Advertising agencies pride themselves on the personalized service they provide their clients. Many cite that factor as their top quality. They go to great lengths to demonstrate their commitment through face-to-face leadership involvement, client wining and dining, dedicated teams, access to anyone and everyone at the agency, and the list goes on. Why? Because clients appreciate and expect personalized service. According to Forrester research, nearly 95% of leaders say providing a good customer experience is their top strategic priority. So why is the first impression a marketer gets when he or she wants to talk the most impersonal customer experience of all – the website contact form?
First, consider the practical side of the issue. In HubSpot’s list of 15 things people hate about your website, a 'Contact Us' Form instead of Contact Information is #5. In another study, they found that reducing the number of fields from 4 to 3 would bring an almost 50% improvement in use, labeling the submit button ‘Submit’ has a negative impact on use, and marking the phone number field as optional decreased contact form abandonment from 39% to 4%. QuickSprout said that including only three fields in a contact form guarantees at least a 25% improvement in use. And, none mentions what happens to the over 40% who are on their mobile. If I wanted someone to contact me in hopes of hiring my agency, I’d be sick that 50%, 39% or 25% changed their mind just because of my contact form.
Now consider the personal side. I’ve heard a lot of reasons why agency owners prefer contact forms – I don’t want my email spammed, I get hundreds of annoying and irrelevant emails, no one I care about emails me from the website, its easier for my admin to deal with, and on and on. Notice that all those reasons have nothing to do with what the marketer wants. Agencies go to extraordinary lengths to personalize marketing programs for their clients, trying in endless ways to get to that one-to-one personalized experience. Why don’t agencies do the same for themselves? And, don’t even mention the cursed Captcha!
Put yourself in the marketer’s shoes. When he or she is thinking about a new agency it is very likely they want to be discrete. They don’t want their inquiry to end up in some general contact catchall for who-knows-who at the agency to see. They want to connect directly and personally with the right person to begin a conversation. They don’t want to waste their precious time filling in form fields – first name, last name, company, phone number, why are you contacting us, is this urgent, are you looking for a job, and the absolute worst, verify you are human. It is the most impersonal experience you can offer and a deathblow to new business.
When I have done searches for ad agencies and run into a contact form, I simply move on. Research proves it. That agency never knew that I had an interest in learning more about them or that I was looking for a new partner to manage my multi-million dollar budget, clueless to the fact that I was ready to make an agency change, and they were left out without a second thought.
I’m not suggesting that every website abandon the contact form. There are good applications for it but not at an agency. Marketers want and expect personalized service. They want to engage the agency owner or new business lead in a personal conversation so they can understand who the firm is, what they offer and why they might be qualified to help. No one wants to fill out some impersonal, anonymous form that ends up in a black hole somewhere on a server not knowing who will get their inquiry or when they might hear back. Agency searchers want a quick and easy way to get a personal response.
Agency owners, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that first impression could be costing you millions.
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