Once you start getting visitors to your website, then it’s time to concentrate on capturing their contact information so you can market to them. There are many ways to set up simple web forms to capture this information depending on how technical you are or how much you want to pay a 3rd party solution.
Remember these basics. The most effective way to get someone to give you their email address is by offering something of REAL value in return (e.g. an article, newsletter, etc). Keep your web form short and basic. Asking for too much initial information is a sure way to kill your response rate. Offering visitors something of value ensures you get people who actually have interest in what you do and therefore they agree to ‘opt in’. Having a long list of names that don’t really have any interest in what you offer is a waste of time and effort. Quality is much more important than quantity.
Your objective is to not give out anything until you confirm their email address. This is usually done by simply letting them know that you will be emailing them further instructions on how to download the promised information. If they don’t give you a legitimate email address then they won’t get the information! Try not to send documents as email attachments. Many people have problems receiving them. Instead point them to a website location where your document is being stored. You can either store your document on your own website hosting server or use a 3rd party online storage solution (usually free) from Windows Live Skydrive, docstoc, or Google Docs.
There are basically 3 ways to to use web forms to collect this information – the main difference being how lead information actually gets into your contact management database.
- Manual and Low-Tech: Simply add a ‘Contact Us’ form to your web site or a button that triggers their local email program to send you an email requesting the information you’re giving out. Nearly all website development tools can do this. There should be no HTML code or scripts to write. You respond by sending them an email with a link to where they can find the document. After that, you manually add them to your contact manager (e.g. Outlook). This approach is easy and inexpensive but only for low volumes of responses. If you want to use a 3rd party contact form, check out formspring or emailmeform. They usually offer a basic service for free. Google Docs also offers basic forms for free. Check out my FREE Coaching Session form.
- Semi-Automated and Low-Tech: If you plan to collect a lot of leads and want everything handled automatically then I would suggest using a 3rd party email marketing service. These can send out mass emails or fancy newsletters depending on your preference. The approach is basically the same as before except they generate the sign-up forms. All new leads are automatically sent a confirmation email (to verify their email address) and then automatically added to your email list database. These services are inexpensive and typically the best solution for most small businesses. The big players in this field are Constant Contact, aWeber, iContact . There is even one service (EliteEmail) where you only pay for what you send out (i.e. no monthly fees). When using this approach you usually end up exporting the lead list to an excel file and then importing back into your contact manager (e.g. Outlook).
- Fully-Automated and High-Tech: If you are using a CRM application like Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, or ZohoCRM then they offer (at no extra cost) basic ‘web-to-lead’ form generation utilities. In this case, they generate a form for you to put on your website which collects visitor information, automatically sends a confirmation email, and then directly puts the lead information into your own CRM database. This approach requires you to be somewhat comfortable with cutting and pasting HTML code but is the preferred approach for small-to-medium sized businesses.
It is rarely worth the effort to try anything more complicated that email confirmation before sending out your material. Forget about usernames/passwords since they are not worth the hassle and don’t worry if people don’t give you real names either. Having a valid email address is the most important item. Your goal now is to market to them in a manner they feel comfortable with so, they gradually give you more information and never ‘opt out’.
– Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)