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The internet is arguably the most powerful tool for generating leads the business world has ever known. Using little more than HTML forms, it's possible to set up a simple mechanism for generating leads on a website and thanks to cost-effective internet advertising options, reaching an audience of potential customers has never been easier.

But even given these things, generating quality leads online isn't always as easy as it looks and a lot of leads are lost because the forms and web pages designed to generate them are poorly implemented. Here are eight tips for making sure you're maximizing your lead gen conversions.

Collect the Right Information

The most valuable leads are qualified leads. Acquiring qualified leads starts with collecting the right information.

An easy way to determine what data you should collect is to break the fields you're considering into three categories: required, nice to have, unnecessary. 'Required' fields are those fields that are designed to qualify, 'nice to have' fields are those fields that can help identify the most promising leads, and 'unnecessary' fields are those fields that you might want to collect in an ideal world but don't inherently help you qualify leads.

Promote the Value Proposition

If users are going to hand you qualified sales leads, chances are they'll want to know what's in it for them. So be sure to tell them. Perhaps you're going to provide them with a price quote within 24 hours. Or maybe you're going to let them download a free whitepaper. Whatever the case, make it clear that there's value being provided in return, as the BuyerZone form below does.

Break It Up

When you need to collect a lot of information, it's easy to create forms that are overwhelming. Not surprisingly, overwhelming forms can kill conversions.

To avoid this fate, consider grouping related data fields on individual pages and paginating your form. When doing this, it's usually a good idea to give users some indication of the total number of pages they'll need to go through and which page they're currently on. You can see that Progressive Insurance has done this with its auto insurance quote request form.

Focus on Function

Your form's function can play a big role in your conversions. A few important things to pay attention to here:

  • Use the right HTML form controls. You'd think this is common sense but if I had $1 for every time I've seen radio buttons used when checkboxes were more appropriate, for instance, I'd be a very rich man. At a higher level, consider how you can use controls to make the user experience easier while minimizing input errors and ensuring that you're receiving consistent data. Example: instead of asking a user to enter month/day/year into text input controls, consider providing a select control for both the month and year.
  • Make sure that it's easy for users to progress through each form control in an orderly fashion. Use of the tabindex value with HTML form controls if necessary.
  • Consider providing instant feedback. With JavaScript, it's easy to validate form data on the fly and with AJAX, it's easy to have your form interact with the server if necessary to provide a more responsive experience.

But Don't Forget to Pay Attention to Form

When generating leads, form can be just as important as function. An attractive, well-designed form with nice graphical touches can make all the difference. A good example of a bad design that leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically can be seen below.

Label and Assist

If you require certain information, be sure to provide an indication. At the same time, if there's optional information that is beneficial to both you and the user, be sure to indicate that too. And when you think that certain information requested may be confusing to some users or warrants a more detailed explanation, a help popup or rollover can help save a conversion.

Make Yourself Available Offline

If you really want to generate more leads, giving someone the ability to pick up the phone and call you can be a great way to accomplish it. Obviously this isn't always possible and it can be costly if you don't have the time and human resources available to deal with a larger volume of unqualified leads. But if you do and you implement a good screening policy to qualify phone leads, offline

Progressive Insurance provides another good example of promoting offline availability:

Follow Up Fast

A qualified lead is only as good as what you do with it. In many industries, the useful lifespan of a lead is not much longer than a goldfish's memory. So once you've got a hot lead, don't just sit there -- do something with it!

Patricio Robles

Published 15 October, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2419 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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T Foster

Great article and great tips. We see a lot of experimentation on this subject by our advertisers. They do a lot of split testing to make sure they increase lift on each tweak. Chances are, if you see a successful direct marketers landing page, this will be a highly tested tool that leverages many of these best practices.

about 7 years ago


unnikrishna menon damodaran, web content and print production specialist at ae

indeed. excellent tips. but filling up an online form of five sections can make me think of going away. the crux of the form to be decided with people's behaviour in mind. user experience!

about 7 years ago



Some good points raised here, but I think you said a mouthful at the beginning. Clients need to decide what information is really important and stick to that. Are they doing this for marketing reasons of in order to deliver a product? Two very different objectives.

Asking customers to fill in endless questions purely for marketing reasons can be a big turn off, so you need to ask if the info you are getting is really important. All too often I find clients want to ask for war and peace and then never do anything with the data.

Why put in place a system to gather data if you never act on it? If the sample results are too low for you to pay much attention to the results... don't bother doing it! You'll only turn off customers and it's not helping you.

Also, remember the Amazon model for data aquisition. Build up your data slowly rather than diving in and trying to get everything done in one go. Start with the basics, name and email and build slowly from there. Your customers won't mind adding a little bit here and there, but if you try and do a years worth of data in one go you're likely get nothing useful.

about 7 years ago



Follow up fast and with accurate information is critical - first impressions are important however this needs to be balanced with the cost to serve customers. Logicalware.com are an experienced software as a service vendor with over 5 years in handling inbound emails for companies like play.com and Kiddiecare and provide help and advise in contact management 

about 7 years ago

Marc Munier

Marc Munier, Commercial Director at Pure360

The Media Cube have it spot on. Get data in a couple of stages to maximise the amount you can capture. I always recommend providing a proposition or incentive at each stage to coax them to fill out the next section.

Get the required with the initial offer for example a whitepaper, the nice to have data could have "and get the next 3 papers we release FOC. That way you can "bank" the required, then ask for the rest without fear of loosing signups - after all some less detialed data is better than none.

Great post.

about 7 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

great post - sometimes i think companies forget that most of the time, by filling in the form, the consumer is giving the queue for a sales guy to call.

why are they asking so many questions - the sales guy is PAID to do that - increase submissions by reducung fields to total minimum

if you are complaining about too many unqualified leads in this climate you should check yourself!

about 7 years ago


Robert Frost, Director at AdStorm Ltd

Great post, although I would make it ten points.  Two of the most important factors affecting conversion are the targeting of your list, and to use an email technology that has a high delivery rate, rather than being classified as spam.

Eloqua Services

about 7 years ago

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