Are you properly using forms to identify the anonymous website visitors coming to your website, or are you just pushing the “I believe” button and hoping for the best?
Marketers spend a fair bit of time, money and other resources planning their demand gen and inbound programs, creating the supporting content, and building engaging landing pages for it all. But more than a few marketers are not integrating their forms properly with their marketing automation and CRM platforms.
Used correctly, are the #1 way to capture leads on websites.
We recently interviewed Phil Bosley, CEO and founder of Tactical Marketing, for the Rethink Marketing podcast about the importance of using forms, form tools, and form integrations with your marketing automation so that you can increase conversions by identifying anonymous website visitors. We also discussed strategies of when to use forms, and the power of Act-On’s adaptive forms.
This transcript has been edited. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
NATHAN ISAACS: Welcome to the Rethink Marketing Podcast. I’m here today with Phil Bosley of Tactical Marketing. Phil, can you remind us who you are, what you do, and what Tactical is all about?
PHIL BOSLEY: Absolutely. I’m the CEO of Tactical Marketing Automation. Tactical Marketing Automation is an agency specifically designed to help you get results with your marketing automation software, and specifically specializes in Act-On.
Nathan: We say specialize in Act-On because you’re a former employee of Act-On and a longtime marketing strategist for us, working with thousands of companies just on this very issue. We’re calling this series the fundamentals. Can you update us on what we’ve talked about so far?
Phil: Absolutely. I was at Act-On for five years. And to your point, I’ve worked with thousands of organizations in developing their marketing automation strategy. And one of the questions we asked was, what is it, what is it that truly makes somebody successful with marketing automation? What is it that makes somebody love their Act-On experience?
So, we did a massive data study. And what we found, we would come to call the fundamental three. Those customers who are using website visitor tracking, that is they deployed the Act-On beacon, those customers that are using integrated forms, that is they have their web forms and they’re either using Act-On’s form editor or they’re connecting their form editor with Act-On, and those people who are consistently sending email to their audience. These are the customers that are just absolutely delighted with their Act-On experience.
And inversely, customers that are missing any one of these three things, even though they seem like really small things, different organizational priorities dictate what’s important to that company at any given time, when you skip one of the fundamentals, what we know is your likelihood of being satisfied with the results from marketing automation is very, very low.
And in our last podcast together, we did a deep dive on website visitor tracking. One of the easiest things in Act-On to deploy, but often skipped during the onboarding process due to just competing priorities for time and attention, something that takes about 10 minutes to do, but has massive ramifications and implications on your success as an Act-On customer.
And today, we really want to deep dive into forms, and form tools, and form integration. And not just what should you do in Act-On, but why this is so critical to your satisfaction and success as an Act-On customer.
What is the importance of identifying anonymous website visitors with forms
Nathan: Why are forms so important? And they’re important for Act-On customers, but I think maybe even broader why are forms important to any marketing department?
Phil: The general question there is a great place to start. Any marketing organization knows that if I’m deploying web assets, I have to have a way to collect information from my audience on who they are.
We start with this nebulous cloud of potential prospects, or visitors on my website, or visitors to my landing page. And one of the core goals of any marketing team is to see this nebulous set of numbers of traffic data begin converting into named leads that can be nurtured or pursued by the sales team. And from a concept perspective, that’s where forms fit into the marketing equation.
Nathan: Thank you, Phil. Regarding Act-On customers and using forms, what was your study, what were the results that you found there?
Phil: One of the interesting things is one out of three Act-On customers is actually not seeing any form posts at all. And that begged the question, does that mean one out of three Act-On customers is not using forms in their marketing process? That doesn’t seem likely. Matter of fact, we went through and we started looking at customers that were not seeing form submissions in Act-On. And what we saw is every single customer we looked at was using forms. And so, then the question became, well why aren’t they connecting the forms to Act-On? And this is where just the experience working with thousands of organizations, of having been at Act-On for five years, of being a lifetime marketer myself, is most marketers, most IT teams, most web dev teams, have a form tool they prefer.
For me, for example, I’m a big WordPress fan and I’m a big fan of Ninja Forms. I like using Ninja Forms. And if you told me, Phil, I want you to stop using Ninja Forms and start using Act-On forms, and I didn’t have a love for Act-On already, I would be very resistant to that idea. And I think that’s what happens in the customer base for Act-On. If you’re an Act-On user, then you go as a marketing person you’ve got this great strategy, and this approach, and these big plans and visions for your marketing automation effort. And you go to your web developer, you go to your IT team, and you’re like, hey guys, we need a new form. They’re going to go, OK, and they’re going to very quickly whip out a form in their preferred form tool. And it’s very easy to encounter resistance or even overlook the fact that what has just happened is I have created a form tool that functions like a form without adding any of the value in from marketing automation.
