From the September 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

You've worked hard to lead prospects to your website. But you're not done yet. Test-drive your online forms--they could be blocking the business opportunities your marketing campaigns are bringing in.

An online form allows prospects to take a variety of actions: contact you, subscribe to your e-zine, request information and, of course, order something. A form is a communication tool for them and a marketing tool for you. You need an online form to collect contact information and to get permission to communicate with prospects. Otherwise, once they leave your site, they could be gone forever.

An online form itself isn't effective marketing, however. In fact, if you're committing the following mistakes, yours could be costing you customers.

  • Requiring unnecessary information: Do you really need prospects to provide personal information such as a company title, phone number, mailing address and registration of a login name and password? If not, remove these fields or label them as optional.
  • Restricting open fields: Ever type so many characters that a field ended before you finished? Expand the length of your fields to account for long names, e-mail addresses and other information you require.
  • Forcing repeat work: If your forms are not completed correctly, are prospects forced to start over? They won't. Be sure to retain the information already entered while pointing out the area that needs attention.

Don't just fix your forms; optimize them. Try these time-tested tips to make your forms better marketing tools:

  • Include your contact information. Give prospects the option to call you instead of, or in addition to, completing your online form.
  • Offer your e-zine. While they're already contacting you, invite them to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Ask how they found your site. This optional question could give you insightful marketing information without putting off prospects.

Your online forms get prospects to make initial contact with you. Make this process painless because your online forms won't get a second chance to make a first impression.


Catherine Seda, a leading internet and search marketing expert, is dean of internet marketing for LA College International and creator of the new Search Marketing Mastery Pay-Per-Click training course and free mini-lessons.