Web forms are essential for capturing and importing both prospect and customer data into your Salesforce org. You can add forms on your website and landing pages, as well as portals like Salesforce Community (Experience Cloud), or embed via third-party applications.
When it comes to web forms that can be integrated with Salesforce, you’re faced with multiple options. Some will be well suited to your needs, but others may have limitations you won’t notice until further down the line. To avoid these Salesforce web form pain points, which can put an extra burden on overstretched workloads, ensure you’re aware of the pros and cons of each option. In this guide, we’ll explore the following web forms: web-to-lead, marketing automation platforms, and advanced third-party web form platforms.
Web-to-lead is one of the most basic Salesforce features. You’ll find that it’s included in even the most basic Salesforce implementation projects. Plus, anyone who has passed their Salesforce Administrator exam will know that it makes an appearance there too.
Web-to-lead works by generating a snippet of HTML code based on fields you have selected. You’re presented with two columns of lead fields. Moving a field from one column to the next will include it in the code snippet. This code is then pasted into the code of the web form that already exists on your website (etc.).
- No cost: Free for every Salesforce customer.
- Foundational knowledge required: Knowledge on how to create web forms is widespread among certified Salesforce Administrators.
- Simple setup: Access the Web-to-Lead form setup page from Salesforce setup.
- Avoid spam: Can include reCAPTCHA, which provides some protection against spam leads.
- Leads only: Web-to-lead will only create lead records (the clue is in the name). You can’t extend web-to-lead to other use cases in your CRM.
- Form building experience: The setup tool is clunky and outdated. If you need to change which fields are included on your form, you need to regenerate the code snippet (unless you are proficient enough to hard code in the amendments).
- One-way data flow: It’s designed for injecting data into Salesforce – it can’t ‘read’ your Salesforce database to recognize returning visitors.
- Potential data re-entry: The one-way sync also means that it can’t pre-populate information for known prospects/customers.
- Duplicate rules: Setting rules to ‘block’ duplicate leads could cause errors, meaning that the lead record is never created.
- Submission limits: The daily limit for web-to-lead submissions could hinder your lead collection – you can generate just 500 leads per 24 hours. For a large organization, there’s a risk you could surpass this number on a given day.
- Form required: You need to have a form already created (for example, on your CMS).
Without wanting to put a negative spin here, personally, I find web-to-lead very taxing to work with. The time that goes into rework is staggering – remember, with every adjustment, you must regenerate the snippet, re-paste it, and retest.
Marketing Automation Platforms
I worked as a Salesforce marketing automation consultant for a number of years, and so, I’ve created my fair share of forms using these platforms. Popular marketing automation platforms include Pardot, Marketo, Marketing Cloud, ActiveCampaign, and more.
I am a huge fan of marketing automation tools. They put form-building powers into the hands of marketers without relying on technical support; however, after working with several businesses with their own unique challenges, I began to see how these built-in form builders could fall short.
Traditionally, this would have been where the marketing team spent their time. Yet, over time, other CRM stakeholders have become increasingly involved in what data marketing is collecting and why, and—as a result—how it’s being done.
The marketing team will need to have these answers on hand to maintain a smooth operation, especially if the entire organization is pinning its data collection efforts on the marketing department. No pressure, Marketing!
- Built-in form builders: Usually, with additional options such as dependent fields (that show based on information entered in another field).
- Prefill visitor data: As the sync is bi-directional, the form can pre-populate with information you already have on the individual (provided they exist as a record in your database, and are cookied).
- Lead nurture: Can withhold lead records from the sales team, in cases where leads are not confirmed as ‘sales ready’.
- Automated actions: Can add these to route prospects once they have made a form submission.
- Unique identifier: With the majority of marketing automation platforms, email address is considered the unique ID (the golden link between the viewer and their CRM record). This assumes that no two people would use the same email address – in reality, this is not true in many B2C and B2B scenarios. Some platforms have addressed this, including Pardot.
- Limited objects: Typically works with the individual, i.e., the lead or contact, in Salesforce-speak. This means that you only have the option to add lead/contact fields to forms. While this covers most marketing data collection use cases, you shouldn’t be limited at times when you need to collect data for other records.
- Sync delay: The time data takes to sync from the marketing automation platform to Salesforce can cost you business. Time is money, after all.
- Not 100% no-code: Some marketing automation platforms lack modern form building experiences, for example, you will still need to rely on code to break out of the standard layouts.
Advanced Third-party Party Web Form Platforms
Smart organizations limit the number of third-party applications they install or integrate into Salesforce.
Here’s another undeniable fact: the more custom workarounds (such as automation) you add to your Salesforce org, the more ‘technical debt’ is generated. Technical debt could be considered the icky by-product of cloud technologies that will hold you back from advancing with new developments to your operations.
To get listed on the AppExchange, your app needs to either be built natively on the Salesforce platform (or integrate closely) and pass a stringent security review. As a result, when you install apps from AppExchange, you can do so with confidence.
Having said that, some industries will need to look out for specific credentials, such as FedRAMP for the Government/public sector in the US.
But enough background – let’s lay out the highlights (for advanced third-party web form platforms).
- Form building experience: These providers pride themselves on optimizing their user experience. Take the experience in the video below as an example. Check out how the sidebar navigation opens up into options that display horizontally – when required, these open up a secondary navigation menu to help drill down into more options:
- Prefill visitor data: As the sync is bi-directional, the form can pre-populate with information you already have on the individual (providing they exist as a record in your database, and are cookied).
- Create any record: Can create and update records for multiple Salesforce objects.
- Create related records: Can create/update records related to the target object. For example, a form could also create/update a ‘referral’ record (custom object) related to a contact record in Salesforce.
- Adaptable to multiple use cases: To state the obvious, this means that web form platforms can cater to multiple use cases for multiple teams across multiple industries.
- Minimal sync delay: If you choose a Salesforce-native form platform, the time data takes to sync will be minimized. Enquire about the sync time each vendor can guarantee (it will be part of their service level agreement).
- Super advanced data features: I’ve seen form features that can pull options dynamically from picklists in Salesforce, refreshing forms with the most current values from your source of truth (Salesforce).
Above: How FormAssembly can pull picklist values from Salesforce dynamically without the admin cross-referencing with Salesforce.
- Additional cost: On top of your Salesforce license cost. Having said that, putting budget towards a proper solution will indirectly save you a ton of money in your downstream operations. Put the money here, and nip multiple issues in the bud.
- Additional knowledge: Admins will need to become familiar with a new form building interface and connectors, as well as other features.
Note: There are instances where you can combine a third-party web form platform with your marketing automation platform to get the ‘best of both worlds’— this guide explains in more detail.
When it comes to web forms integrated with Salesforce, you’re faced with multiple options. Avoid web form pain points by getting clued up on which options can offer the functionality you need, at a price that’s suitable for your budget.