The More You Ask for the Less You Get

Volunteer form scraped from the Internet
Tell Us (too much)!

A friend wanted me to sign-up for her non-profit’s email announcements. I went to the subscription page and happily entered my email address. The form had additional blanks for my home phone number and street address. I didn’t think this non-profit in Oregon needed to have this information, so I ignored those fields and clicked submit.


I was told that those fields were mandatory. So, I left my browser and sent my friend email explaining that I was not going to know what her group was up to because their web form asked for too much information.

Most people wouldn’t have sent the email. They would have just clicked away.

I understand that non-profits and businesses want to know all ways to reach me. They want to add me to their mailing lists, phone trees, and email blasts. But, their desire to reach out and touch me can feel as inappropriately creepy as the clueless lecher at a party.

My friend’s organization’s made a common — and fairly serious — blunder. They focused on their desire for information instead of considering the site visitor’s experience and mood. Sure, the visitor wanted information. But, they didn’t want to become BFF on the first date.

I scraped the graphic for this blog from the web this morning by searching Google for “sign-up form”. One of the top pages had this form which even requires your cell phone number. Geesh!

Businesses have the same problem, of course. Last week I wanted some comparison pricing information and I found myself being asked for my street address before getting the prices.  Huh? No. No, thanks.

E-commerce sites track abandoned shopping carts left behind by people who have picked out items without purchasing them. The more client information required during check-out, the more abandoned carts a business has. Still, marking information as “required” remains irresistible for so many webmasters.

Here’s what to do:
Ask for all the information you want, but require only that information you need to fulfill the current transaction.

Your goal with most sign-up forms is to establish a relationship with a new client or supporter. When the visitor is filling out the form, you’re 90% there. They’ve found you on the Internet, liked your web site, and about to ask you to contact them.  Don’t blow it by being greedy.

When your new contact starts receiving information and service from you, they’ll open up.  They’ll place orders.  They’ll phone you and ask for return calls with answers to their questions.

Being patient and measured when asking for information on the Internet is polite and professional.  It is also the only successful way to build your contact data base.

One Reply to “The More You Ask for the Less You Get”

  1. Galen,

    This very thing has been a thorn in my side for quite some time, now. Thanks for addressing it with your business clients. More and more often, I find myself being asked by a website to open an account requiring all sorts of information before I can even window shop, let alone actually purchase something. Annoying, to say the least!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *