Blog Archives

Friction Free Forms for Marketing Ninjas

Happy New Year!

I’ve written before about the dangers of asking too much of your site visitors before you have established a meaningful, value-based relationship with them.

Now Lisa Margetis at Singlehop has reminded me of the importance of keeping any “asks” you must make of your customers as simple and pain-free as possible.

In her curiously titled “Contact Forms for the Minja” (which stands for Marketing Ninja, apparently!) infographic, Lisa illustrates how response levels and conversions fall as the number of fields in an online form increase. Using data from Dan Zarella, we can see that the optimal number of fields in a form is around 3 to 5:

More fields fewer conversions

And from Marketing Sherpa we also know which fields are most valuable to most marketers:

The fields marketers value the most

In summary, as Lisa rightly points out:

It’s all about finding the right friction

Too much friction (e.g. too many fields or hoops to jump through on your site) and people will refuse to fill out your online form. Too little friction and the data you collect are unlikely to yield sufficient insights to allow intelligent segmentation and targeted content marketing in future.

As Lisa’s infographic shows, there are many examples that prove, and sometimes disprove, the theoretical principles. But the simplest rule I think any marketer should follow is:

Only collect data that you actively plan to use.

In my experience, that’s by far the easiest way to ensure that all forms present the minimal amount of friction to your online customers and prospects.

Now go forth, learned Minja, and create beautiful, friction-free forms!

The Basic Data Capture Mistake Almost Every Marketer Makes

As marketers, we know a large part of our job is to collect as much data about customers and prospects as possible. Feeding the database gives us leads to qualify and valuable data to mine.

So it makes perfect sense when we have something of value to these people—like some great content or special offers—that we should make them jump through a few data hoops before we let them at it. The least they could do is share their name, email, and maybe some lifestyle interests so we can contact them again in future. Isn’t it?

No! It turns out this is actually one of the worst things most marketers do online.

Next time you have something that other people would like to access, try this for a change:

Give it to them. Just let them have it. No forms to fill, no data to share. Just instant, free access to the content they desire.

But here’s the kicker. If they like what you gave them, now is the perfect time to ask them to do you a favour in return. Perhaps they could give you just a few pieces of contact information so you can stay in touch and share more great content like this in future.

You see, people who have just been given something are much more likely to give something in return. It’s called reciprocity, that sense of indebtedness that is hard-wired into human behaviour.

I-doubled-my-data-badgeAnd in tests, flipping the online data collection to take place after the gift is received allows marketers to capture twice as much data as before. Yes, that’s double the data for no extra effort.

Not only that, but it’s often better quality data too. The tyre kickers and time wasters have got what they wanted and are unlikely to want to stay in touch. But the people who really appreciate your content, who know that it can bring value into to their lives, have everything to gain by sharing their contact details.

But don’t just take my word for it. Put it to the test. Flip that data collection page in your website, or trial the alternatives alongside each other in an A/B test. If your website visitors are anything like every test sample I’ve ever encountered, you’ll soon see you data counts and quality climbing.

I know it feels counter-intuitive but, honestly, this really works.

Now, stop thinking about it. Go put it to the test!

What is (Cyber) Black Friday?

Black-Friday-2012Today, 23 November 2012 is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day in the USA. It’s a great day to do some online shopping for the Christmas holiday season as many retailer run one day only promotions to try to win your valuable festive custom.

People here in the UK often ask me what it’s all about. The origins of the phrase ‘Black Friday’ are not entirely clear. Wikipedia refers to its use in Philadelphia well before 1961 where it described the “heavy and disruptive traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving”. An alternative explanation is also given that it’s the point in the calendar year when most retailers start to turn a profit.

Today, the meaning is unambiguous: Black Friday is the day that signals the start of the busy Christmas shopping season, when retailers open early and offer some very special discounts to entice customers to part with their cash. In the USA, it has been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005 and consumers around the world are increasingly getting in on the act through online shopping channels in their own version of the event called Cyber Black Friday. Inevitably, some retailers have sought to gain advantage over their rivals, with some going so far as running Black (or Grey) Thursday offers.

