Build Relationships Using Online Forms

Turn a simple online form into a powerful tool to gain insight into your prospects.

March 1, 2005

Dear Mr. Internet:
I'm finding that visitors to my site are sometimes reluctant to complete the several forms I have there to collect information. Is there some way to entice them to use these forms? —Vickie Kimsey, RE/MAX In The Mountains, Franklin, N.C.

Dear Vickie:
Unfortunately, most Web site forms offer very little in return for a prospect's investment in time and information sharing to complete them. Ideally, each form on your site is tied to a "compelling offer" similar to what I covered in last month's Ask Mr. Internet column. However, that's just the beginning because there is a very clever way to convert an ordinary Web form into a powerful relationship-building tool in itself.

Turning Web Forms Into Assessments

Web forms typically ask for contact information and perhaps just a few multiple choice questions to get a better feel for the needs of the online prospect. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, there is so much more that you can do with forms that make them inherently valuable to your visitors.

Assessments are very comprehensive forms that, if properly designed, will accomplish the following for you:

  • Allow the person completing the assessments to come to their own conclusion that there is a lot they have not considered with respect to their particular real estate needs and that you are the expert to help them with these issues.
  • Start building trust and relationship between you and your online prospect.
  • Provide you with much more information as to the prospects’ unique situation and whether you even want to work with them.
  • Initiate a dialog between you and the prospect that is much more powerful than a simple request for more information.

To maximize your assessments’ impact and perceived value by your online prospects, well-designed and effective assessments typically share the following characteristics:

  • Catchy name. This perhaps can be an acronym that’s both memorable and implies value.
  • Perceived value. Provide a short blurb describing what value prospects will receive by simply completing the assessment.
  • Reassurance. Include a paragraph in the beginning that reassures your visitors that their information will be kept sacred and not shared with anyone.
  • Open-ended questions. These allow visitors to express their needs and wants much more than just clicking a check box.
  • Personal dialogue. Assessment questions are written in a very personal style as if the prospects were right in the room with you having a relaxed discussion.
  • Immediate feedback. The moment prospects hit the "Submit" button, they receive an e-mail acknowledgment and a copy of what they submitted (people often forget how they completed any kind of form).

For example, let's assume your target market is sellers and you want to use your Web site to generate more listings. I've created a sample "Maximization of Value Assessment" (MOVA™) for online prospects who are thinking of selling their home in the near future and want to know how they can maximize their chances to ask for top dollar. Click here to see this sample assessment. (NOTE: This form is a non-functional example only. MOVA™ is a trademark of RUSSER Communications that you are free to use as long as you acknowledge this trademark at the bottom of your assessment form.)

Upon review of my MOVA™ seller assessment, you will see that I incorporated all the features mentioned above and added an additional "compelling offer" as a bonus just for completing the assessment.

Offer "Mini" Assessments

When you provide compelling offers on your site (see the February 2005 Ask Mr. Internet column), you need a form that provides a means for your online prospects to request the offer. A much more powerful approach than just providing a form is to give them a "mini" assessment (i.e., comprehensive form) that engages them even more on the topic of the compelling offer.

For example, if you specialize in golf properties and your compelling offer is a recorded interview of several golf pros discussing the merits of the area golf courses, your mini assessment might include open-ended questions about what they look for in a particular course or country club. All of which helps you, of course, find them that "perfect" property.

Engage = Business

It only takes a bit of imagination to turn an ordinary request form into a highly interactive, engaging, relationship-building assessment tool. The primary purpose of your Web site is to generate business and the most powerful way of doing that is to provide every opportunity for your online visitors to eagerly interact with you. Using well-crafted assessments will help you accomplish that goal and easily set you apart from your online competitors. Not bad for a glorified Web form.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.