The PodCraft Podcast: Series 3, Episode 9
In this episode we're starting to build out the ways we enable listeners to get in touch with us. The first and most obvious is the humble contact form. We'll have a look at two of the best contact form plugins out there, one free and one paid, and I'll chat a little about the other uses for contact forms, particularly when you upgrade to the paid tool I'm discussing. Let's get into it!
Resources Mentioned on This Episode
This is a free contact form plugin that has been around for years. It's one of the originals in the WordPress world and allows custom fields, polls and a lot more. One of the most useful features is it's ability to setup auto replies which can direct your users to other resources.
Gravity Forms is, in my opinion, the best contact form plugin for WordPress powered websites. It provides a great way of building up your forms and a huge variety of field types. The biggest advantage over Contact Form 7 is that it records every single entry that is put into the database and allows you to work with it really easily. Plus, it can tie in with tonnes of external providers for both mailing lists and ecommerce, such as Mailchimp and Paypal.
For a full guide to installing plugins and working with WordPress in general, check out the Website Course.
- Install either contact form 7, or gravity forms, and set up your first contact form.
- Post me a link to your first contact form and I’ll send you your first message.
Let Me Know What You Think
What do you think about the two contact form plugins I’ve mentioned in this episode? What contact form plugin do you use for your website? I’d love to hear from you!
Finally, if you’re enjoying the series, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me a review on iTunes. It really helps to get the show out to more people and grow the PodCraft community. Just pop over to PodCraft on the iTunes website to do that.
Thanks again for listening and see you on the next episode!
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Hey folks, I’m Colin Gray and this is PodCraft!
Hey folks and welcome to another episode of Series 3 of PodCraft. This is the series on creating a peerless podcasting website, so, that’s creating a great home for your podcast that really attracts your listeners in and turns them into long term fans. In the last episode we were talking about SEO and analytics, so, a couple of plugins that will help you set up your site in a really great way to attract in more search results and see how effective your website is, really see how, what the most effective content is helping you to create more of the stuff that your audience really likes. Today though, we’re moving on to allowing that audience to then contact you, to get in touch. This is what we’re really looking for. This is what we want people to do, we want them to get in touch with us, give us feedback, let us know what’s working, what isn’t, give us ideas for future content, really help us to improve the show. So, you want to be able to create a page that lets people contact you in a really easy way and then manage that data as well in the future. On these episodes, I’m normally starting with a WHY but it’s pretty obvious why you want to, you want to know what your listeners are thinking. And like I’ve said you want them to let them help you improve the show. It’s also great to get some listener opinions on to the show so get people to actually send in comments and then read them out on the show. It’s a great way to really draw in those listeners, get them to become evangelists for your show to really push it for you so it’s a great thing for that purpose as well.
Let’s get straight into the How to Do It then. So, the free version, first of all, free version is Contact Form 7. So, this tool’s been around for years, this is a really old one, one of the originals in the WordPress World. And probably powers more contact forms on WordPress websites than anything else. It’s a great tool, does the job really well. You can customize it a fair bit so you can put on all sorts of different stuffs, you can add your own field, you can make it so it’s just e-mail address and a little comment form or you can put in polls or you can put in that kind of stuffs, you can put in different things, wherever you like, on the form. And you can also have more than one form too so you don’t have to have just one contact form. You can a few different forms for different purposes. Essentially, it allows you to create these forms which then directly sends you an e-mail and can send you, them a reply as well. And that’s all it does essentially. The thing with Contact Form 7 that slightly frustrates me is that it doesn’t record that stuff, it doesn’t record to its details. All it does is when somebody clicks a submit button it sends you the details and if you set it to do so it’ll send those details and maybe a reply back to the person who sent it as well. So it sends those to e-mails and that’s it, it forgets about everything that happened. It doesn’t log who that person was, what they typed in, all that kind of stuffs. There are add-ons, so you do get some add-on plugins that can log that kind of stuff. I have played around with them, I have used them a fair bit in the past. They don’t output the best data, they don’t let you do much with it but it does exist so there is a work around but it still annoys me a little bit that it doesn’t let you do that, it doesn’t really record it in that way. The best thing about Contact Form 7 is that it does, obviously, it does that auto-reply so that is a really nice thing to just follow-up with. So, if somebody sends you an e-mail, somebody sends you an inquiry, you really want to capitalise on that by sending them something back, so, send them a reply and say “Thanks very much for getting in touch, I will tell, I will get back to you as quick as I possibly can. Give me 24 hours and I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, why don’t go and have a look at this.” Recommend a few different articles, recommend something you sell, recommend some resources that you do. Really try and utilise that contact as best as you can. Obviously, send them valuable stuff, you’re not going to be pushing on them things that are going to be, that they won’t like or just cost lots of money. Send them valuable stuff and really try and give that person loads of values so they become a really long term fan in the future. So, yes, that is basically how Contact Form 7 works. That’s what it does for you and that’s the limitation as I see it. Because of those limitations I’m going to talk about a paid version as well. And we’re talking about the one that I use which is called Gravity Forms.
