Can LESS be MORE? Yes, from my experience, the more information you ask for; the less your response rate. As a "closet economist" I've coined the term "Info Elasticity" to describe the inverse relationship between your Prospect Response Rates resulting from asking for too much information on our Website Contact Forms.
What is Info Elasticity? The term "elasticity" comes from the study of microeconomics. The Economics Glossary gives the following definition for elasticity: "Elasticity is a measure of responsiveness. The responsiveness of behavior measured by variable Z to a change in environment variable Y is the change in Z observed in response to a change in Y. Specifically, this approximation is common: elasticity = (percentage change in Z) / (percentage change in Y)"
Please don't worry if that definition went over your head. It does for most of us and I have a BS-Economics. The key thing to understand here is that we can use the concept of "elasticity" when we want to see how the relationship of one thing changes when we change something else. How does demand for goods or services change when we change its price? How does the demand for goods or services change when the price of a substitute changes? How does our prospect form response rate change when we ask for more or less information? These are the types of questions that "elasticity" can help us answer.
What is the objective of your Prospect Form? From my experience, the objective of a Prospect Form should be to get the Website Visitor or Web Surfer to "raise their hands" and say they are interested in knowing more about your products or services.
Asking for the minimum information you need is a courtesy to prospects and from my experience can significantly increase your response rate. Long, complex forms or requests for large amounts of detail or sensitive information could put off potential responses (forever). In addition to first and last name, the most important information to request is telephone number and or e-mail address, either piece of info gives you a way to contact the website visitor and start a relationship.
I strongly recommend that you ask only for more the most basic information you need like first name and email address. In some cases you may need to know a little more information to provide better service such as a position title or website address. However, my experience, common sense, and now privacy laws suggest that you should avoid asking for sensitive information like income, social security numbers, or credit card numbers, unless absolutely needed, to prevent scams or the potential for identity theft. I know from my own website interactions that I am resistant to provide information like phone numbers that I don't feel is needed or warranted.
So, I've discovered that a response or contact us form is simply a starting point to build a customer relationship. A customer may just ask a question, for a free white paper or to subscribe to your newsletter, but that request gives you the opportunity to open a dialog, gather further information, and build a detailed customer profile as a basis for future marketing campaigns. I've found that to be successful online you must have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in place to ensure that the prospect's initial request is developed into a customer relationship.
I have seen many cases where asking for too much information significantly reduced the response rate and conversely asking for less information actually increased the Contact Form response rate. For example, in the Mortgage Broker Lead industry when we asked for too much info or if the form was not easy to use the "Info Elasticity" kicked in and the response rate when down. So, we tested forms until we reached a happy medium that produced a high volume of mortgage rate quotes while still capturing the minimum consumer information. Recently, in another example, I recommended that an Internet Marketing Client reduce the information that they were asking for on their Contact Form by 66%, to just the basics, and their monthly Prospect Response Rate when up 400%.