Ode to the Form
In the previous article, I looked at interaction offline and online and the differences between the two. As I said then, there are a lot of different ways to create an interactive experience for visitors and to learn about their preferences. Undoubtedly one way of doing so is via online forms, because this is where you can directly ask your audience what they expect and think.
Forms are interaction too
Many would have you believe that there is no place for good old fashioned form-based interaction with your customer base. They state that social networking supposedly replaces the need for directly communicating and obtaining customer data. It is true enough that social networking sites are great for building interest and a fan base. Also, if you do create your own community, you will be able to obtain user details and knowledge of your users through that community. However, I believe there is still a place for direct communication with your users as there is still a place for direct mailing and store sales.
Form interaction is not just about communication but also about transaction. Your intentions and those of your customer in a form-based interaction are clear and with a very specific objective in mind. It's your direct channel. Processing of data obtained through forms takes on various shapes including, but not restricted to, bookings, emails, entry into luck draws, lead generation and yes, even social networking. But I digress.
Let us have a look at a proven and effective online marketing tool: the transactional landing page, commonly rolled out as part of a lead-gen campaign. The call to action on most of these landing pages will be some sort of form � a download form, newsletter sign-up, contact form, you name it. Without said form, it is impossible to measure the success of a campaign and it is indeed the final step of the lead generation process � the actual conversion.
A lot is being said elsewhere about the proper design approaches of landing pages as such and I will not go into detail about that here. But what is important when looking at this landing page form? First of all, as marketer you want to be able to create and modify the form yourself. Landing pages are reoccurring initiatives and nothing is more annoying for a swift rollout than waiting for a piece of code to be written, tested and deployed across the development landscape. And almost more important than the initial creation is that a marketer must be able to quickly adjust the form, should a campaign not go quite as expected.
An example: A large online store sends out a special Christmas offer through their newsletter � 20% off my next purchase. A link leads me to the campaign landing page. Santa smiles brightly at me, Season's Greetings everywhere and on the right the form � a simple question, which of the shown gifts I would prefer, my gender and how old I am. I hesitate � 20% off is interesting, but I am a woman... my age?
On the other side of the landing page, our marketer Susan watches the success rate. Firstly, she is interested in the progress of the mailing as such and how many percent clicked through to the landing page. At the other end she keeps an eye on the incoming leads, thus figuring out her conversion rate. But there is one important bit in the middle: the form performance. And indeed, Susan looks at her abandonment statistic and finds out that 30% of all people dropped out of the form when asked for their age! She quickly considers how valuable this information is to her, decides that conversion has priority and removes the question from the form.
In the meantime, in the background, triggered mails are being sent out, containing the voucher numbers for everybody who signed up. The votes for the gifts come in and the campaign generated quite a number of new contacts. Based on the results of the campaign, Susan sets now off for the next one � the gift advisor for Him and Her.
Arts and Crafts
I don't know about you, but I sure do find it handy to have all of the above available in one system. Marketing is both craftsmanship and art. To me personally, campaigns like the above are mainly craftsmanship with a spice of art whereas any social media initiatives are still mostly art and just a bit craftsmanship. Both are equally important, but they do need different approaches and different support.
As usual in life, there is no single answer to all needs; it is the mixture that completes the picture.