Web forms or email addresses?

In this week’s Office Hours we debated whether you should use a web form or share an email address on your website in order to collect leads from your customers.

I firmly believe you should use a web form. In the following video, I explain why. However, some disagree with me and want to have other CTAs on a website. For your consideration, I’ve included their perspective in a second video, below.

Why you should use web forms (and not show email addresses) on your website

Anita: I hate filling out forms, doing something I do want a confirmation that somebody has seen it.

David: I think, Anita, you bring up a really, very important point. We all kind of hate filling out forms, and they’re a pain in the butt. So, the form should be asking for the bare minimum information that we really need to take action. I had a client who I was so frustrated with the quality of the leads that he was receiving for his business, he set up a six-page intake form on his website asking a bunch of questions to basically make the customer qualify themselves.

Tricia: And they went from a lot of bad leads to zero leads?

David: Well, yeah, because no one took… And half the answers to the questions were, “I don’t know.” For the people who actually went to the end, most people didn’t know. So, we simply sat down and said, “What do you really have to know before you show up at the person to give them a quote?”

Obviously, you can’t give them a quote online without seeing it. So, this is really, you know, you need their address, you need a phone number and email, you need to know some very basic…and we cut it down to still, you know, maybe 10 items in the form from 6 pages.

And number one, he got more submissions, which is a lot better than zero. And more is infinitely larger than zero, right? But the point was he was much more happy with the leads, too, because he could take action on them, but the ones that said “I don’t know,” he ended up not getting enough information with it.

So, I’m a big proponent of forms, and whenever someone says put an email on a website, I cringe. I really hate that. Now, this is a religious debate. We got to admit this, right. So, we can’t step on each other. So, I can’t curse anybody who likes putting an email on a website.

But I want to make people use a form to contact me because I could track that in Google Analytics, and if I put an email address, number one, I can’t track if someone really submitted that email from that email address. I can do an event tracking on that and track click saw that email, but it doesn’t really show me if my marketing is successful. Two, all it does is show everybody how to spam me.

Anita: Amen.

David: And when I see and expose the email address, that inbox becomes useless because it’s full of so much spam that people just stopped reading the emails, and next thing they know they’re missing good leads because they got tired. Case in point, the client this week, they were sending their lead forms to an email address that I’d never seen before.

I email the email address because it’s also an email address I’ve seen published on the internet in a lot of places, and I just wanted to know…I sent an email, “Who gets this email?” And I got it back, “This email does not exist.”

So, what happened, I suspect, is that they publish this email address on all kinds of websites all over the world, they got so frustrated with spam, they turned it off. Meanwhile, they didn’t realize that their webform is also going to that email, and they weren’t getting any…

Why you should show your email addresses on your website

However, some hate to use web forms and prefer other calls to action.

David: I think you bring a good point. Putting an email address on a confirmation or thank you page might be safer because it’s gonna be harder for the bots to scrape it.

Tricia: Yes. So, I do have a different take on your no email. I do always include an email, and I actually include it in the footer of all the pages. One of the things that I do though is I have my host… I have not seen any… It’s amazing. I have not seen any spam from it. I use G Suite, and so, literally, I don’t get spam from it. However, the main reason that I do it, and I do tell all my clients. I give them, you know, it’s like they don’t…I don’t require that they do it but I encourage it simply because of user experience.

In the past, I’ve had such a bad experience with not getting an answer from a form that if I go to a site, I may fill a form out but if I don’t see an email, I might go to the next company. I’ve done that before. If I cannot find an email address, I have decided to go to the competition and that’s me. But I feel like I think there’s some others out there that have had bad experiences from forms. And maybe now, sites have gotten better but there are a lot of old sites out there that, you know, forms are set up and they don’t have a clue where they’re going.

So, that’s kinda why I do it. So, you know, that’s kind of… And since I have not gotten the spam, I don’t really look at it as an issue. But the website host… So, there’s also form spam that I was getting. But my website host uses Human Presence, do you use that? I don’t know what, but there is this bot out there, and, like, until I turn that on, I was getting 20 email spams a day through my form on my website. And then, I turned that on, and it just…they all stopped. And I’ve gotten some actual leads from my form and not just spam, which then before was hard to tell because I’m like, “This looks like spam.” And now, I know it’s probably a legitimate lead if it comes from my from form, so…

Alison: We have, I mean, I don’t know if this is considered a form but we have basically two… We have a phone number obviously. We have a form that they can fill out and submit, like, to get, you know, whatever. But we also just have a contact-us, which isn’t an email address but what it does is let them send an email to us without giving them the email. So, it’s like if you have a question, use that contact-us link.

If you’re like, “Oh, I know I don’t have a question. I just wanna know what my benefits are.” You submit the form with your insurance information. If you have no idea what you’re doing, you can call the phone number, like, so we’re really giving different methods, like, based on what people prefer but without spamming out that email address.

Tricia: Yeah, I do still prefer putting an email address, which is the preference of mine because of past form experiences and sometimes…

Alison: I think as a consumer, I sometimes prefer an email address to the contact-us form because then I can trace it on my end also. But it doesn’t, at least for me personally, it doesn’t, like, hinder me from contacting someone as long as there is contact information. I finally reached the age where I always call people now instead of emailing, like…

Tricia: So, I don’t know if that’s an age thing with me…

David: What are you trying to say?

Alison: I think it’s, like, from working in customer service. It’s just, and I… Also, I deal with a lot of, like, automated systems all day, and I’m on email all day. So, sometimes I’m like, “I just wanna speak to a human and ask this question,” because also, like, nothing enrages me more than getting a form email back to a question. Like, I think… I don’t remember who the vendor was but I was…maybe it was, like, PayPal or something. I don’t know.

And I had an issue, and I would email, and they would send me a form response, and I would reply to that. And then, it would be a different form response and I would reply to that. And then, like, they’d go back to the first form response and I’m like completely lost my mind like, “Is this even a human? I don’t understand,” like losing it because I’m like, “I just want to speak to someone.” I mean, I’ve done that on the phone too where I’m like, “Sir, sir, sir. Stop reading off of your script, please. Listen to what I’m saying, and let’s talk like human beings,” but it’s harder and harder to do that these days.

Anita: Ali, if you can tell they’re reading a script for everything, they have to. They will get in trouble if they deviate from that script.

Alison: Yeah, in the future I’m like, “Just give me your supervisor.”

Anita: And I don’t call people unless I have to because I don’t like automated systems.

Alison: Yeah, I know.

Anita: I don’t want to have to hit one, and three, and nine, and seven, and this, and that, and what, and what. If I call, I just wanna talk to somebody, get this one thing answered, and go about my business. It will probably take me longer to get through your automated system than what you’re rep is actually gonna spend on the phone with me. But I have a site that I work with that actually has the email and the form, but see, I’m sneaky with my emails. The emails are on the contact page but they are…it’s like, “Well, if you’re interested in this, then you need to…” You know, like, if you go to the Times’ website?

If you want something to do with advertising there is an advertising email, and if you want this there’s a that. It’s that kinda…if you need this, if you need that. But the email addresses are such that I don’t even think anybody is trying to fool with them because of the way they’re in there. And they’re just kinda in this text, you know? But yeah, I don’t like automated systems. I’d much rather get my email answered but like Ali, I’m gonna get very frustrated if I can tell by reading your answer, by reading the reply, I can tell that you didn’t read my email. No. No, whip back up. I need you to look at this.

What do you think?

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