News & Views

Web Form Woes: Lead Generation vs. Lead Destruction


Here’s the scenario: A prospect or site consultant visits your website seeking information about your community for the early stages of the research process. They have a quick question about information they can’t find or want to clarify a crucial data point, but they also have 40 other communities to research for the c-suite report due on Friday at 4:00 pm.

The prospect clicks on the Contact Us page, finds the person they need to reach out to, and…a form comes up requesting all sorts of information the prospect isn’t necessarily willing to share. No direct email, no direct phone line; just a form. What does he or she do? B2B marketing research would suggest that, in 98% of the cases, the prospect gives up, moves on, and probably eliminates your community.

If you’re sacrificing 98% of the opportunities for the other 2%, is it really worth the information you gather on such a small sample size? You might argue that such a process weeds out the “unlikely to invest,” whereas the 2% are more probable long-term partners. Besides, you don’t want all those pesky sales people spamming you all the time when you put your information out there to the masses.

Reducing Pain for Your Website Visitors

We would counter that the 98% is every bit as valuable to you as the 2%, and that spammers will find you one way or another, so what’s the point in trying to resist? Instead, making it easy for your primary audience to contact you with inquiries is likely to keep you in more site selection decisions, giving you greater volume of activity. Also, depending on where the form appears on your website, much of that 2% willing to give you contact information may not even be your primary audience; they’re local partners with a question, not a multinational looking to invest.

Remember that the site selection process is highly confidential. Companies often don’t want their intentions known, especially if it’s going to be recorded somewhere. They might be willing to send an email or make a phone call to an individual, but in filling out a form, it creates an uncomfortable paper trail that several people will see along the way to the intended person.

Are Web Forms the Future, or the Past?

The concept of forms has been a very popular lead generation tool for years, but is now even falling out of favor with some B2B marketers, even among those with a distinct product to sell and little of the confidentiality obstacle that EDOs face. Think about the last time you found a whitepaper or ebook that looked interesting about a subject matter important to you. Just because you download it, did it mean you were ready to buy? I’d venture the answer is no, yet you probably got a call from a sales person inquiring about your interest in their product. As a lead generation technique, forms frequently fall flat.

Now, translate that to economic development. I’d actually be willing to concede that if an inquiring company filled out a form, it probably has serious interest in your community, much more so than the whitepaper/ebook example above. However, are you willing to sacrifice 49 other companies with potential interest just for one slam dunk? On top of that, given the confidentiality concerns, I’d suggest the 98% abandonment mark is on the low side in our profession.

In doing the math, that ROI just doesn’t make sense. Forms have their place here and there, but economic development isn’t one of them. If you want your website to be a lead generator, make it simple for companies to contact the most relevant person. Period.

Written By

Steve Duncan

Steve Duncan is Vice President of DCI’s lead generation division. Since 2004, Steve has managed marketing programs for a diverse set of city, state and country organizations, from Albuquerque and Houston to Tuscany and Wyoming.

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