How to Turn Customers Into Bloggers With Gravity Forms

Select Image Gravity Form
How to turn customers into bloggers

Give your customers a voice and turn them into bloggers

Recently I was on a Google Hangout hosted by the folks at LocalU discussing local landing pages for multi location businesses. The discussion led down the path of the upcoming doorway page update and how to make your pages stand out. I shared a process we started implementing for a few of the moving companies we work with that can help automate the process of creating unique, local content on an ongoing basis.  And I’ll share that process with you here.

To sum it up – you can use Gravity Forms (you must have a WordPress site) to create a web form and properly structure it so that the form submission can be turned in to a blog post. You can set certain fields to create your post title and post body, as well as the post categories.  Once you create your form you can invite past customers to come fill it out and give their experience.  Turning them into your very own bloggers.

For today’s example I am going to show you how you would create this form if you ran a website for a moving company.  And I’ll share the exact form I use below. You can easily change this up to fit just about any business.

This form will allow us to convert the form submission into a post draft that:

  1. Contains an optimized title, complete with keyword and location
  2. Allow us to optimize the heading tags
  3. Allow us to properly categorize the post

What is Gravity Forms?

How to Create a Gravity FormGravity Forms is a premium WordPress plugin that costs between $39 and $199 that enables you to create forms for your website. Thus, this doesn’t come without cost. I am pretty sure you can get away with the single license for this but I have a developers so I am not positive. Also I have absolutely no affiliation with them, I just love this plugin.

Sure you can just use a plugin like Contact Form 7 to build your forms and it takes care of everything you need.

But with Gravity Forms you can go beyond just creating web forms. You can use it to build your email list. You can connect it with Zapier to automate it with parts of your business. You can process payments. You can do a ton.

Creating forms is pretty simple. You can select the field from the right hand side that you would like to use and it will appear on the left side to be customized as shown in the gif. There are a ton of prebuilt fields such as text line, text area, dropdown, checkboxes, etc.

But one thing Gravity Forms has that other contact forms for WordPress don’t is the “Post Fields” section. Within this is where you will find the fields needed to create a blog post from a form submission.  Which allows you to have your customers create unique content for you!

Now let’s start building your form.

PRO TIP
The developers license allows you to use the plugin on all the websites you own and operate.

How to Create Your Gravity Form

These are the fields we are using in this example. Yours may vary depending on the niche you are using this for. I’ll try to note why we chose specifics fields below.

To create a form login to WordPress and hover over the “Forms” on the left panel, then click add new form. Give it a name and a description if you wish and click create form.

For this type of form we will create fields for the customer to enter their information and tell us about their experience.  We will also create hidden fields that are used to build out our page title and the post body using the information the customer submits.

Below are the fields you will need for this form

Name –  This will be a single line text field that you will need to make required.  You will not publish this, it will be so you can match up who submitted what.

Email – For this use the email field under “advanced fields”.  You will want to make this a required field so you can let the customer know when you have published their post. (think shares, comments, interaction).

Service you hired us for  – Select the category field under “post fields”.  I use this field so that we can categorize each post when it gets published.  We will also use this later on to build out our post title.

Zip code moving from – this will be a text field and required, this will also be used in the title.  Let’s say you are buidling this for a roofer.  You would want to put “Neighborhood where the service was completed” instead, or something similar.   We are testing out a couple variations right now.  Whether it be having them input a zip code, the local neighborhood or nearest metro area. But for this, we’ll use zip code.Add Zip Code or Location Field

Zip code moving to – like above.  We’ll use this in the title also.  You may or may not need an extra location field. But since this is for a moving company we are going to build both zip codes into the title.

How come you needed the services of a moving company? – this will be a paragraph text field and required. Give them a little guidance by entering some sample starter text under the advanced tab of the paragraph text field if you wish.Gather details from your customer

What led you to selecting our company – this will be a paragraph text field and required also.

What was your experience like using our company? – this will also be a paragraph text field that is required.

Would you recommend our services to others, if so please elaborate as to why – again, paragraph text field that is required.

Upload an image of your move – Use “image” under post fields.  I have mine set up to set it as the featured image. You may or may not want to do this depending on how your featured image is coded.  Mine displays as a right aligned image at the top of my post, with a max width of 350px.  If your featured image won’t work, you can uncheck it and I’ll show you later how we will incorporate your image.  I am not making this a required field because I feel like this may be the biggest hurdle when customers start filling out the form. If they don’t have a picture they will probably quit if it’s required.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Create Your Hidden Fields – Title and Post Body

Now that we have all the fields that we want the customer to enter to give us their experience about their move we need to enter some hidden fields t0 be used to build our blog post.  These will both be located under the “Post Fields”.

PRO TIP
Make sure to hide the Title and Body fields so they aren’t visible on the front-end. You can do this by changing the visibility to admin only under the advanced tabs of the fields. This is a must!

Add in Title field located under post fields – Here is where we build out the title of our blog post.  For this example we are going to want to use what the customer inputted for: “service you hired us for” as well as “Zip code moving from” and “Zip code moving to”.  But first you need to save your form so that these fields will be available to you.

