Way back in the day (in 2008!), Marketo ran a study that concluded that reducing form fields from nine fields to five improved conversion rates by 34%.¹ At HyperX Media we have run similar lead form tests that yielded up to 300% increases in conversion rates. Enough marketers gained the same learnings from their own A/B testing back in the aughts and a best practice was born.
But has this tried and true best practice become an “alternative fact” in 2017?
Shanelle Mullin at ConversionXL questions this “best practice” in her (quite stellar) article, “Should You Really Reduce Form Fields?”
Her conclusion is the same as ours: “Reducing form fields to increase conversions isn’t a myth, but it’s also not an absolute truth.”²
She relates the experience Michael Aagaard with Unbounce shared at the CTA Conference, where he reduced nine fields to six and the result was a 14.23% drop in leads. Drop, meaning decrease. Meaning lower conversion.
After a very close look, Aagaard discovered that, in his original treatment, he removed the three fields users were most engaged with. In his second treatment, he decided to leave the number of fields at nine and tweak label copy to reduce friction instead.³
The result? An increase of 19.21%. Increase, as in more leads. Namely: homerun.
In Aagaard’s case study, reducing form fields yielded a negative impact.
The number of fields isn’t the only type of friction affecting form completion. Asking for the right information at the right time is the key to high conversions.
How do I know what the right information is?
If your call to action (CTA) is for a “live demo” or a “free consultation,” including “phone number” as a lead form field makes sense — to you and to the user. However, if your CTA is to “download an eGuide,” prospects may find themselves asking, “Why would you need my phone number?” and a lead is lost.
Here are the field guidelines for building a funnel-based content marketing program:
- Name and email with top-of-funnel (TOF) CTAs
- Company name/role/industry should be tied with middle-of-funnel (MOF) CTAs
- Phone number should be tied to bottom of funnel (BOF) CTAs
Having a stated purpose for the information collected will additionally reduce form friction.
Is less really more?
Let’s look at another case study:
ImageScape reduced the number of form fields from 11 to 4 and the number of forms submitted increased 160%. Their overall conversion rate increased 120%.4
All well and good and on the surface; an obvious tactic for “increased conversion.” But at what cost? The question then becomes: “Do I want more leads or do I want higher quality leads?”
When your lead form is short, there is less friction to get the user to fill out all the fields. While you are able to get more users through the form by having fewer fields, those leads tend to be of lower quality. Meaning, they are less invested, less engaged, and less interested in your product than you may wish they were.
The results? Your sales team has more leads to work, but they have to work harder to close them.
With a strong nurture campaign, you could move the leads through a TOF, MOF, and BOF methodology that would allow you to further qualify the leads — meeting an appropriate engagement threshold — before passing them off to the sales team.
This would yield the best of both worlds: more TOF volume resulting in more BOF leads down the road.
How do I know how many form fields I need?
Test, test, and test again. The only way to find your sweet spot is to try out your best strategy, define a benchmark, and then test against that to see if you can yield improvements. Remember to not be short-sighted! Analyze form conversions as well as secondary conversions… and watch your nurture stream to see if your testing is making an impact there, as well.
For more ideas on lead forms (progressive profiling, anyone?) and testing expertise, give our experts at HyperX Media a call. We love geeking out on form testing.