Have you ever heard of the Seahawks’ 12th Man? Those who follow football know that only 11 players from each team are allowed on the field at any given time. However, Seattle’s fans have been branded as the “12th Man” because of the profound effect their vocal presence and support has had on the Seahawks’ games.
That’s how we feel about websites. They might not be a living, breathing team member who can call leads and attend company meetings, but they are still a very important part of a business’s sales, marketing, and customer relationship efforts.
When executed well, a WordPress website will help businesses achieve a number of those goals. While the goals may vary based on the type of business or services offered, there is one universal goal that every website strives for: lead generation. And to generate leads, you need to offer a way for customers to engage with you, whether that be through a phone call, email, live chat, social media inquiry, or by filling out a form. It’s the latter that we’re going to focus on today.
The Logic Behind Contact Forms
Today’s consumer prefers a multi-channel communication approach. What does this mean exactly? Well, consumers want options. Gone are the days of phone book searches in order to find a business’s contact info. There are now more options available –and consumers expect to have access to them. That’s why a website is an essential contact point for every business, from the independent blogger to the multi-chain retailer.
When someone Googles the type of service or information they’re looking for and finds your website, that’s the first step in their customer journey. It’s then your job to guide them through the rest of that journey and to the end-goal: contacting you. Regardless of which method of communication visitors to your WordPress site prefer, it’s important to have contact forms at the ready. And when these are planned out properly, landing those conversions will be a piece of cake.
7 Reasons You Need Contact Forms
Every business and, consequently, every website, wants to achieve the same thing. They want to reach the right audience—the audience who needs their services, information, or products and are willing to contact you to learn more. There is a lot of work that goes into driving the right traffic to your site, but once they’re there, it’s your job to call them to action.
Contact forms are a very popular form of CTA as their inherent nature is to help businesses and customers (or prospects) more easily engage with one another. And because of this, there are a number of benefits you can expect from using contact forms on your WordPress website:
Make It Easy: By including simple forms that require minimal contact info in exchange for what visitors want, you’re giving them a no-fuss solution to reach you. It also puts the onus on you to make that phone call or send that email, which many customers will find an attractive option.
Protect Yourself: Spammers and spambots are known for sweeping websites in search of mailto: tags, so publishing your email address information on your website may be opening you up to a number of vulnerabilities. To save yourself the hassle (and possible security threats), contact forms are a great alternative for the visitors who want to message you online.
Save Time: There are many ways contact forms help businesses save time: 1) Less of a need for cold calling. 2) Less data entry when contact forms are linked to a CMS. 3) Less need for back-and-forth when FAQs and next steps can be shared during or after the contact form submission process.
Collect Consistent Information: Whatever information is needed from a visitor (general contact info or perhaps more comprehensive answers regarding their needs), contact forms ensure that businesses are collecting the same info from everyone, every time.
Stay Organized: Contact forms are a great way to help businesses keep their customer and lead information organized with electronic records from every submission.
Generate Leads: Even if you’re using forms for content giveaways, surveys, or some other more creative purpose, contact forms still provide you with a way to collect new lead information for future use. (e.g. If they signed up for a white paper in the past, they may be interested in hearing about your services when you contact them in the future).
Increase Engagement: If there’s anything social media has taught us, it’s that consumers want to engage with brands. A contact form offers them an easy way to do that and demonstrates to your visitors that you’ll be there when they’re ready to take that next step.
Remember: when used correctly, contact forms can be a very powerful sales and marketing tool; i.e. your 12th Man. Now it’s time to figure out what type of form will work best for your site.
Choosing the Right Contact Form
Many websites will use a mix of contact forms in order to convert visitors through different means. What you end up choosing for your website will depend on what you have to offer. Consider the following:
Basic Contact Form
This is the generic form you’ll find on every website. It usually appears on the Contact page, but will also be present after blog posts and at the bottom of special landing pages that want visitors to take a specific action. If your purpose is to entice visitors to contact you, this is the form to use.
The giveaway form is for businesses or marketers who can give something away for free and get visitors’ contact info in exchange for it. So for marketers, you usually see this in the form of a “Free White Paper” that requests an email address in exchange for the free collateral piece.
