Personal Emails on Lead Generation Forms

October 9, 2021

Should you allow prospects to fill out lead generation forms with their personal email addresses? B2B marketers appear to be split on the issue.

In a recent LinkedIn study, nearly half of respondents (46%) said they'd rather require prospects to fill out forms with their business emails, even if it meant greater abandonment rates.

Personal emails have traditionally been thought to indicate a lower level of purpose in B2B marketing. Forcing that same customer to input a business email address instead doesn't change where they are in the buying process; it only adds to the user experience's friction.

You're not making someone more interested in doing business with your firm (or talking to sales) by forcing them to follow your process; in fact, you're probably doing the reverse.

According to statistics from conversion optimization startup Hushly, only 44% of visitors will provide business emails when asked. In other words, requiring business emails might reduce lead volume by half, albeit (in theory) by excluding those prospects who are less motivated to fill out the form.

According to anecdotal evidence, the tendency is changing toward a more lenient approach. Fewer firms are requesting that forms reject personal emails in our work with B2B clients.

The understanding that the buying process is evolving, and that buyers download more content and are further along in the sales process before engaging with a vendor, is a major driver of this development. Allowing personal emails allows prospects to conduct research on their own time instead of being forced to meet criteria based on what your sales team considers a "good" lead.

Because the barrier between work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred in the COVID era, prospects are more likely to conduct research, download and consume material, and connect with business advertising at home and on a personal account. Furthermore, as people transfer from one employer to another more frequently, the lifecycle of a work email account is shorter than before.

A personal email account, at the very least, allows you to nurture, educate, and create a relationship with a prospect over time, boosting the possibility that they'll contact your organization when the time comes (even at their next company.)

Allowing personal emails on forms will result in a higher percentage of early-stage leads, as will allowing prospects to create dedicated addresses (junk@, etc.) exclusively for the purpose of avoiding marketing communications. However, a lead management process that filters, segments, nurtures, and educates prospects until they're sales-ready and meet the required criteria solves both problems.

One compromise is to designate the email field on your form "Work Email," but allow for personal addresses if they are submitted. Another popular way to avoid spam emails is to provide content requests (or event details) just to the email address provided, rather than forwarding the prospect to a Web page or PDF.

This forces the response to use a real email address at the very least, and it also allows the prospect to access the content more easily at a later time.

If permitting personal emails on forms generates twice as many leads (according to statistics), low-intent, early-stage, non-ICP, and garbage leads can be managed, scored, filtered, and even eliminated automatically. Isn't it worth it, in the meanwhile, if it permits even one qualified decision-maker or influencer to interact with your organization and into the nurturing stream?

Thanks to Howard J. Sewell at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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