Introducing Infer Form Monitor: How a Simple Marketing Challenge Sparked Internal Innovation
July 14, 2016
As it’s often said, necessity is the mother of all invention. Recently, we decided to re-architect our Pardot Marketing Automation, and as part of this project, we began looking for a way to test all of the forms on our website in order to make sure they were working properly. Any Marketing Operations person will tell you that the last thing they want to worry about is whether they are forfeiting leads because of a broken form.
As we looked to the market for a solution to this problem, we were surprised that none existed — and, certainly not one that worked easily with WordPress and Pardot. So, we kicked off an internal project to find a better way to monitor the health of website forms. The result was our brand new Form Monitor, which is a simple WordPress plugin that comes fully integrated with Pardot and can be downloaded on the WordPress marketplace.
In the spirit of idea generation and innovation, we want to share our learnings with our friends in the broader marketing community. So, we sat down with our Senior Director of Product Marketing, Sean Zinsmeister, to learn more about the inspiration for the plugin, how it takes a big load off MOPS, and lessons learned along the way.
Sean, you have an interesting background that inspired you to think outside the box for this project. Tell us about yourself.
Before I got into Marketing Tech, I was actually a professional sound designer. The most important principle you learn as an audio engineer is signal flow — i.e. how do you create the most ideal signal-to-noise ratio to make the sound as sharp as possible? This requires the clever and careful technical orchestration of several different systems. This principle remains foundational to how I think about marketing as well.
Tell us more about Infer Form Monitor. What does the plugin do?
Infer Form Monitor is an automated plugin that helps marketing operations teams test their site forms to ensure they’re working properly. It’s a great tool that you can ‘set and forget’ in the background. It requires no technical setup – just plug it in, upload your CSV template, and all of your forms are continuously monitored and reported on. You can specify the reporting cadence depending on how paranoid you are. I, for one, am happy to see the reports daily, but others might be fine with weekly, monthly, or on-demand as needed.
How can something as simple as a broken website form create a huge business challenge?
One of the biggest fears a Marketing Operations professional has is missing out on leads because something is broken on their website. It’s scary to think that the biggest whale lead in the world might visit your site, try to fill out a form, and get an error. You want to build trust with the prospect through every digital touchpoint of the sales cycle, and now you’ve gotten off on the wrong foot from the very first interaction. It’s tough to think about losing a deal simply because a form was broken on the website, but it happens.
The list of reasons a website form breaks is endless — things like traffic surges, design and development changes to the website, as well as updates from your form host can all create unintended problems. For example, if your website is generating a ton of traffic, that load can take a toll on a system. You might need to change how your site supports these different traffic patterns to account for scale.
Why was developing this plugin especially important to you?
Over the past couple of months, we’ve been in the process of rebooting our Marketing Operations at Infer. My previous experience working in enterprise Marketing Operations left me with a few scars that are a good reminder of the things we’ll want to avoid moving forward. Part of this was limiting the number of technology bungles we encounter so we can spend more of our time actually doing the work rather than fixing the technology. Unfortunately, MOPS pros spend a majority of their time fixing things that are broken with their stack rather than creating true innovation. Tools like Infer Form Monitor are born out of the inspiration to win back that time so you can spend it on true innovation.
Let’s talk about how you and the team actually got down to building Infer Form Monitor. What was the end-to-end development process like?
When we first sought out a solution, we thought that surely someone had already developed an app for this. However, we looked and looked on the WordPress marketplace to no avail. To our surprise, nothing existed out there to monitor forms. So, we set to work building it ourselves. We wanted something that would automatically check on the health of our forms and alert our team when a problem occurs. It would run in the background, and integrate seamlessly with both Pardot, which is Infer’s Marketing Automation platform, and WordPress, our CMS.
So how did you bring the solution to life?
After we defined our market problem, I met with the wonderful folks at Studio Hyperset to draft a features list. We focused on building a minimum viable product that nailed the core functionality, with a plan to integrate ongoing feedback into future releases. Then, we explored our favorite WordPress plugins for inspiration and built our first wireframe. After a few iterations with the design team, we were finally ready to begin development!
After our initial beta testing, we added a Pardot integration to ensure that the app would support Pardot Forms and Form Handlers out-of-the-box because most forms are NOT self-hosted today. This is a core functionality of Marketing Automation, primarily because it’s a pretty nasty and unnecessary support task for a business to take on internally.
What takeaways or lessons did you walk away with from this project?
One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to START with the market problem. Pain truly is the greatest innovator, and in this case, it began with my own pain. We never intended to build a product; we just wanted something to use at Infer that would make our own lives easier. But, after talking with some of my MOPS colleagues about the idea and listening to their enthusiasm for how it could also help them, we wanted to make the plugin available for everyone. Anything we can do to help Marketing Operations professionals work better is huge at Infer.
How is the plugin changing how you run MOPS at Infer?
It’s simple: peace of mind. Now, it’s really easy to spot and address problems quickly, and we don’t have to manually QA anything. This is the beauty of automation — it takes manual tasks and automates them to increase the overall quality and productivity of your work so you can scale.
Thanks for sharing, Sean! For a step-by-step tutorial on how to get started with the Form Monitor plugin, check out this walkthrough we put together.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback so we can keep building the best functionality into the app. Here’s to never worrying about broken forms again.
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