For other businesses, the perfect example of this is when a website offers up a chance to win a free trip [gift, assessment, etc.] in exchange for the contestant’s email address as an “entry fee.” Or, as in the example above from Hubspot, you can sign up to receive a free creative brief template.
Any website dealing in the selling of goods or services online will have an order form. Depending on how extensive the ordering process is, these types of forms can become quite lengthy and this is usually where you’ll find multi-page forms put to use.
When sales people talk to customers about how their product will help them save X amount of dollars every month, they will almost always have a tried-and-true formula in place to back that up. So for websites hoping to land sales (or just get the conversation started), having a calculator form on the site is a great way to get those prospects interacting, discovering what they can gain from those services (or lose without them), and ultimately reaching out for more info.
For websites that offer memberships or special access to parts of their website to partners, customers, suppliers, etc., a sign-up and login form is a necessary piece of that process.
Survey forms can serve a number of purposes. They can serve as a way to get visitors engaged with an interesting or informative topic. They can serve as a way to help you collect information for building case studies and reports. And they can serve as a way to learn more about what your audience wants and help you adjust your business model accordingly.
Websites that produce regular updates to their content will usually offer short subscription forms. So for someone who produces a lot of blog posts or a regular newsletter, this form is a great way to stay top-of-mind with visitors as new updates are pushed out while collecting information for future use.
Chances are you’ve seen a Google form recently. They’re very easy to set up and very flexible in terms of the type of information you want to collect (job applications, surveys, service requests, etc). Stored in the cloud with all your other Google documentation, these forms provide websites with a free way to collect information from customers (as opposed to a CMS) and keep it all in one place.
For those trying to maintain a minimal site design or for those simply wanting to put a form in a hard-to-miss location, pop-ups are a great alternative.
Many of the form types above could potentially take up multiple pages (especially anything having to do with the ordering process). The ultimate purpose is spreading a form submission out across many pages is to make the process of filling out so many fields a little less daunting for customers. It also helps to ease them through different (but logical) phases in order to reach the end-goal.
For more information on how to add or update forms on your WordPress website and to discover some helpful tools that will give you more flexibility and creativity in your contact forms, keep reading.
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Forms in WordPress
Contact forms should always be reflective of what your business does and what sort of information you need from visitors in order to take the appropriate next steps in building a relationship with them. Regardless of how extensive your needs are, the following step-by-step guide and suggested tools will help you make the most out of contact forms on your WordPress website.
Step 1: Select a Plugin
If you want to create a contact form, the easiest way to go about doing it is to use a plugin. You’ll want to first identify what sort of form you need. Here are some plugins we recommend:
For the easiest contact form setup, try the WPMU DEV Contact Widget. The widget has a drag-and-drop interface that makes setting up contact forms really easy. It includes all of the customizations you’d need in a form, including messaging, admin email setup, Captcha, success messages, and more.
If you’re looking for a little more oomph in your form setup and want something that will grow as your form (and business) needs grow, then check out the WordPress Form Maker. This plugin will fit all sorts of contact form needs, including multi-page forms, payment integration, and survey setups. It also has a number of integrations (like Google Drive, MailChimp, and Calculator) to add extra layers of complexity to your form-making.
If you’re looking to use Google forms in place of WordPress-native forms, then you’ll need a plugin like the Google Drive Embedder plugin. While this tool won’t help you build the actual forms, it will give you the ability to embed those forms or a link to them easily on any web page or blog post.
If you want to get creative with your pop-up forms, the Slide In plugin will give you a creative way to do this. If you want to wow your visitors with eye-catching animation and messaging, this plugin will introduce pop-ups in a new way.
For those of you who want to impress and empower visitors with a calculator form, the Calculated Fields Form builder will do just that. The plugin works with numbers, dates, financial figures, text, and more. As a bonus, they also include sample calculators to help you get started.
Here are some other contact form plugins worth taking a look at if the ones above don’t quite cover what you’re looking for. Once you’ve got your plugin of choice selected, install and activate it.
Step 2: Open the Form Maker Tool
With your plugin installed and activated, you’ll want to check the sidebar in WordPress to find where the plugin is stored. For the purposes of this example, we’re going to use the WordPress Form Maker plugin.
Step 3: Choose a Form Setup
Once you’ve found the plugin, visit the Manager or Settings so you can get started in setting up your first form. You’ll have two options once you get to this screen: set up a form from-scratch or work with one of the pre-made templates.
Based on your needs, it may be easier to start with one of the pre-made templates—especially the generic Contact form template. That way it’ll just be a matter of editing and customizing fields rather than setting something up totally on your own.
Step 4: Select Your Edit Style
Remember that most plugins these days offer a drag-and-drop interface, which can be a huge time saver! If you prefer manual field updates or even CSS editing, that’s fine too. Just make sure you’ve selected the right edit style before you begin.
Step 5: Create and Customize Your Contact Form
Before you create any contact form, make sure you’ve identified the information you need to gather as well as what your ultimate goal will be in adding the form to your website. That will help you narrow down which fields will be absolutely necessary as well as which type of form you’ll need in order to achieve your goal.
You can then start creating and customizing your contact form accordingly. Layout, color, and messaging should all be taken into consideration in this step.
When you’re done, preview the form to ensure it looks as you want it to.
Step 6: Update Form Settings
Who do you want completed submissions emailed to? Where do you want visitors to be directed to once the form has been filled out? Do you need to link your CMS or payment gateway to the form for information collection purposes? There are a number of settings you’ll want to pre-define before you finish your contact form setup to make sure you don’t lose any information… or leads.
Step 7: Insert Shortcode into Website
Find the shortcode assigned to your new contact form.
Insert the shortcode into the page, post, sidebar, or other widgetized area in which you want it to appear on the website. Make sure to preview and test the form before publishing it to the website.
Alternate Option: Add Form Directly into Page
For those of you who don’t want to bother with plugins (or don’t need to because you’re using Google to create your forms), there is another way to add forms to your web pages and posts.
Go directly into whichever page or post needs a form.
Click on the Contact Form (or Add Drive File for Google Forms) button to get started. You’ll want to customize the field names, drag and drop fields to where you want them placed, and add or remove fields as needed.
Before you add the form into your page, make sure to update the email notifications settings accordingly. It’ll automatically default to the person who created the page, so you’ll want to make sure you have a proper contact person’s information in place there.
Once you’re done, the contact form code will be pasted into the page’s text box. If you decide you want to move it to another location, copy and paste the code in its entirety to a different location (there should be no need to build it from scratch again). Same goes for editing: highlight the form code and hit the Add Contact Form button again to update the info (or you can just update the code).
Step 8: Save Your Changes
Always remember to save your work and preview the live page to verify that everything looks and works as intended.
Step 9: Close the Loop
The last step in the setup of any form is to make sure you’ve provided a quality experience for your site’s visitors from start-to-finish. So that doesn’t just mean having a fully functioning form that provides them with the product, service, or phone call which they had sought out. That means that once they submit that form, they’re redirected to another well-thought-out page.
Does the contact form leave visitors wondering what’s next? Send them to a landing page that explains next steps or contains a comprehensive FAQ. Does the form complete a purchase? Send them to a confirmation page. Or is the form just a subscription to your blog? Then direct them to a Thank You page or to a blog post that may be of interest. You’ve spent so much time designing a great website. There’s no reason to lose your visitors’ interest once you’ve got their info.
Ultimately, the purpose of a contact form is to give visitors a chance to reach out to you when they’re ready. Regardless of the type of form (or forms) you use, keep in mind the following before you begin to build any of these out:
Try to only have one form on any given page. Too many competing CTAs can create a confusing and negative experience for visitors.
Keep the number of form fields to a minimum. The less work visitors have to do, the more receptive they’ll be to give you their information.
Create strong, but simple messaging within the form. You want to draw in their attention and hold it until they submit their information.
Part of the reason you’re using forms is to cut down on the amount of data entry required of you, so make sure to link your forms to a CMS or payment process for easy data collection and processing.
For some of these forms (like the Contact page form), you’ll want to include alternate contact info alongside it so your visitors are still presented with a variety of contact options.
In terms of where to place your form, you really won’t know what works best until it’s been on your site. While above-the-fold forms do seem to perform better, that’s not always the case. Consider using A/B testing to find the optimum spot.
If you’re ever collecting customer information (in this case, you definitely are), make sure you have a privacy statement set up and that you have provided proof of it near the form.
Always, always, always make sure it’s responsive. If your contact form doesn’t properly work on mobile devices, you’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity to convert.