarantee

Tell a prospect exactly what you'll do with their personal information, and guarantee that you won't sell or rent their information to anyone else. It goes a long way toward allaying their fears. If the sole purpose of collecting a customer's name and e-mail address is to schedule a much-needed consultation, that's a good thing to let the customer know. If you're going to sign them up for an e-newsletter, let them know that, too—and remind them they'll have a chance to unsubscribe from the mailing list with the first newsletter. Guaranteeing customers' privacy and allowing them the chance to "opt out" of mailings are required practices for good websites.

5. Make the Lead Form Prominent, and Direct Customers There

Finally, if you're really serious about customers filling out your form, make it the most prominent thing on your site. In the text on your home page, recommend that customers fill it out. If you hide your lead form, prospects probably won't hunt it down to fill it out.
If your website isn't collecting leads or encouraging customers to contact you, then is it serving a useful purpose? At the very least, putting your phone number and e-mail address on your website will allow customers to contact you. But creating an easy form to collect leads is even better—and when you master this valuable skill, the reward is more leads, more customers and more business.