What is Progressive Profiling? Asking questions, but not too many at one time.


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“Hi, how are you? What’s your name? Where are you from? Where do you work? What industry is that? What brings you here? What products are you interested in? Are you satisfied with your current product? My industry is such-and-such; what about that are you most interested in? What’s your email address? Do you have a Facebook account? Would you like us on Facebook?”

That’s a bit much, right? If you encountered that in real life it would likely result in the one consistent final question “Hey, where are you going?” So in asking the question “What is progressive profiling?” this example is part of the answer; it’s keeping your website from asking too many questions at once. This, in turn, helps increase leads and arms your sales force with more effective information.

While you do want the most information you can get on your customers at any given time, the problem is that having them fill out long forms online is more likely to increase the abandon rate on your website or landing page. In fact, according to some statistics from Eloqua, mean conversion drops significantly with more than 6 fields are on a form. But you still want to capture critical information from prospects and customers – as evident by the fact that many marketers Eloqua surveyed actually used forms with 15+ fields on them. That’s where progressive profiling and inbound marketing (see Deep Dive: Linking Inbound Marketing to Sales Results) tactics can help not only capture more information, but accurate information.

Progressive profiling limits the amount of questions you ask of your website visitor to between 2 and 3 each time they use your site. The questions, then, become more in-depth the more often they visit. For example, the information you get from each visit might look like this:

  • Visit 1: First and last name, email, business
  • Visit 2: Phone number, city and state , industry and department, job level, interest in company
  • Visit 3: Are they part of management?, do they have the final authority on purchases?, purchase intentions
  • Visit 4: relationship with your company, are they interested in a demo?

By limiting the number of questions you ask, you’re less likely to have prospective clients abandoning the process halfway through. What’s more, you’re giving your sales team the information they require, including their level of interest in your product; if they’re visiting the website that often, they are definitely looking to make a purchase. Lead nurturing layers on a value-added touch with the request for information. People are far more likely to provide personal information if it’s in exchange for information that is perceived to be contextually relevant and valuable.

Alternately, the questions in later visits can be tailored on what has been answered previously. For example, you may have a different set of questions based on whether the prospect is in IT as opposed to someone in Purchasing. Rather than having a monolithic one-form-fits-all at their first visit to the website, progressive profiling is more likely to get the information you need to make more sales.

When using progressive profiling, it is important to reassure the client about the use of their information. With spam an ever present annoyance, you need to make sure to let the customer know that every piece of information they give you is secure and is being used to make your interaction with them more relevant to their personal needs.

You may also want to include the customer’s name and email address are at the top of the form each time they fill later forms out. While it may seem a little off-putting (perhaps you’re worried they’ll think “How do you know who I am already?”), it actually lets them know that the information you’re getting is being associated with the right people. In short, they’ll know that when they say what their industry is, that this information is going in the correct file.

Finally, make sure to get the most vital information first. You’ll want to get contact information as early in the process as possible, to allow you to research and contact prospective clients, especially if your site tracking indicates that they’re visiting your website often, but without filling out your forms.

Prospective profiling is a powerful tool; the prospect gets a tailored experience as you learn more about their needs, sales gets a big boost because they know the prospects’ exact interests, and marketing gets to cultivate and deliver higher quality leads to the sales team. All this just by making sure you don’t come on too strong. It’s a smart decision, and there is software out there that will help you with this process. Today, marketing automation tools are the most accessible source of turnkey progressive profiling capabilities. To learn more about Marketing Automation capabilities or the comprehensive landscape of vendors (with customer rankings) visit the Gleanster Marketing Automation Research Hub.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


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