The principles of one of these companies met with Rosamond and me in the library coffee shop. We were taking notes on iPad and graph paper, sketching things out according to the needs of their site and their company, and we felt that we had a handle on what they needed. Then we began to talk with them about their linkbuilding strategy. They work in alternative energy, and I write a lot about green businesses, so we have some good connections there. They seemed a little alarmed. Who would answer all these phone calls?
“Would you rather people e-mailed you?” I offered. “We can design your site to encourage people to e-mail rather than call.”
That seemed, if anything, worse. The partners began brainstorming ways to handle possible email flurries. Then we got down to pre-qualifying customers and they felt less agitated.
For their company and their website, a thorough contact form is the way to go. The more you ask for in a contact form, the fewer people will contact you. However, those who do will be more serious customers. Here are some ways to weed out casual contacts:
- Ask for more information. Just asking for a phone number will cut back on the number of responses you receive. This particular company plans to ask for the number of kilowatt hours the visitor uses each year — a detail that casual visitors won’t bother to look up or to estimate. Other questions to ask include, “Are you the decision maker?” and “When do you plan to make this decision?” types of questions. Not only will these questions discourage the casual inquiry, they’ll also allow you to decide which inquiries are worth following up.
- Don’t follow the predictable order. Putting the fields of your form in a surprising order will trip up automatic systems, including the automatic systems individuals set up on their own computers. This can reduce the number of spam contacts you get, and also discourage casual inquiries. Visitors have to be interested enough in what you have to offer to be willing to fill the form out by hand.
- Offer something in exchange. We want to discourage casual requests, but we don’t want to discourage real customers. Therefore, we plan to offer something that real customers will find valuable. Both partners in this company are educators, and they have useful information to share. A white paper on “Solar Energy 101” sent as a pdf link to those who fill out the contact form will be tempting to people who actually want what their company provides.
The other company serves a very specific sector. They don’t want to hear from anyone else. Content strategies for pre-qualifying customers will be their best bet. We’ll want to make sure that we choose and use the keywords that will cause their content to show up for the very specific long-tail searches that will bring them qualified customers.
Social media is also a good strategy for this company. Since readers self-select their sources of information from social media sites, becoming a good source for the particular sector she serves will give this company owner the well-targeted results she wants.
Reducing the number of leads you receive from your website may seem like a surprising goal, but it can help you use your resources to best effect. Use the right choices in language and design to target the specific customers your business needs.