How easy is it to connect third-party forms with Act-On forms?
Nathan: And they’re using the forms that they like, whether it’s Ninja Forms, Gravity Forms. They might not even know any better. How hard is it or how easy is it to connect it within Act-On?
This is what at Act-On we called our open market ecosystem. We want you to be able to use the best of breed of any tool you want and connect it to Act-On.
What are the benefits to connecting forms to your marketing automation?
Nathan: Phil, you’re saying that there’s a huge benefit to integrating those forms. What are those benefits?
Phil: It’s a great question. In our last podcast we outlined the value of Act-On tracking. So, behind the scenes, once the beacon is deployed, Act-On is collecting information, personalized individual information for every single visitor on your website. This data is anonymous. If I go onto you the listener’s website today, you can see that somebody from my IP address visited your website. That’s good data, but it’s not actionable data. Now, if I download a form or download a piece of content using a form, that is not connected to Act-On, then all you can see is that my IP address was on your website.
But the moment you integrate that form for that content download with Act-On, then Act-On converts you from an anonymous visitor, it converts me to a known visitor, and now you can see Philip Bosley was on my website at 10:30 in the morning, and he went to my home page, went to my products page, he looked at these products, he went to the contact page, he looked at the contact form, didn’t submit it, and then he went back and downloaded this infographic. And the amount of insight and information that you get on me as an individual lead is huge in implication to what you can do in your marketing automation process to nurture me.
Nathan: And as they get more educated and get more invested in you and your product, they become more and more ready to have a conversation with your sales team. I mean this is the point of giving some sort of crappy sort of lead to a qualified lead, right?
Phil: Exactly. This is how you build quality qualified leads to give to your sales team, instead of just a list of people who maybe might be interested or maybe they just wanted the infographic. This is where you can truly start to develop an effective high yield marketing effort to feed a high growth sales team.
Form integration and whether you’re happy with your marketing automation
Nathan: Put this into action. What does it mean to be successful using forms with Act-On?
Phil: This is the crazy part. There is a substantial difference in the happiness of customers who have no form submits tracked in Act-On. Even if they’re getting form submits, if you are not pushing any data to Act-On, you have a zero in this category. Then there’s a 70 percent chance you’re gonna be frustrated with your Act-On experience and probably are not going to renew. The moment you start pushing data from one form, you see one form get one submit every single month, then the customer happiness, the satisfaction with the product, the Act-On software gives you, that marketing automation tool, soars to about 75 percent.
And the moment you see 20 form submits pushed into Act-On on a monthly basis, which is still crazy low, if I see 20 form submits processed by Act-On every single month, then there is a 95 percent happiness rating, 95 percent satisfaction rating, and the likelihood of you, when you get to the end of your contract term saying, I want to renew with Act-On, is virtually guaranteed.
Developing your form strategy
Nathan: A little bit of a strategy question. Assume they’re either using Act-On forms or they’ve connected their preferred form builder with Act-On, and they’re able to pass data but you’re not getting any form submits. Strategically what do you think is going on there? What’s happening?
Phil: When I hear the scenario you’ve just painted, the first thing I would look at is what forms do you have. If you’re not getting any form submits, chances are you have a contact form. Maybe you have a newsletter signup form buried somewhere on your website. It’s a lot easier for me just to pick up the phone and call you when I’m ready than it is for me to submit a contact form.
If the only form you have on your website is the contact us form, you probably just need to rethink your form strategy overall.
If you have more forms than that … this is where we get into a gated-content strategy, which is just a fundamental principle of any content marketing strategy. Ideally, I want to have two types of content on my website. I want to have informational content, that is, about us, about our products, about our pricing. I want to have informational content that is about us on my website. And that content I want to be open, and free, and ungated.
There should also be, in any business that’s using a content marketing strategy, types of content that will help me as the buyer. They will teach me a skill. They will help me make money. They will help me save money. They will help me understand something. They will make me better at my job.
And whatever product you sell inevitably, absolutely, in every situation, there’s a way to generate content that helps your buyer be better. Now that has intrinsic value. That intrinsic value, the price for that is information. I want that infographic that has important stats. I want that negotiation guide that helps me understand how I can work in your space better. I want that calculator that helps me understand and run scenarios. There are lots of different ways and flavors that this can take on. And that lives behind a gate.
Now you have a valuable piece of content, you have a form that serves as a gate, and you have buyers that want access to that information. And that’s when you’ll start to see a dramatic increase in your lead generation.
And the very last thing that I check is, after three form fields, for every field that I add to a form, I’m essentially halving the number of people that will submit that. So, if 100 people would submit a form with three fields, then 50 will submit a form with four fields, and 25 with five fields, and so on and so forth. And very, very often what we’re asking for in information is not proportionate to what we’re offering in information.
If you have an infographic to download and you’re asking for first name, last name, email address, company, title, phone number, business phone number, annual budget, like the more you ask, the fewer your form submissions. So, make sure the information you’re asking for is proportionate to the value you’re offering. And 9 times out of 10 all you need on these lead generation forms for this middle of funnel, these first touches, this nurture process, is first name, last name, and email address.
Nathan: Phil, is there a strategy for further down the road that you start asking those more demographic questions? Is there a way to do this in your forms?
Phil: Absolutely. This is where Act-On’s native form tools have tremendous value that something like a Gravity Forms or a Ninja Forms wouldn’t have. So, with Act-On you can use what’s called progressive profiling. And what that is, is the same tracking technology that’s aggregating behaviors and tracking what pages you visited, what content you download, what forms you’ve already submitted, what Act-On can do with progressive profiling, is it can learn what information it already has on me.
Let’s imagine the scenario where I come to the website and I download an infographic. And I give you my first name, last name, and email address. And then I come back to the website, you put me in a nurture campaign, you’re sending me some emails. And I come back to the website a couple of weeks later and now I want to use an ROI calculator. I want to download a whitepaper, or an eBook. When I go to download that asset, and that form is introduced to me again, Act-On already knows that it has my first name, last name, and email address. And so now it knows to ask me different questions.
At this point it might ask me for my company and my job title. That’s a second touch point, a second interaction. I’m intrinsically more interested and more qualified. And if I come back a third time, it might ask me what’s my annual marketing spend, what’s my annual technology spend.
And every single interaction point where we’re providing value and we’re asking for information, Act-On can be progressively growing out the profile and the data set on this individual lead. And then you can use a combination of qualifying factors, like this person has a lot of interest based on their behavior, and their marketing spend or their technology spend is at a threshold that it makes sense to say this is truly a qualified lead and I can package it up and give it to my sales team. And God bless us, that’s when the magic happens.
Nathan: This helps you better nurture those people down the road. You can start creating different segments that are just going to someone who is a CMO or an executive title, rather than just a catch-all email blast going out.
Phil: Absolutely. We all know that what matters to a CEO, or a CRO, or a CMO, and what matters to a director, and what matters to a manager, and what matters to a field-level employee, is very different. And the more segmented I can make my audience, the more personalized I can make my messaging, the higher my open rates, the higher my click-through rates, the more successful my nurture programs, my marketing programs are.
Prioritizing Form Use
Nathan: We’ve talked about this strategy and why it’s important. We talked about the benefits of using forms and progressive forms with Act-On. What are the last things that people should be thinking about with forms?
Phil: The priority. It is really easy to put this topic in the category of we’d like to do that, or we’ll get to that someday. I have worked with so many companies where because they didn’t understand how core, how fundamental this was to success, they didn’t give it the right level of priority. And I would encourage all of the Rethink Podcast listeners to just stop and think about the value that’s being lost, the amount of time, energy, effort you’re putting into the rest of your marketing program, and just prioritize both the use and integration of forms to Act-On. But also just take a look at your content strategy and make sure this is at the top of the list. Because this is the core to any modern marketing effort.
Next Month: Email Cadence
Nathan: Excellent, sir. Can you tease us on what we’re going to be talking about next month?
Phil: Absolutely. So, we started to touch into the strategy of segmentation, and personalization, and emailing the audience. Next month we’re going to be touching on email marketing strategies and why it’s so important to reach out with regular frequency. And how many companies they just lose their voice, they’re not sure what to send. But if I’m using the first two fundamentals, knowing what to send, and why to send, and how frequently to send, becomes easy and obvious.
Nathan: Phil, I’m looking forward to next month’s conversation. In the meantime, if anybody wants to learn more about you and Tactical Marketing or have a conversation about what we discussed today, what should they do?
Phil: I would recommend that they visit our website, tacticalma.com. You can submit our contact form. We also have a free consultation available. If you want to chat, hit us up, we look forward to talking.
Nathan: Excellent, sir. Thank you very much. I look forward to talking to you next month.
Phil: All right. Bye.