Lead Form Ads: How To Get Leads Without Landing Pages
What are lead form ads?
There was a time when the only way to get leads from digital advertising was to use a landing page. That meant time and money spent in designing and building a landing page before you could even run your ads. Now there are a growing number of channels (Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat) where you can run lead form ads that collect the prospects’ details directly from within the ad. Read on to find out if lead form ads could work for you.
How lead form ads work
All lead form ads work in a similar way. The prospect clicks on your ad and is shown a form without leaving the site or app. For most of the social networks this form is prefilled with the prospect’s details such as name and email address, leaving the user only to complete any additional form fields. Once the form is submitted their details are either stored in the ad system for you to download later or, if configured, sent directly to your CRM or other solution.
How to use lead form ads
Lead form ads are ideal for businesses of all kinds that want to capture leads at the top of the funnel for follow up by sales or by an email drip campaign. Typical uses include:
- Early access to new product/service
- Email newsletter signups
- Webinar signups
- Offers and promotions
- Lead magnet (info)
- Request a quote or sample
Lead form ads are designed to minimize the friction for the lead to complete the form so it’s best to keep both the offer and the form as simple as possible. Resist the temptation to promote complex products or services, or ask for too many details. Keep the offer simple, and the number of form fields to the minimum.
Lead form ads vs landing pages
Setting up and managing landing pages is both expensive and time consuming. In addition to landing page design and development costs already mentioned, you should also be tracking conversions accurately (sometimes harder than it should be) and running landing page variation tests to improve performance. And unless you are already an experienced digital marketer, you will need to pay someone to set up and manage your landing pages for you. You may also decide you need a dedicated landing page solution like Unbounce or LeadPages, so you could end up paying a software subscription as well.
In contrast, designing and building a lead form ad is quick and easy. And conversion rates are tracked accurately because leads never leave the site or app. Plus you can still experiment to improve conversion rate by testing different ad variants.
Where can I run lead form ads?
With 2.4 billion monthly active users Facebook is still the biggest social media network, and your best bet for running low cost lead generation ads for B2C and even for some B2Bs. Facebook lead ads are available across all devices and can also be used with dynamic ads, making them ideal for converting browsers of specific products or services into identified leads. Facebook lists more than 600 third party solutions that can be connected to lead ads, including most popular CRMs and marketing automation platforms.
You can target Instagram’s 1 billion monthly active users with lead ads in much the same way as Facebook. However, Instagram lead form ads don’t show on desktop, which is unlikely to cause much of a problem given that the vast majority of users are on mobile. There are also some form field limitations on Instagram that Facebook doesn’t have, such as no support for dynamic ads.
I only learned of the Google Search Lead Form Extension a few weeks ago as it appears to still be in beta and not yet available in all ad accounts. As the name implies, you add the extension to your Google Search campaigns in the same way you would add sitelinks or callouts. Before you get too excited though, I have to tell you that the lead form extension currently only works on iOS and Android mobile devices and tablets, so you can forget capturing leads from desktop searches, smart TVs or any other operating systems. While there may be good technical reasons for this, in my opinion it makes lead form extensions of limited use for now. Despite what Google may say on the subject, I still find that the best leads come from desktop searches and not mobile.
Leads can be downloaded in CSV format from the Google ad manager within 30 days. In truth any leads would be stone cold dead by then anyway! Google currently lacks the easy connectivity with CRMs and other software enjoyed by Facebook. Instead, you have to work with a developer to set up a webhook integration. Alternatively, check out LeadsBridge, a solution that offers no-code third party integrations for Google lead form ads.
YouTube is often overlooked as both a social network and ad platform. However, there is no ignoring its 1.9 billion users – surpassed only by Facebook. YouTube lead forms are available as an option in ‘Trueview for Action’ campaigns, and they share all the device limitations of their Google search ads counterpart. Just to make sure you are really serious, YouTube also insists on a minimum previous spend of US$50,000 or equivalent in your ad account. As with Google search ads, YouTube lead form ads require a cumbersome webhook integration for transferring leads to your CRM or other third party system. Again, LeadsBridge has this covered if you need a simpler solution.
While LinkedIn may ‘only’ have 330 million monthly active users its ad audience targeting is second to none, allowing you to slice and dice by countless demographic and professional criteria. However, costs are high and response rates are low when compared to Google Search or Facebook. But if you’re targeting B2B and you can put an educational spin on your lead gen efforts, then lead generation forms run in either sponsored content or message ads might just work for you.
As with the other networks, you can download leads from the ad platform manually. Linkedn also integrates with a small selection of CRMs and other systems, although not all third party systems are supported equally. The good news is that Zapier, an API connector for a wide range of software solutions, is included. My advice would be to get the leads first and worry about integration when the scale of the problem warrants it.
Strictly speaking, Snapchat lead form feature is actually a landing page. It works like this: when you click on the ad the Snapchat browser opens the landing page and attempts to autofill your details into a specifically crafted landing page that must meet Snapchats’ Web View specification. However, because you never leave the app, it feels like a native experience. The Auto-fill option currently only works with single image or video adverts
Platforms where you can’t run lead form ads
Twitter Lead Generation Card
Twitter removed its lead generation card feature at the end of 2016. It seems the format was inconsistent with Twitter’s other ad formats and failed to deliver the performance marketers had hoped for. Now you have to use website cards and send visitors to a landing page instead. I think it would make a lot of sense for Twitter to update and relaunch its lead generation ad format, as there seems to be increasing demand for it.
Reddit, Pinterest and WhatsApp?
Despite their large user bases, Reddit, Pinterest and WhatsApp don’t currently offer lead generation ads with forms. I wouldn’t be surprised to see lead form ads roll out in the next 12 months across all three platforms.
Which works best, landing page or lead form ads?
Whether lead form ads or landing pages work best will depend on your situation. According to WordStream, you are likely to experience a higher volume of leads from a lead form ad but they may be of a lower quality than those typically captured by a landing page. The reason for this might be that a lead form does not provide enough information for prospects to ‘de-qualify’ themselves whereas prospects viewing a detailed landing page have a lot more information to assess their suitability for the offer.
My experience to date has been running lead magnet promotions for SaaS products. I typically see leads of a similar quality to landing page prospects but at a reduced cost per lead. For this reason alone I would recommend testing lead form ad variations alongside any campaign which uses a landing page.
Time to experiment with lead form ads?
It’s over to you to explore the opportunities presented by lead form ads for yourself. If you’re promoting a B2C/D2C product or service, try Facebook first because of its large audience and low cost. Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are also worth experimenting with for this audience type. For B2B products or services, LinkedIn is your best bet. However, Facebook and Google Search Lead Extension ads will probably have a lower cost per lead (CPL) as LinkedIn advertising can be expensive. If you are a SaaS or subscription based company looking for help to get started with lead form ads, please get in touch.
Photo credit: Andy Morffew.