The Long or Short Form Debate

April 29, 2014 Laird Rixford

Should my agency website have a short form that collects basic contact information or a more complete form that captures more information? This is a question frequently asked by our Insurance Website Builder customers.

Before I begin, let me explain what constitutes a lead. Of course we want fully qualified leads with complete information all the time. Unfortunately, in the real world, people are short on time, and we, as marketers, need to be respectful of that time.

For example, I run into you at the coffee shop. You mention to me that you are an insurance agent. Coincidentally, I am looking to update my coverages in the near future. (If you are using a connected tablet and our web-based TurboRater product, you could quote and bind right there. That, however, is another blog entry.) My order comes up, and I am already late for a meeting so I hand you my business card and reach for the door. My business card simply has my name, phone number and email address. Armed with that information plus the knowledge that I am in the market for a new policy, you now have what you need to move forward within the sales process. That is a lead.

Short Form

You will absolutely get more leads with a shorter form. Period. We have seen this time and time again through our website analytics. The more questions you ask, the less the likelihood a website visitor will convert into a lead. When you ask more complex questions, like VIN numbers and violation history, or questions that give a privacy-minded individual a moment of pause, like Social Security Number or driver's license, the chances drop even more. With less information these leads will not be well qualified.

Should you use a short form? That depends on how well your sales organization is running. Do you have a follow-up marketing program that will immediately drip on these less complete leads? Will your staff consistently and expeditiously contact the leads to get the rest of the story? If you answered yes to both of these questions, go with the short form. It should ask no more than line of business, name, phone number, email address and optionally postal code (for geo-locating the lead).

Long Form

The job of a longer form should not be to ask every single question required to provide an exact quote (would they even tell the truth?) without ever talking to the client. Instead, a long form should provide a better qualified lead. ITC has learned through our thousands of customer websites that when you start asking the harder questions, lead completion drops.

When you extend the length of your form, ask questions that better qualify the lead. Do you need to know their Social Security Number at this point? Instead, why not ask a question like 'are you a homeowner?' Couple the fact that they have good enough credit to get a home with the number of cars, and drivers, and you have a decent idea where you will most likely place the business. This applies to virtually all lines of business that have complex underwriting data elements.

If you do offer a super long form that asks every question required for rating the risk, you better provide something valuable at the end. If a person takes the time to fill out tons of questions only to receive a simple 'thanks, we'll get back to you,' they will feel like they wasted their time, and you just started the relationship off on the wrong foot. Instead, provide them with a comparative rate, maybe even with the option to bind the policy online.

Additionally, I recommend that you paginate the form so the visitor does not see hundreds of questions scrolling below. Provide them with a progress bar to give them an idea of how far along they are in the process. When using these two suggestions, think about the user's experience. Section the questions into like groups (all driver questions, all vehicle questions and all violation questions) while keeping the number of questions per page between five and 10. Do not create a 15-page form that asks three questions per page.

Next, I would recommend that unless you are going to provide the user a real credit-scored comparative rate, never ask for a Social Security Number. Many people, including myself, will not provide that over the web.

Progressive Capture

A third option is a combination of both short and long form and is available within ITC's TurboRater for Websites online comparative rating system. This method collects and stores the information progressively as a visitor moves through the process. The first page asks the basic questions recommended for a short form. The next page asks additional questions, such as location, prior coverage etc. As you get deeper, the questions get more complex, such as driver, vehicle and violation information. All along the way, the system is storing the information as the user steps through each page. This way, even if a visitor abandons the quote form, you will have the information they have entered up to the point of abandonment.


Now that you know the pros and cons of each of the form types, the choice ultimately comes down to how aggressive you are with the leads that come in. When I handed you my business card, was that enough for you and your staff to get into contact with me and continue? Yes. Is your organization prepared to handle that scenario? If not, I suggest you fix that first.

Once you have a process (both technological- and personnel-related) in place, I would lean towards the short form as often as possible. If you need to ask more questions, make sure it is progressively capturing the information. Long forms should be arranged to better qualify the lead, not get all the information needed to close the deal.

Finally, offer both! Allow a person looking for a quick contact the opportunity to provide minimal information while offering a more complete and comprehensive quote to visitors willing to part with more of their information and their time.

About the Author

Laird Rixford

As CEO, Laird Rixford is responsible for providing strategic direction and leadership for the company. Rixford has a proven executive management track record and has more than 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and insurance technology. An expert in insurance technology and marketing, Laird is a recognized public speaker and has presented at industry events across the United States.

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