Have you ever stood outside a restaurant looking at its menu, trying to decide whether to choose it or one of the half-dozen other restaurants on the same street?
How would you react if the maitre d’ suddenly came out and asked you how many seats you needed? A little put off, perhaps? You might feel that he’s coming on a bit strong.
What about if instead he came out and covered up the prices on the menu, telling you that you have to come inside and sit down before you could see the prices? Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Yet that’s exactly what a surprising number of websites still do, insisting that prospects register in order to fully explore the company’s offerings and prices. Or fill in detailed forms in order to download a white paper. Nothing turns away potential customers faster.
Don’t Put Up Barriers Between You & Potential Customers
Even if they really want the download badly enough to fill in your stupid form, you can’t count on the data they put in being worth anything. Odds are the only accurate part of the form is their email address. (And even that is probably a “spam” one they just use for downloads.)
There are obvious reasons for wanting prospects to register and give you information about themselves. Many of those reasons can even benefit the customers ultimately. The more you know about the prospects, the more relevant the information you can present, both while they are on your site and in later e-mails. This is good for both of you.
But your prospects are overburdened by e-mails, don’t want sales calls, are worried about the security of any personal data they enter, and, quite reasonably, reluctant to share information before they are sure they want to talk to you or buy from you.
Think Before You Demand Information From Prospects
If you want to collect information from visitors to your site, think about:
- The less you ask for the more likely you are to get it without scaring away new business.
What information do you really need up front? How many prospects are you willing to lose prematurely in order to get a bit more detail (that may or may not be true) from a smaller number of prospects?
- The later in the process you ask for information, the more likely you are to get it. The more they’ve already done on your site, the greater the chances that they are seriously interested. So they are more likely to see the value of helping you serve them better by giving you information to understand their needs better. Have you ever said to a store clerk, when you just entered their store, “No thanks; just looking.” But when you found that almost-perfect item you were fine with telling them more about what you were really looking for?
- Do not make customers “create a profile” before they order. That presumptuously assumes that they will be repeat customers. Many customers resent this assumption. Instead, ask only for the information you need to complete the purchase. Once they’ve given that, ask them if they’d like you to save that information for them to save them time in case they return at a future date. If, and only if, they agree then you can ask them to add a password so they can access their profile in future. That’s also when you can offer to store other information about their preferences, again to save them time in future. Stress the benefit to the customer! The difference is a subtle one, but crucial. Asking them at this stage, and explaining why, makes it seem like you are doing them a favor, rather than the reverse.
- If you are asking for anything unusual, explain why. One hotel chain we studied asked for the children’s names if someone was reserving a room where children would be sleeping. From a hotel’s perspective, it might be great to be able to have a personal greeting awaiting the children when they arrive. Make the kids feel special. They’d love it. And happy children help build loyalty with parents. But without an explanation of why they were asking and what the hotel planned to do with the information, a request for the kids’ names would automatically trigger security fears in the minds of most parents.
Let your guiding rule of thumb be: