Lead Forms on the Internet

Lead forms are typically used by companies who want to get information about a person who is interested in the goods or services that they offer. Lead forms are a way to determine who may be a qualified customer now or in the future. Although the use of lead forms are an established practice for many companies that conduct business online, there are certain circumstances when a lead form can be used for reasons that are contrary to the potential customer’s wishes. Before understanding how lead forms can be used to harm customers, it’s important to understand how they are supposed to be used in the first place.

When it comes to sales, despite you and your colleagues’ best efforts, all of your hard work may still not be enough. Research shows that, on average, eight follow-up attempts are needed, just to qualify a sales lead. In fact, 80 percent of all sales transactions, regardless of the product or service, require between five and 12 follow-ups. Another study, which ran for 15 years and involved more than 10,000 companies, tested sales reps’ response times in regard to web-to-lead forms. The workers typically took 46 hours and 53 minutes to respond to potential customers. The researchers also noted that when these reps finally did respond, only 1.3 calls were made before they gave up.

Web-to-lead information, including phone numbers and email addresses, is provided through companies’ websites. This type of communication represents a new phenomenon – it’s only become common in the last few decades – for gathering and utilizing sales leads. Web-to-lead forms have proven their value, as customers shop around for quotes for the products or services you sell, accurately and securely.

Although web-to-lead technology is available industrywide, it’s really come into popularity thanks to a leading technology company, Salesforce. The industry’s No. 1 cloud-based platform, Salesforce has simplified and streamlined the entire web-to-lead form process. Their customer relationship management (CRM) software enables sales professionals to better track, manage, analyze and predict web-to-lead data.

Perhaps just as important, their CRM and Internet lead forms work properly together. Without a smooth integration, the contacts’ information has to be manually entered into your database, a time-consuming and expensive process. This association also enables different CRM platforms – whether on-site, cloud-based or on personal devices (cellphone, tablet, etc.) – to run in sync.

With its CRM, and specifically, its Salesforce.com website, you can create your own web-to-lead form, with personalized, tracked contact forms, on your own website (or any other). Through this feature, users are able to generate up to 500 new, daily web-to-lead forms. And, web-to-lead technology has the added benefit of safeguarding your clients’ security regarding contact information.

Lead generation, then and now

You may ask, “Who is the typical web-to-lead customer?” These contacts may be new or existing clients, businesses or organizations, responding to your specific sales or products for a wide array of reasons. They can represent countless sales-related industries, including: insurance (auto, health, life), automotive and real estate.  Lead generation has exploded in recent years and is now its own industry. Basically, it involves companies creating their own website(s) to promote and advertise products or services. Customers fill out web-to-lead forms, this submitted information is verified by these companies and customers are connected with selected providers.

Previously, customers, such as those shopping for health insurance, would just call their agent; often, the same one they’d worked with in the past. These people would then request the best policy, reordering the same one for years. But this process didn’t really help to attract new sales leads, and therefore, new business and profits. These customers were also missing out on other, often better, products and services. So, when new sales opportunities did present themselves, the sales reps faced simple, yet frustrating problems with lead generation.

But this old way of customer thinking seems to be changing. A 2013 study involving auto insurance showed that 67 percent of all consumers who obtained new quotes comparison shopped online, as opposed to only 23 percent who relied on an in-person meeting with their local agent. A big reason is that the websites and their technology allow consumers to enter their pertinent information one time only. Then, they quickly receive several quotes from multiple agents, which lets them pick and choose their best option.

Compare this to the older process of meeting with numerous sales professionals, filling out endless forms by hand and then waiting in the insurance offices while the workers run their numbers and information. Clearly, the web-to-lead form option is the better one for consumers. As for sales reps, the old process involved: 1.) building up prospective contact’s interest; 2.) gathering and (hopefully) retaining their information.

Not only was this potentially inaccurate and slow, but it required a steady source of contact information. As for when to request this contact information, the sales rep had to wait until a specific time– probably when things were winding down. They did their best to download (or write, for those clinging to the old-fashioned ways) this precious data into phones or laptops, hoping that everything was saved for later.

Web-to-lead features do have a few drawbacks. First, they only allow you to create leads additional tasks and information can’t be updated or accomplished. Attachments can’t be included, as well as CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) tests. These are special safety features that employ alphanumeric (letters and numbers) codes. CAPTCHA codes must be entered into fields to prove that users are actually human and not other computers. Web-to-lead fields also don’t allow for  deduplication, a type of compression eliminating repeated data copies, thereby improving data storage. Finally, a Web developer is needed to create the forms’ design and ensure the software meets its intended requirements.

However, web-to-lead functionality has made the former cumbersome, inaccurate lead generation process unnecessary. Now, prospective, interested parties can log on to the sellers’ websites, whenever and wherever they want. They simply fill out the web forms’ provided fields, which can include questionnaires or any other useful information.

The advantages of the Salesforce CRM

Going back to the early days of cloud-based CRM technology, Salesforce has played an active role, emerging as the leading CRM. Today, they are the industry’s No. 1 cloud-based platform. In regard to sales-based tasks, a CRM is the system for managing all aspects involving customer interactions and marketing. They allow companies to focus on customer retention and sales growth by collecting and managing large amounts of customer data.

In turn, this helps companies to create and carry out targeted customer strategies, based on needs and behaviors. The CRM accounts for customer histories and past relationships, as well as various communication channels (phone, email, Internet).  In the case of Salesforce, their CRM platform enables sales professionals to better track, manage, analyze and predict lead-related data (including web-to-leads). Plus, the web-to-lead feature’s out of the box functionality allows users to get to work as soon as installation is completed, without any modifications.

Indeed, this web-to-lead functionality was designed around Salesforce 1 Platform, a CRM designed for mobile applications, such as those involving Android and Apple devices. But it also incorporates “application programming interfaces” (APIs), unique programming used by websites or software to interact with other websites or software, such as Amazon.com or eBay. Salesforce has even gone a step farther, providing the HTML code, which allows leads to automatically be sent from the online form to your CRM system.

Boiling this down even further, the Salesforce1 Platform is the home of the Salesforce.com website, which is actually one of the most important features. Among its responsibilities are managing multiple tasks, tracking cases and automatically routing important events. Aside from mobile devices, Salesforce 1 also supports sales activity, including access to customer information, cloud-based activity and online tools, such as those enabling email and Internet searches.

The Salesforce platform, along with all other processes wouldn’t be possible without the company’s Sales Force Automation (SFA software). This CRM software works with all sales-related aspects, automating related tasks, including: processing, inventory, customer tracking, sales forecasts and performance. Generally, this type of software features online databases, email capabilities and customizable templates.  With the way its developed, the SFA software can reduce clients’ programming demands.

Another major benefit of web-to-lead forms is that they take advantage of an activity you’re already familiar with, for both business and pleasure — social networking. You have the option to link your website’s web-to-lead form to social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Salesforce 1 even features a social networking plug-in (a customizable component), as well.

Another Salesforce web-to-lead benefit is that it’s a native feature, meaning it was developed to be used with the company’s specific applications. This enables an improved ability to interact with other features and other installed software, including mobile devices’ technology and features, such as  cameras, GPS systems and any apps. Again, the CRM and web-to-lead feature have been properly integrated, removing the need to manually enter contacts’ information. This ability provides an additional safety feature, as it ensures that clients’ contact information is securely stored away. While web-to-lead databases do, for the most part, provide quotes, there are those parties that instead sell these contacts’ information to third parties, even multiple times.

While providing this data can yield valuable quotes for products and services, there are some people who may try to sell it to third parties, even multiple times. But Salesforce, as well as many other tech providers, has taken this into account, installing special features and providing a host of countermeasures to combat these attempts, even before they occur.

The end result is that salespeople and their companies or organizations have valuable, accurate contact information stored for future endeavors, safely and securely.  And, you, your business or organization are rewarded with up to 500 new web-to-lead forms every day. For a simple, step-by-step overview of how to get your web-to-lead forms up and running, click here.

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