call center operatorMy recent podcast interview with Brian Massey (@bmassey), aka The Conversion Scientist, had plenty of practical takeaways, but one of my favorites was Brian’s description of a test he ran to boost phone leads.

Brian’s firm was charged with trying to turn more visitors into phone inquiries. When they tested different combinations of web lead forms and phone calls-to-action, they got some startling results. Here’s a brief snippet of what Brian had to say:

For our clients, phone calls are worth 5 to 10 times what a form fill because after someone fills out a form you’ve got to get through to them by email, you’ve got to get them to take action… it’s a whole other conversion process, whereas if they pick up the phone they’re talking to a knowledgeable person on the other end and they’re more likely to close.

One of the best ways to get people to call is to put a big, ugly form on the page, make the phone number very evident. In other words, put the phone number in the headline. Add a big, ugly form and you’re going to see your phone calls skyrocket.

We actually did a test in which we didn’t even put a form on the page. All you could do is call. The phone number was very prominent, it was in the headline, and it was repeated 75% down the page. We find those to be the ideal places for phone numbers.

Phone calls dropped 56% when we took the form off. Adding the form back in and then adding some text at the top of the form that said, “If you really want to take action now, you’ll call us. But if you want to, fill out this form.” It was a long, ugly form. In this particular agency, that generated the most phone calls for us.

It’s another one of those strange rules of thumb you get. Whenever we take a new client, if they want more phone calls, we say, “Well, first thing we need to do is put a big, ugly form on the page.” they look at us like we have three heads, but it’s worked in a number of places. [From Brainfluence Podcast #14: Conversion Science with Brian Massey]

This is a great example of our brains always preferring the easy path. It’s not difficult to place a phone call, but it takes effort compared to doing nothing at all. Looking at a complicated form, though, makes the phone call look trivially simple by comparison.

Best Practices Aren’t Always Best

The “best practice” for website lead generation is to make forms as short and simple as possible. Testing almost always shows that each time a field is removed form a form, the conversion rate increases. But, this is a suprising case where a lengthy form can actually boost total conversion.

Of course, if you are looking primarily for web form leads, a big ugly form will almost certainly tank your conversion rate!

Another “best practice” is to eliminate anything on a landing page that distracts the visitor from the desired action. One might assume that if you want phone leads, adding a long form that almost nobody will fill out will be a distraction and should be eliminated. Unexpectedly, though, testing showed that phone calls went up when the form was present on the page.

The two big takeaways from this example are,

  • Presenting an unattractive or difficult alternative can sometimes boost conversion.
  • More generally, you should never assume you know what will work – test first, then implement.

If you are trying to drive phone traffic, try Brian’s “big ugly form” approach and let us know how it works!

To hear (or read) the rest of Brian’s conversion-boosting secrets, check out Brainfluence Podcast #14: Conversion Science with Brian Massey.

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