Now, Gravity Forms is one that I held off on buying for a while because it’s not the cheapest thing in the world. It’s $39 to buy the basic version which is definitely better than Contact Form 7 but doesn’t add a whole lot of features. The real power of Gravity Forms comes when you pay the pro version, pay a price which is $99 I think and £60 for us in the UK which is a mass of amount but still is a bit of investment but I’ll just talk through the things that you get for that which I think have made it really valuable to me. It’s the one I use on all my websites, Gravity Forms. And I just think it’s really worthwhile. So, what’d you get with it? First of all, it’s a really nice form builder tool. So, it gives you a really nice little way of building out your forms, putting in the different types of fields. It gives you some really nice field types as well so you get name fields which particularly go for first and last names so you can separate them out. Gives you an e-mail field all validated to make sure it’s a legitimated e-mail. And it gives you lots of other things as well like survey questions, like large descriptions, all that kind of stuff. A lot of these are provided by Contact Form 7 as well but Gravity Forms just kind of makes it a little bit easier, a little bit nicer to create them, a little bit customisation over how they appear as well such as size, width, background, all that kind of stuff. So, that’s the basic creating of the forms. You can also do the confirmations, so, when people actually click submit, you can set the message that shows or you can redirect people to a separate page. Again, the Contact Form 7 can do that as well so that’s nothing new. Where we start again to the extra power is in the next basic function which is entries. Gravity Forms will record every single entry that is put into it in a database which is probably the first reason that I bought Gravity Forms because I really want something easy that we track what people are entering and let me sort it, let me work with it, let me export it put it into a spreadsheet, that type of stuff. So, you can quickly and easily see who’s been following your Gravity Form, look back through it, sort it, filter it, etc., you can work with the data which is essential I think when you’re starting to take data from your customers or your listeners. But, moving on from that, let me get into the add-ons. This is where I think the Gravity forms’ really, really shines. It’s the little extras that you can put it. For example, you can download a surveys add-on, now surveys are something that you can pay a lot of money for, something like the survey monkey or the like. You pay to run good surveys but Gravity Forms has got really good survey add-on which means that you can use proper survey-type questions, forms, that kind of stuff. And you can analyse them too, so you can create output which lets you put bar graphs and all that kind of stuff of what your survey responses are. So, if you want to do surveys of your listeners, which is a really good thing to do, you can check what they’re listening to, what they like, what they want to hear more in the future, what products you can create, all that kind of stuff. Things that let you create much more value for listeners in the future, you can create those surveys for free with Gravity Forms, well not for free, you’ve paid for Gravity Forms, obviously, but you can create it within Gravity Forms as an extra. Next and probably actually I should’ve mentioned this first because this is probably the key add-on for me because it ties him with MailChimp, ties him with AWeber, ties him with whatever a quite few different mailing systems so that when people sign in, when people send you something, you can add them straight to your mailing list and that cuts out a whole bunch of steps if you want to do it manually. Obviously, you have to agreement for that, so you put it at the bottom, maybe a tick box, they only do it if you tick that box but a lot of people when they’re doing that they go to the trouble of sending you something, they’ll obviously value your content or value your opinion so they’re very likely to want to be on your mailing list. And therefore, it’ll helps to grow your list, grow your audience, create better fans in the future. So, you can integrate straight with it. So, as soon as they send that, as soon as they have a submit button, their e-mail address is added to your MailChimp or your AWeber at the same time and that’s just brilliant. A few others I’ll quickly mention, you can create quizzes, you can create polls really easily so these are really nice little things to stick on, stick on one of your posts. If you want to ask a quick poll, get some opinions from people, some little surveys obviously or a quizzes about creating something fun for your visitor, for your listeners to do. It could be a way to attract your listeners on to your website which is something that we struggle with as podcasters, getting people out of their ear buds and on to your website where you can actually get them using some of your other resources as well. You can also sell stuffs, so, Gravity Forms ties in with PayPal, with Authorizenet, with Stripe, loads of different payment gateways so you can actually create some really nice little sales pages. So, if you have some resources like a book, like a report, like a training product that you want to sell, you can actually do it really thru Gravity Forms. It’ll do it all for you which is really handy and it’s a, well, its cut out you having to buy another WordPress plugin or install an e-commerce system to be able to sell something. The final thing I want to mention is just dynamically populating forms so you can really easily, dynamically populate forms to see where people come from. So, you can get people to fill in a survey or to fill in a form of some sort or to do a quiz and the link that you use to send them towards those pages, you can actually create a little dynamic thing which is you can find out how to do that on the Gravity Forms website, really easy to do, just a little bit of code on your link and it lets you see really easily where people are coming from. Really nice little tool for finding out how effective a certain marketing tactics that you’re using are whether you’re putting out on social media or via the podcast or whatever, you can find out where people are finding these resources from. Oh, and another final thing, second final thing, user creation. So, Gravity Forms ties in with WordPress as well in terms of creating users. You can actually allow people to fill in a form and it’ll create a user account on your WordPress website for them. And this is something I’m experimenting with right now which is when people come to my website and fill in some feedback or fill in a form of some sort, you can actually use that, you can obviously, be clear with this, obviously be transparent with it that this is what you’re doing but you can get them into filling something in exchange for offering access to hidden resources. So, essentially they fill in the form that creates an account for them and then that account then allows them access to certain pages which you’ve hidden for only account holders and obviously they’re also then added to your WordPress website. So you now got their contact details, you can start adding them to your mailing list or you can start, well, it basically, it’s something that gives your listeners more value, it makes them feel like their exclusive, they’ve got this thing that they have access to that other people don’t, makes them feel special. So, you can find Gravity Forms at podcraft.net/gravity and that is affiliate link so I would get a wee commission if you do buy it through that. By all means, just find Gravity Forms on Google if you want to by-pass that Affiliate link, there’s no requirement to use it. But if you found this resource useful, then I would appreciate using it, that’d be great.
Remember as well, that is a plugin so you can always find the, my guide to using WordPress plugins, installing plugins at podcraft.net/websitecourse and that is a page which will take you through to all of the course that I’ve created on LearnDen which help you with the stuff on this course, basically using WordPress, installing websites. You can either register there or use the links that are directly to go to the courses if you’ve already registered.
So, that leaves us to do the task for today. Final task is to install either Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms, whichever you one you fancy, and setup your first contact form. And if you then go to the show notes for this episode which are at podcraft.net/309, post me a link to your first contact form and I’ll send you your first message. So, if you put on the URL to the contact form you’ve just created with Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms then I’ll send you a message through it just to test out. I just love to see that people are actually doing it basically. I just want you to post and let me know that you’ve done it and I’ll pay you back by sending you a wee message. So, I hope that helps. I hope this is a great episode on just getting yourself set up so that people can get in touch with you and you start getting some great feedback from your listeners. Next time on PodCraft on Series 3, we’re going to be looking at a great plugin which allows you to create lists of post by category or topic which is a really handy way to allow your users to navigate around the site and find stuff around particular things that they’re interested in. So, I hope you join me again for that on the next episode. Thanks for joining me on this one and I’ll see you next time!