The Lying Game: How to Get the Truth out of Form Liars

TruthAt some point in our careers, we’ve all received an inbound lead from Mickey Mouse. Or Buzz Lightyear. Or Your Mom. And there’s a good chance their email address was

No one likes spam. In fact people hate spam. Even if you treat your email lists with the respect they deserve, you’ll still deal with the blowback from others who are rampantly spamming out there. And the blowback includes the sudden interest from someone’s mother in your product or service.

There are ways to minimize the blowback and transform the liars into truth-tellers. It’s all about building better forms. Here’s how to do it.


Eliminate as many fields as possible

The thing about form fields is that they’re often used where they don’t need to be. Think about all the times you’ve received an email driving to a gated whitepaper download. Did the form ask you for your email address? That’s just plain stupid. The marketer already has your email address!

The highest-performing forms are neat and tight. So, let’s reduce the amount of fields. Asking more than six questions is really imposing, especially when all you’re offering is access to thought leadership content. Trust me. If your content is worthwhile, you’ll get more chances to ask questions down the road.

When cutting down your form’s length, use BANT (budget, authority, need, timing) orientation to determine which fields to keep and which fields to ditch. The answers we pull out of leads deliver a much higher value when they give us insight into the lead’s buying perspective.


Tell them what they’re signing up for

You insist on gating your content just be aware that gating will decrease your conversion rates by about 90 percent (according to studies by marketing automation platform Marketo).

Of course, there are best practices for reducing your forms’ attrition rate. For example, research shows that visitors decide how many questions they’re willing to answer based on their desire for what’s behind the form. It’s not a conscious decision, but it’s very real. So, employ a persuasion architecture strategy with conversational, no-B.S. copy explaining the relevancy and value of the gated content. This will give them the information they need to decide whether or not your form is worth their time.

By stating the benefit of the field, we can also encourage their honesty. If you’re asking for their job title, make sure they know you have various content tracks depending on their answer. If your visitor is a CEO, send them content from your executive track.


Don’t ask for the opt-in … yet

You know those 45 opt-in checkboxes for SMB Newsletters, Enterprise Tips, and on and on. Get rid of them. This practice is just completely backwards. You haven’t let the lead download your gated whitepaper yet. How could they possibly understand the value of your newsletters at this point? The lead isn’t ready to make that commitment. Oh, and stop producing newsletters anyway – they are archaic tools, or hadn’t you heard?

Digital interactions are volatile. Your prospect has already made it 90 percent of the way to conversion. Don’t gamble by overwhelming them with opt-in checkboxes. Let the registrant know that the content will be delivered by email. Then send just ONE email. No funny business. That will give them a chance to review your content before you ask them to subscribe.

You should also give them access options that don’t involve email. If you’ve invested in marketing automation, you’ve probably also invested in a healthy, diversified content library. Why not follow up on the whitepaper download by offering your prospect access to your entire content platform? They’ll likely reward you by providing more of their information.


Never ask the same question twice

This may be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Make sure all of your systems are integrated. If someone downloads a gated piece of content, get that data into your database and then NEVER ask for it again on future visits. When you ask the same questions twice, it makes you look terrible and it decreases trust – which is really what we’re trying to build.

Also, a lot of the prospect information you’re trying to collect with long forms is already available. Third-party data services like ReachForce and automatically append rich information about prospects to their profiles in your leads management systems. Just make sure you choose a data service that integrates with your existing CRM and marketing automation technologies.

With third-party data services, you get the reliable, vetted prospect data you crave. And your prospects get the content they came for – without developing carpal tunnel syndrome filling in form field after useless form field.


The truth is out there – Just build a better form

Like any other component of your marketing program, a lot goes into building a liar-proof form. It takes intelligence and sophistication. It takes persuasive copy, a good user flow, and solid integration with your other sales and marketing technologies.

It also takes ruthlessness. When you’re ready to remove fields from your forms, show no mercy. Clutter kills conversions.

Remember, form liars are everywhere. But you can get the truth out of them if you simply build better forms.

Oh, and if you do get a form completion from Mickey Mouse, make sure you follow up. Disney has HUGE budgets.


About the Author

justin-gray-headshot1Justin Gray is the CEO and chief marketing evangelist at LeadMD. The company helps businesses generate and manage leads better through marketing automation processes and technologies. He can be reached at

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