Website Form Inquiries: Why You Need to Reply Immediately

When a visitor to your website fills out a form to request information, volunteer or donate, how quickly does your organization respond? Research shows that you’re probably not responding fast enough.

Thanks to technology, we want, no, demand, instant gratification. We have short attention spans. Nowhere is this more obvious than the response cycle of online leads.

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review explored how response time to a query, or lack of it, affected a potential sale. While this study investigated for-profit businesses, it’s not too far fetched to extrapolate the information and apply it to the nonprofit world. Businesses advertise to gain sales; nonprofits advertise to solicit supporters, whether for donations or volunteers. In the end, both are trying to make “sales.”

The results of the study demonstrated how quickly leads go cold (lose interest), depending on the speed of the response rate. Businesses that attempted to contact potential customers (supporters) within an hour of receiving an inquiry were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which was defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision-maker) than those who tried to make contact even an hour later, and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer!

Another study by showed that responding to web-generated leads within five minutes led to a 900 percent increase!

The study also showed that persistence is another variable that pays off handsomely. The research showed that the number of attempts to contact a prospect after an inquiry ranged from 1.07 to 2.6 attempts, with an average of 1.29 attempts. And the number of contact attempts correlated closely with sales closed (supporters gained). One attempt to respond garnered a 37 percent rate of success, while making two attempts increased the rate to 61 percent. At six attempts, the rate jumped to 90 percent.

Thanks to technology, you can make sure your organization doesn’t lose any leads by investing in an autoresponder, a time-based email or message that is sent out automatically after a visitor fills out a form or signs up for something on your site. There are different levels of auto responders—some with very sophisticated capabilities that can segment messages based on the information supplied—but they will all provide your organization with the ability to automatically send pre-written messages. Price points vary, sometimes depending on volume, but they range from free to about $30 per month. While it may be tempting to only consider price, it’s equally important to think in terms of what software is best for the needs of your organization, not just now but moving forward. So, for less than $400 per year (using the highest priced option), your organization can respond instantly and not risk losing a potential supporter. You can find a good list of plans here.

Another option is to invest in chatbot technology. Using a chatbot app it’s possible to build responses to common questions (most applications are easy to use and don’t require a web developer). Chatbot apps tend to be a bit more costly than autoresponders, but also come at a variety of price points. It’s estimated that chatbots can answer 80 percent of normal questions and, like autoresponder technology, increase your availability (24/7) and accelerate response time. Check out this article for a list of plans.

The hard, cold truth is that sadly there’s a need for thousands of good, important causes and if you don’t capture visitors who request information right away, there’s a good chance that they will move on to the next cause.


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