How to Generate Leads Online Without Forms

how to generate leads online without forms

How Can I Generate Leads Online?

That’s the question the modern marketer is constantly asking themselves.

Sure, events and other non-digital channels have their place in some demand generation strategies. But by now you’re probably clear that scaling your business is all about reaching your prospects in the right places online.

And there’s no shortage of channels to do that – I’m sure that you’ve read enough “x ways to generate leads” articles to have some understanding of the following:

  • Social media
  • Email campaigns
  • Blogging
  • Paid search
  • SEO
  • Downloadable guides, email courses, pop-ups, the list goes on.

But here’s what most strategies have in common — most of them involve herding prospects to a landing page to fill out a form. Sometimes with a number of fields (especially on B2B sites).


Filling out this form and waiting for someone to contact you isn’t the best customer experience, and what’s more, it isn’t even an effective lead management strategy (as our research revealed).

But it’s what we’ve all been trained to do as marketers.

There’s no alternative, right?

This was my thinking too. Until one day when my boss called me.

The Day We Got Rid of All Our Forms

I had just settled down at my desk at Drift and my phone started ringing:

It was David Cancel, the CEO of Drift.

“A phone call? I’m going to see him in like, an hour” I wondered to myself. “And he knows I hate talking on the phone. He hates it too. Wonder what this could be about.”

“Hey, you got a second?” David asked after I picked up the phone. “I think we should get rid of all of our forms.”



I was able to muster that quick response, but wanted to see where he was going with this one.

Then David started to elaborate:

“I think marketing has kind of lost its way a little bit,” he said.

“We’ve lost the importance of a great story and truly connecting with people. We live in this world where it’s all about content, content and more content. And SEO. And ranking for this keyword and that keyword. And algorithms and conversion rate optimization. Pieces of that stuff are still important to marketing, but overall, I think we’ve lost our way. Marketing today has become more about gaming the system and get rich quick schemes.”

As he was saying that stuff, I found myself nodding along.

Then I started to think about all of the products that I use and the ones that I always find myself recommending to other people. Products like Slack and MailChimp, for example.

I’ve never had to jump through any hoops to get something from Slack or MailChimp. No gated content. No content upgrades. In fact, I don’t really remember filling out any type of form for either product, other than when I initially signed up.

And that’s when it hit me:

Slack isn’t winning because they were able to get more people to fill out lead forms than HipChat. MailChimp isn’t winning because they were better at lead nurturing than Constant Contact was.

They’re winning because they have built amazing brands that people actually want to work with — and amazing products that people want to share with their friends and colleagues.

Plus, their products are free to start, so anyone can signup and play around before they even have to make a purchase.

David was right.

Marketing today has become more about getting someone to fill out that next form and jump through that next hoop.

We Need to Start Treating Leads Like People

We’re spending so much time trying to get people to fill out forms so we can qualify them as MQLs, SQLs and move them further down the funnel.

We’re trying to write articles that get clicks from crowded newsfeeds and noisy social media streams.

We’re tinkering with landing pages and figuring out how we can get our cost-per-click down from $1.03 to $.64.

And we’re trying to figure how we can understand the algorithm of that brand new channel so we can optimize for it before our competitors do.

As a result, marketing ends up treating people like leads and email addresses instead of treating people like people.

Btw, you should read this post from Jon Westenberg on Medium about what happened when he went and followed 150 digital marketers on Twitter.

Taking It Back To Marketing’s Roots to Generate Leads

At Drift, we think the future of marketing looks much more like marketing’s roots in branding and story-telling.

Look around at the content that you’ve been consuming from brands lately.

Podcasts have exploded back onto the scene.

Brands are even starting to explore Snapchat as a marketing channel — not because they can directly measure the ROI of Snapchat followers, but because they want to connect with customers the same way that those customers connect with their friends.

And more companies are making the shift to long-form, epic content, vs. publishing links everyday like a content factory, because that stuff has just stopped working.

BuzzSumo analyzed one million blog posts and found that 50 percent of content gets eight shares or less. There’s way too much content out there for people to sort through and figure out what’s actually worth their time to read.

No More Hoops, No More Hurdles

We made the decision to get rid of all of the hoops that you may have had to jump through to use Drift.

No more content upgrades. No more downloadable guides.

We’re taking a bet that if we focus on building our brand, telling our story, and creating products that people actually want, that we’ll be better off in the long run — instead of spending all of our time trying to figure out ways to hack our way to more leads.

We’re still going to try to talk to all of our prospects while they’re live on our website and our customers that might need help inside of our product.

But we’re going to do it in a way that’s natural to them — like sending a message to a friend.

conversations instead of forms

You’ll only see two types of forms from Drift from here on out:

  1. A form to join our email list. We still want to be able to send you updates when we publish new content, and since we’re committed to publishing less content that is of a higher quality, we don’t think you’ll mind getting emails from us once a week or so.
  2. A form on our website to start using Drift. Email marketing is still the currency of the Internet, and today, it’s the thing you need to use in order to get started with Drift. But, we keep it super simple and only ask for one field during signup (your email address), and if things continue to evolve, we’re open to exploring other ways to get started with Drift.

No more gated content. No more content upgrades. No more hoops. No more hurdles.

All of the content we create and share from here on out will be free.

We want to build a billion-dollar business by creating things that people actually want — not by tricking people into filling out forms just so we can email them to tears until they either buy something or unsubscribe forever.

And we’re calling this movement “conversational marketing”. What is conversational marketing, you ask?

Conversational Marketing Is The Modern Way to Generate Leads

Ready to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know on conversational marketing.

2018 Update from Dave:

For those of you keeping score at home, I thought I’d update you on how our #noforms journey has evolved.

Thank you for your support and stay tuned for more exciting updates. It feels like we’re just getting started. : )

Bonus: Drift’s Marketing Manifesto
Back in 2016 we decided to go public with our original marketing manifesto. Years later, it’s hardly changed at all. Check it out below on SlideShare: