Why? Because, connect all the things! Why else? Because the less information people have to fill in to your form, the more likely they are to complete it – especially if you are asking them to fill in information that they will have to look up! Dynamically pre-filling forms is a great conversion optimization hack to show your prospective respondents a little love. This love will increase form completion rates and response accuracy.
The question originally came to from someone who had read my post about Mailchimp Reporting with Google Spreadsheets (same products but different applications) But hey, sometimes you don’t even know where to start your Google search! His question was this:
I send a reminder email to my customers through MailChimp. The email contains the customer’s account code and some other data unique to the customers. A link on the email sends the customers to a Google Form where they will answer some questions. I want to have the customer’s unique customer code populate a field so I that I know who the response came from, and in doing so, reduce the number of fields a customer would have to complete.
Do you have a solution for this? MailChimp and Google apps said there isn’t, but Google did suggest it might be resolved with a script (which I have no idea how to do).
It seemed interesting. I thought about the script. I was hoping this would not be the answer because that sounded like trying to breed an ostrich and an alligator. Then I remembered a project I had worked on in tracking Wufoo form submissions in Google Analytics. That was an Ostrigator but hey, it worked!
The key was passing data around on query strings. I knew there was dynamic values in Mailchimp in the form of Merge Tags. Then all we needed was a link to Google Forms that would allow you to pre-populate the forms. Lo and behold: Pre-populate form answers! So all we would have to do is match the right merge tags as to the right form URL query string parameters and we would have pre-populated forms from the dynamic values in the emails. #masscustomize all the things!
Merge Tags in Google Form Link Parameters
Step 1. Get a Pre-Filled Google Form URL
To get started, go to your Google Form editing page and click responses. Select “Get pre-filled URL”
Step 2. Pre-fill the Form with Merge Tags
Find the merge tags that you want to use and enter them into the form boxes. *When you do this, make sure to use merge tags that are accurate for your whole mailing list. Missing information is not a problem but if your merge tags are inaccurate, this could cause confusion and/or complaints.
Step 3. Copy the Pre-filled Google Form URL
The merge tags have been appended to to the form’s URL as query string parameters. Now you have your link to your Google Form that will automatically fill the values of your form with the values of your Mailchimp Merge Tags.
How Query String Parameters Work
At this point, you may be wondering how this works. You have a URL that looks like this:
followed by this:
The part after starting with with the question mark (?) is the query string. It is made up of key-value pairs connected with ampersands (&). Query strings are used to pass information to webpages or “resources.” The server that handles the request will know what the query string’s keys mean and depending on each key’s value, will dynamically generate or modify the resource. (See how query strings works with a API’s) In this case, Google’s server just takes the value of each secretly encrypted key and places the value in the form field associated with that key.
But why does the ‘First Name’ Merge tag look like *%7CFNAME%7C* ?
You have seen strings on the internet, often on URL’s that have something like “%20” in them. This is called URL encoding. It is one of those web standards that allows the magic of the web to work. Because the pipe character (|) is not a normal character it is encoded after the percent symbol as “%7C” .
Don’t worry when you paste this into your Mailchimp email, Mailchimp will automatically decode the URL and it will end up looking like this:
Now go answer every other question you have ever had about URLs.
Now that you’re back, go setup your new email campaign.
Then when your email recipient and prospective form respondent gets their Mailchimp email, the link will be dynamically modified to look like this:
and… Hello World! The Mailchimp has correctly rendered the links with the dynamic values from the merge tags.
Digital Marketing is Science + Art
When it’s all said and done, an appealing email subject like and effective copy will only get respondents to go to the form page. After that, their is a lot left to optimize. As digital marketers, we are doing much more than trying to persuade. We are delivering a message, removing friction and optimizing experiences. We are measuring and testing all the way! Don’t forget, our job is just as much about perfecting the message as it is the medium.
To build more Digital Marketing Technical Skills checkout my $10k Tech Skills Series.