Daniel Burstein

Orphan Forms: Marketing 101 change drives 32% increase in form completions

September 7th, 2012

Marketers are poor parents.

Walking recently by a sea turtle nest here on Jacksonville Beach, I was thinking about how sea turtles abandon their young after laying their eggs.

Harsh, yes, but as marketers, are we really any better?

We create landing pages, triggered emails and lead forms, and then … eventually forget about them.

Sure, we have good excuses. We’re busy. With the turnover in most marketing departments, we might not have even been around when some of these orphans were created. Additionally, unlike a reflective process — such as a continual media placement where we get a bill and must make a choice — keeping an old page live is essentially an automatic choice with no additional cost.

And, before I get on a soapbox, we have our share of orphans at MECLABS as well (which Pamela Markey, Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy, MECLABS, lovingly refers to as “land mines”). After all, our sites are more than 10 years old.

But, I want to tell you a quick story about the results we received by showing some love to one of our orphan forms. My goal is to inspire you to conduct a basic site audit to find what pages, forms and automated messages you’re overlooking.



The MarketingSherpa Book Giveaway had the very definition of an orphan form:

  • It was a very low-priority form (the book giveaway is a minor initiative for us, our major focus is on case studies, Summits and benchmark reports)
  • It was created a long time ago and largely forgotten about (we were just operating on autopilot in our weekly routine)

We required entrants to fill out 10 fields in the form … all for the possibility of simply winning a book (for those keeping score at home: First name, Last name, Title, Organization, Street Address, City, State, Postal Code, Country, Email Address).


Click to enalrge


I knew it wasn’t ideal, but it was always such a low priority, we just never changed it.

Then, we hired Selena Blue, Copy Editor, MECLABS. She wasn’t happy with the form, plus she was passionate about changing it. So, we put our heads together to come up with a few desired changes.



Selena made these changes to the form:

  • Significantly cut back on the form fields. We realized we didn’t need to ask for mailing address, for example, since we could simply email only the winners and ask them for their address when we congratulate them for winning. So we cut it back to three required fields (first name, last name, email address) and added two as optional …
  • Added an optional Twitter Handle field. Optional of course, but this way we could send a nice congrats to the winners and offer social proof for entering as well.
  • Added an optional email opt-in. Sadly, we weren’t even giving entrants the option to subscribe to our email newsletters.


Click to enlarge



Our completion increased 32.7%. Plus, we’ve added 491 email list opt-ins over about six months, with about 200-250 of those being net new.

Not market-moving results, but for a very minor form we had pretty much forgotten about, it certainly doesn’t hurt.


The moral of the story

At MarketingSherpa, we often write about complex marketing topics like dynamic email or social CRM.

And while those advanced tactics certainly are important, don’t overlook the basic blocking and tackling of marketing.

What orphans exist on your website? And what improvements, even if they are fairly minor, can you realize by making a few simple changes? Those huge increases thanks to months-long initiatives sure are nice, but when you’re trying to hit your number, every little bit counts.



Aside from the quantitative results, we have some nice qualitative results as well. Reducing the form fields to take out the address meant we couldn’t automatically send the book to the winners. So Selena had to reach out with a personal congratulatory email.

“I found some of the responses interesting, making the extra work of sending out the emails each week worth it. It was nice seeing the winners excited about their books,” Selena said. “Plus, I think the human touch reminds the winners that they’re receiving the books from MarketingSherpa, not some mystery sender through the mail.”

Here’s an example of what the winners told us …

“Wonderful! Thank you (and everyone at MarketingSherpa) so much!” – Cynthia, New York

“Thanks so much!  I’m a regular reader of the MarketingSherpa daily updates, and this book caught my eye.  I’m really looking forward to reading it and using it to better understand Social Media in today’s marketing environment.” – Sean, Missouri

“Thanks Selena, it’s always nice to be a winner!” – Trisha, Pennsylvania

“Thanks Selena – book arrived yesterday.” – Nikki, Australia


Related Resources:

Lead Capture: HP increases conversion rate 186% on email opt-in page

Common Landing Page Mistakes: Form fields that stop selling value

Internet Marketing: Optimizing form fields to maximize conversions

Form Optimization: 3 case studies to help convince your boss (and Sales) to reduce form fields

Lead Generation: Testing form field length reduces cost-per-lead by $10.66 

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Lead Generation Tags: , , ,

  1. September 9th, 2012 at 04:41 | #1

    Thank you for this article, how true it is that we have to keep the personal touch with or viewers and clients, never to depend on automation all the time.
    Love your blog it is always educational to me.

We no longer accept comments on the MarketingSherpa blog, but we'd love to hear what you've learned about customer-first marketing. Send us a Letter to the Editor to share your story.