Rethinking lead forms: increase conversion without losing quality

You just want to download a report and there it is in front of you: a lead form with 11 required fields. What do you do?

      A. Grumble and bounce, abandoning the form
      B. Grumble while inputting fake information
      C. Grumble and sigh while speeding through the 11 fields

Even as a marketer who knows how important those form submissions are, I've definitely been guilty of A and B, more than C, and all the grumbling.

Forms feel like a necessary evil. As B2B marketers, we love them because our job is to bring new people into our world, and forms are the door for leads to come in and start a buyer's journey. But it's still annoying to be forced through an obstacle course of data entry to get through. At a time when SaaS businesses claim to be customer-centric and creating great UX design, the lead form experience sticks out like a sore thumb.

Lead forms are a source of friction for both business and its buyers — but there's a way to optimize the experience for both sides. Let's turn this love/hate relationship around.

The quality / quantity tradeoff

The problem seems simple: lead forms are too long. Research by Formstack found that lead gen forms, even when designed to be mobile-responsive, had an average of 11 fields. And when forms are too long, buyers bail, impacting every single metric down the funnel: fewer leads, less pipeline for sales, and ultimately less revenue.

On the user experience side, form fatigue can quickly set in after a couple fields, not only resulting in form abandonment but also an unfavorable impression. Consider the form experience as a key conversation between your business and your lead. It's the entry point to a negotiation, the first place to influence and hopefully impress the buyer. Spending that conversation grilling the prospect for information before we can answer any of their questions impacts perception and trust. This minute interaction may seem like a trivial detail, but emotional impressions are powerful in how people purchase.

Alas, the solution isn't as simple as lopping off form fields. B2B marketing and sales teams still need clues about who's knocking at the door to function well. We need context to hit higher close rates and deal values, information to get quality prospects into effective sales conversations and marketing journeys with lead qualification, routing, and personalization. We need more data … which means, we're back to adding more fields.

HubSpot conversion rate optimization specialist Pamela Vaughan sums it up:

In a nutshell, the length of your form inevitably leads to a tradeoff between the quantity and quality of the leads you generate.

Longer forms to get higher-quality leads comes at the expense of customer experience, conversion rates and other down-funnel metrics. But letting everyone in the door with super-short forms hurts your sales teams, ultimately lowering close rates.

The win/win: designing a lead form for quality and quantity

There are many ways marketers have tried to solve this trade-off, designing forms to look shorter with horizontal stacking, or creating multi-step screens to generate a feeling of progress, or collecting information over multiple form interactions with progressive profiling.

But there's a better way that gives the best to all worlds — a great experience for buyers, free of friction, anxiety, and frustration all while improving conversion rates and lead volume. With Clearbit Form Shortening, you can create dynamic forms that keep fields at a minimum while still collecting necessary information about your leads.

Here's how it works: when a lead enters their work email address, Clearbit Enrichment automatically fills dozens of relevant data points about the person, like their job role, title, industry, and company size, into your CRM and marketing automation platform.

If this background enrichment process doesn't find a match, the form dynamically expands with the fields you're looking for. You can still get the information you need — and, bonus! — fewer user input errors from typos and false information to clean up later in your CRM or MAP.

That means shorter forms with way less friction for the customer, and no loss in data or lead quality: a win-win for both the business and the buyer.

For example:

  • The media monitoring company Mention saw this win in a 54% increase in signup conversion when their growth team used Clearbit Form Shortening. Asking for only 3 fields — email, first, and last name — on their product signup form got people in the door quickly while qualifying them on the fly so the best leads immediately made it into the hands of the sales team.
Mention's lead shortening
  • The webinar platform Livestorm needed to address a 60% drop-off rate on their free trial signup form. They used Clearbit Form Shortening to cut down seven fields to one — improving conversion rates by 50%. CEO Gilles Bertaux sums up: "Without Clearbit, we’d be missing out on leads every month."

  • When the revenue intelligence platform Gong implemented Clearbit Form Shortening, they saw a 70% lift in demo request form conversions. Getting automatically enriched data also enabled their team to instantly qualify leads coming in and provide self-serve demo-scheduling to fast-track the best leads, thanks to automation built with Chili Piper.

Gong's self-scheduled demo request data flow

The lead qualification and self-schedule demo flow, illustrated above, kicks off from one field, an email address:

Gong homepage - main CTA form

"We figured out how to instantly qualify and route a lead without sacrificing engagement. This was a game changer," says Director of Marketing Automation Noa Farber.

Bonus tip:

One last thing: form shortening opens up the opportunity to collect more qualitative information — the kinds of questions you're itching to ask as a marketer, but often let go by the wayside because you don't want to jam in more fields.

With shortened forms, you have more room to ask an engaging question to inform the sales process and marketing messaging while building a lead's confidence that they'll get what they need. For instance, a multi-product business can ask people what use-cases they're most interested in, an ad tech company can ask for an ad budget, or a booking company can ask for the type of event.

Here's an example from PayScale. The form on their demo request page for their compensation management software has just two required fields, making it easier for leads to answer the optional question about purchase timeline.

demo request form asking for email, title, and timeline

You can also reserve these questions for a post-submission questionnaire. Instead of sending leads to a traditional confirmation page after hitting submit — continue the conversation with an optional question or two aimed at understanding more about them. Since these take place after the initial form submission, you can take more risks to uncover important information to help deliver value to your lead.

We've seen this work on our signup process: when you sign up for a free Clearbit account, we have a quick question about which use-cases you're interested in using.

asking to select relevant use-cases

Approximately 70% of people complete the optional questionnaire — and people can still skip straight to the dashboard, so we're not postponing form friction for later in the experience.

These post-form submission questionnaires can work well, thanks to the psychological principle of commitment and behavioral consistency. If you can get someone to make a small commitment, like entering their email address on a form, there's a psychological impulse to act consistently with that commitment.

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Clearbit Form Shortening removes the lead quantity versus quality tradeoff to deliver a win-win, grumble-free scenario for both businesses and buyers. Make forms better for everyone with a dash of real-time enrichment, dynamic fields, and thoughtful design.