So how can you get involved? Most major online retailers are running special promotions today, many extending into the weekend, giving generous discounts off of popular products. Look for special offers from Amazon, Ebay, Apple, John Lewis, Tesco and many other major retailers. But you have to move quickly; the deals are often limited and sell out quickly.

Happy shopping!

(image credit: © maresz_1980 –

It’s time to Get Safe Online

Get Safe Online cartoon

It’s Get Safe Online Week and a timely reminder to all of us to think again about how we protect our personal data and identities on the Internet.

If you’ve ever had to change a password because you realised or feared it had been compromised in some way you’re not alone. A new study shows that as many as 4 in 10 adults in the UK have had to change all their online passwords at some time to foil crooks who had stolen their identity. But many victims are too embarrassed to speak out about their experience so their stories often go untold leaving others at risk of encountering the same threats.

It’s time to take action, for yourself and your friends. If you’ve ever been a victim of viruses, email or social media hackers, fraudulent selling or online credit card fraud, please tell others about your experience. The Get Safe Online campaign call this ‘Click and Tell’ and it’s the very best way to learn from each others’ experiences. With the average successful online attack costing the victim £247, the best time to get prepared is now, before the bad guys find you.

For information on how to get safe online visit

This subject, and particularly the issue of safeguarding children’s safety online, is close to my heart. I continue to give talks to groups of parents of schoolchildren to help them understand the online world our children are growing up in and ensure they take steps to make it safer. To find out more about this, please get in touch.

Don’t make Life Difficult for your Customers

It’s all too common. We build online content and expect visitors to register before they can gain access. Aside from the fact that asking for personal data before giving away some free content typically halves the amount of data you collect, some organisations insist on making things even more difficult than they need to be.

It’s easy to criticise government bodies like HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the UK’s equivalent of the USA’s IRS) but sometimes they make life so remarkably complicated that they deserve to be pilloried. And they’re not alone. Countless other commercial sites make similar mistakes, but hopefully your site is better.

Take, for example, this HMRC form which invites users to set up some “Shared Secrets to allow them to gain access to their account should they forget their password. This form exists to collect some easy to remember answers that are less forgettable than a site password. Yet instead of making this easy, HMRC insists that every answer must be between 6 and 15 characters long and not contain any spaces, punctuation, numbers or special characters.


Why? Because, I presume, HMRC has an antiquated IT system that is only capable of handling responses in this very precise format. Yet this constraint possibly defeats the very purpose of the exercise: to create a trust mechanism where the end-user cannot possibly get locked out of their account because their answers are unforgettable.

Like you, I don’t know of many schools, names or even places that don’t include any spaces, don’t exceed 15 characters, and lack any punctuation. Yet HMRC’s lack of foresight inflicts these rigid constraints on every user turning what should be a simple exercise into a complex memory test.

The lesson: don’t make life difficult for your customers and never make them work hard to do something that ultimately serves you rather than them. They are your customers; treat them with the care, respect and love they deserve.

The web changes everything, even how you design your CV

I’ve always been a great believer in the power of good design.

And in a digital world filled with endless infographics and stylised images, the humble CV has been long due a thorough reinvention.

Before and After image of CVThat’s why I’m impressed by a new service out of the US of A that promises to help your CV standout in a sea of sameness.

If your CV has a touch of the 1990’s about it, check out Loft Resumes, the brainchild of South Carolina designers Dodd Caldwell and Emory Cash. Their new services offers a wide selection of starting templates, allowing you to turn your drab black and white resume into a design masterpiece you can be proud of. No design skills required, just $99 to have a design professional transform your words into something glorious!

Oh, and while you’re at it, take a look at that product brochure and white paper you’ve been hawking since the turn of the millennium. They could probably use a touch of design magic too. Few things age faster than an analogue creation in a digital world.

[hat tip to Co.DESIGN for pointing me to this great service]

%d bloggers like this: