Every business that invests time and money in promoting themselves online needs to know what is and what isn't working well.
Installing a contact or enquiry form enables website owners to track not only the number of enquiries (e.g. via Google Analytics goals) but also where those enquiries have come from - referring sites, organic vs. paid search, any keywords used, which ad campaign, which social media channels and so on. An email or 'mailto' link however is not easily trackable at all and as, when given a choice, most website visitors will opt to click on an email link rather than fill out a form this can leave your web marketing ROI reporting mostly in the dark.
Prospective clients and customers are unlikely to know exactly what information your business requires in order to process their enquiry. Without a web form, you may need to exchange several emails with that prospect before you have the information you need. This adds to the time (and therefore the cost of staff) required to manage each enquiry for you - and also the prospect. Not an ideal starting point for them is it? A contact form would give everyone involved all (or most) of the necessary information they need at the first point of contact.
While we wouldn't advocate scaring away any prospective customers with dozens of form fields to complete, most businesses require a minimum level of information to understand the nature of that enquiry. Smart forms can also add an extra dimension by collecting information in stages, so that each time an enquiry is made you can request additional details.
Keeping things as simple as possible a B2C website owner could probably get away with Name, Email and a message box. a B2B website owner may need to also include company, role, etc.
For a web marketing agency like ourselves, on first contact we request details including web address in order to check out what that prospect does, and how well optimised their website is for search & social media activities. These details give us a little more background and insight before we even start a direct conversation with that prospect.
Using an enquiry form also gives us the option to automatically feed all this information into our CRM database, giving us a complete view of our contacts, all the way from Enquiry to Lead.
Some businesses need more than one recipient for an enquiry. Subject to the type of enquiry, they may have several people within an organisation, or even external agencies involved.
While you can of course setup group email addresses such as 'sales@~', these won't always allow the inclusion of external domains. A contact form gets around this by sending the submitted enquiry to whichever addresses are added as recipients - no matter whether they're internal or external resource.
There are some people (ourselves included) who prefer having all their email communication within their own webmail client. Adding a 'Send a copy to my email address' option allows these prospects to start a thread of communication with your business even before you've had a chance to respond.
Everyone hates spam, don't they? It’s bad enough that your email address attracts junk mail even without you publicly sharing your contact email. Imagine if you put it up on a website? It’s an open invitation for all the spamming bots to target your email and start sending you spam mail.
In this case contact forms are a better option as there is no direct way for a spam bot to target your email address as you don’t want to waste your day to day resources tackling spam. However, there are some spam bots which are more updated and drop their junk in any contact form they find. But the likelihood of receiving spam via a clearly advertised email address is far greater than that via a contact form.
While contact forms may not completely rid you of junk mail, it will be marginally less if you had it advertised openly for any spammer to get hold of.