After saving, select your “Title field”and let’s start customizing it. Ignore the category option here as we’ve already set that.  Set your post status to draft (so you can proof) then check the box for create content template. This will allow you to build out a template for your title using previous fields of the form.  Here’s what mine looks like:  {Service you hired us for:3} from {Zip code moving from:4} to {Zip code moving to:5}.

So if someone submits that they hired us for an office move, and for zip codes they put 14624 and 14075, then our title would be: Office Move from 14624 to 14075.  And since you will be proofing these posts before they go live you can always change the title if necessary before publishing it. Lastly, select the advanced tab and make this only visible to admins.  That way the user can’t mess with it.

Body field under post fields – We will use this to build out the body in a similar way to how we built out the title.  You can create a guest author to assign. This is where you can get really creative using the merge tags.  You can create H1’s, H2’s and H3’s using them.  We also make sure to note at the beginning of the post that it is a guest post from a satisfied customer. Build out your ideal template based on the information your customers supplied, and make sure to make this hidden.

Create Your Post Body Using Merge Tags

If your featured image isn’t setup you can also add the image into the post body using merge tags.  Simply click the dropdown and find your image, then another dropdown will populate asking for the size you want and how to align it.  Once you add this merge tag the image should appear on the post. If it doesn’t it’s probably something to do with your theme.

Select Image Gravity Form

 

Save your form and create a notification so that you can be alerted when someone fills this out.

Now Add The Form To a Page

That’s it for the form for this example. You now have a web form that will create blog posts for you. All that is left is to add it to a page with some instructions and test it out.

PRO TIP
Block the page from search engines to limit its exposure.  You only want your customers that you share this with to find it.

How We Are Implementing It

That’s it.  Your form is complete and ready to be shared with customers.  After someone submits the form it will be converted into a blog post, ready for you to proof, make any changes, and publish.

One other thing we are trying out is adding a short code to display the most recent posts from a certain category on our location pages.  So if we have a Rochester, NY location page we will create a category named Rochester, NY. Then you can select this category when you are proofing the post.  So now you will have two categories, Rochester, NY and whatever they selected from “service you hired us for.”

This will then display the post title, snippet and thumbnail on our Rochester, NY location page with a link to the post.  Relevant, local content!

You can also do this using the category they selected for your service pages.  If they selected “Office Move” then you can set it to display this recent post on your Office Mover page.

(you can automate a lot of this using parameters in Gravity Forms but that gets a bit too complicated for this post)

Here’s My Form

Here is a link so you can download the sample form I made in this post.  You can import this into your site and use it as a starting point if you wish.  All you’ll have to do is change it up if it’s not for a moving company.  You can delete the second zip code field and edit the first to properly fit your niche. Be sure to remove the 5 digit limit.

The notification for this form is setup to send to the admin email of the website.  Here is what my form looks like on a published page.

completed gravity form

 

And here is what my post draft looks like after a sample submission with a sample photo.

Sample Form Submission Turned into Blog Post

 

A few lessons learned so far

I’m still in the early stages of testing this but here’s what I’ve found so far.

  1. Making it into some type of contest will likely generate more submissions.  It will entice customers to actually want to fill this out.  Because without them we just wasted a lot of time!
  2. The earlier you set the stage the better.  Instruct your sales reps to promote this and have your field reps mention it to the customer before they get started. This is a good time to ask them to snap a quick picture to use as well.  Get them into it.
  3. Let them know after you posted it as well, that’s why we required their email.  They will be overjoyed that they will be sure to share it on their social networks.  Hopefully.
  4. Create a business card size handout to give to customers afterwards.  I can’t remember who gave me this idea but staple this card over something on the receipt they will want to see, like the total.  And if you are using a program like GetFiveStars to get reviews you can add it into your message.
  5. The more instruction you can give on the page of the form the better.  Let them know what you really want them to do and tell them it’s their chance to be a writer, submissions will be graded based on length, or whatever you find works.
  6. I made a few edits to the Gravity Forms plugin to make it so the user can’t submit the form unless they have typed out a certain number of characters. I am finding this to work wonders!  Otherwise you may get some really short responses.  This gets a little bit technical. If you aren’t sure what to do you can use GravityPerks (paid, $54) which allows you to install and use various enhancements they have created.  I use Gravity Perks, but haven’t for this before.
  7. People will upload really large images.  Take some time to resize them and remove the really large files if necessary.
  8. You can get a bit more creative creating the categories using parameters but that is another post in and of itself.
PRO TIP
Create a notification to let you know when someone submits the form so you can go check it out, proof it and approve it.

Food for thought

I’m not an expert with Gravity Forms or WordPress by any means, I’m just a man that wears many hats in helping local businesses grow through the Internet.  If you know of a better way to do this let’s hear about it in the comments below.

 

4 Comments on “How to Turn Customers Into Bloggers With Gravity Forms”

  1. Awesome post Todd.
    Brilliant out of the box thinking and great explanation of the steps.
    Now I can really make my Gravity Forms tool pay off!

  2. This is absolute brilliant. I have a moving company client that I may have to pitch this idea to. It doesn’t get any better when you find a way to get customers to generate content for you. Just brilliant. Don’t know how I didn’t think of this before.

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